Drawing inspiration from Kate McEnroe’s presentation at the NCACC’s annual conference this year, we are taking a look at the fascinating concept of co-opetition. Specifically, we will look at how co-opetition could benefit our local governments through the use of network branding.
What is co-opetition?
Co-opetition describes the concept of cooperative competition, where multiple parties are involved in both a cooperative and competitive relationship at the same time.
It is grounded in “game theory” which approaches business relationships as “games” that can be understood through mathematical models. Co-opetition rejects the idea that marketplace competition always result in winners at the cost of losers. Instead, it argues that all parties in a “game” can benefit by cooperatively adding value to their market and while competing for shares of that larger market.
Applying Co-opetition: Network Branding
Local governments could apply the concept of co-opetition through the use of regional network branding. Network branding refers to a single branding across multiple territories (cities or counties) that leverage the resources of those respective territories into a more attractive package. If we look at local governments as businesses, then the application of these concepts to them are natural extensions of marketing.
The use of network branding isn’t entirely new to North Carolina. For example, the Triangle area of central North Carolina has been a network brand that has existed since the 1950s. By pitching the Triangle area as a whole instead of any of its constituent eight counties separately, the Triangle has successfully attracted many high tech companies into the area.
Benefits of a Strong Network Brand
For local economies, the benefits of a strong network brand are twofold.
First, the network brand provides a more complete package of resources to attract capital investment from companies. Companies will look for a strong workforce pool, existing infrastructure and housing needs for employees among many other factors.
For instance, Raleigh may provide better infrastructure for a company, but Cary or Morrisville may provide better living areas for its employees. The location of three large universities within the region ensures a skilled workforce pool.
A strong network brand region will not only address more of these needs for prospective companies, it will also provide unity for those local territories in bargaining with those companies. If the network region is selected by the company, the region as a whole will benefit regardless of which territory the company physically resides.
Secondly, a strong network brand will be a boon for tourism. Given the close proximity of attractions and the diversity of many North Carolina regions, tourists can potentially be attracted to the area by the variety that a network branded region can provide. Simply put: no single attraction can accommodate the different interests of tourist families the way an entire region can.
Not so easy…
Implementing a successful network brand is not easy. Drawing lines around a few counties and slapping a label on it can be a more arbitrary identification than political county lines. If the brand feels artificial or forced on the region, it will not be embraced by the citizens of the region regardless of marketing approaches. So, it is important to create network brands that are natural extensions of already-existing relationships.
Furthermore, there will also be the obvious political barriers to overcome with inter-territorial branding. A high level of cooperation between leaders will be needed to coordinate a successful network branding across municipalities and counties, which can potentially be one of the hardest hurdles to overcome.
However, for regions with an existing unique identity and a solid desire for cooperative improvement, network branding could be the right brand of progress.