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Urban intelligence 9 - City Branding - November 2012

Aug 23, 2014


Real Estate


Each month : an analysis from a Cities expert • A compilation of all articles related to the Cities topic of the month.

This month's subject: City branding
Next month's subject: The greatest city innovations and key events from 2012

  • Urban Intelligence byEach month : an analysis from a Cities expert A compilation of all articles related to the Cities topic of the month November 2012 - City Branding Greg Clark, Moderator, MIPIM World Cities Blog. This months blogs have covered city branding and identity building. We have seen some amazing examples from Nordic cities, Glasgow, Vienna, Sydney, New London, Singapore, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Barcelona and Aarhus. We have heard from Simon Cotterall about the importance of real brand execution, from David Adam about city brand commercialisation, and from Juan Carlos Belloso on how image and identity must be fused with authenticity. Stimulating demand side interest in cities remains an important challenge for many cities, and so the enthusiasm for brand strategies continued. Cities increasingly compete in contested international markets for a wide range of beneficial assets, opportunities, and investments that help the city to develop and generate opportunities and resources for their citizens. Increasingly, cities are using thoughtful promotional brand strategies to better project their advantages, and to foster a clear identity and reputation, that will help them win the competition for mobile opportunities over time. These identities and reputations are much more than logos or strap lines, they communicate a whole story about the value added that the city can offer to mobile activities that have a choice where they locate. The purpose of the brand is to provide an authentic and aspirational message about the city. Increasingly, city governments are investing in building the brand platform of their cities so that a consistent set of messages, and style of messaging, can be used to reinforce the positive elements of the citys offer. City governments are also fostering partnerships with private companies and institutions within their city to jointly invest in and communicate the same messages through a shared brand platform. The brand platform becomes the property of the whole city, not just the city government, although the city government will often provide leadership to the brand partnership. When done successfully this enables the city government to leverage resources and investment from other parties into the brand platform thus enhancing its scope and reducing the proportion of the costs paid by tax payers. I think of cities as having 4 different realms in which brand and identity exist. These are: i. The visitor brand ii. The citizen or resident brand iii. The investor or business brand iv. The leader or innovator brand Urban Intelligence n9 November 2012 Cities Branding 1|
  • Urban Intelligence byEach month : an analysis from a Cities expert A compilation of all articles related to the Cities topic of the month Investor/Business Visitor Brand Brand Common Identity and Story Resident / Citizen Innovator / Leader Brand Brand These different ideas about the brand story have to work together and have a means to support each other. It is a significant leadership task to do that. It is also difficult to build these different aspects of brand together. For example it is quite common for visitor brand to dominate and reduce the space in which other brands can operate. It is also common to have brand stories that are not compatible across the different realms. This is also problematic. City branding efforts have emerged from less sophisticated forms of city marketing. The marketing of urban places has been practiced, at least, since the nineteenth century, although cities have only tended to rely on marketing methods in the latter decades of the twentieth century, when competition for inward investment, tourism revenues and residents at various spatial scales has intensified. In particular, the rise of the so-called entrepreneurial city allowed city marketing to become one of the defining features of urban governance from the 1970s. The shift from city marketing to city branding has largely taken place due to a growing recognition that image formulation and communication play a key role in the city marketing mix. The manipulation of city images, cultures and experiences has arguably become the most important part of the political armoury of urban governors and their coalition partners in the entrepreneurial era. Since branding endows a product with a specific and more distinctive identity, and that is, in many ways, what city marketing sought to do for cities, it is only appropriate that city authorities have increasingly moved towards creating a recognisable city brand, rather than a more generic city marketing mix. The key difference between marketing and branding is that marketing uses consumer wishes and needs as its guiding principle for the operations of an organisation, while in the case of branding, a chosen vision, mission and identity play that role.i When and why do city brands fail? Bill Baker, President, Total Destination Management, has prepared a summary of the key reasons behind the failure of city branding exercises. These are identified and make sober reading: 1. Insufficient understanding of branding: a branding partnership that has an understanding of brand management, and the concepts and techniques needed for a brand strategy, has a much better chance of defining its strongest positioning and brand elements. Briefings should be built into the planning phases to ensure that stakeholders are well informed about the strategic nature of branding and its benefits. Urban Intelligence n9 November 2012 Cities Branding 2|
  • Urban Intelligence byEach month : an analysis from a Cities expert A compilation of all articles related to the Cities topic of the month Central to this is an understanding that branding is much more than a new logo, slogan or advertising campaign. 2. Lack of stakeholder buy-in: sustaining a brand once it is launched requires the broad adoption and correct use of the brand by all stakeholders who have an influence over its most important points of contact with customers. If the brand is only used through advertising and stationery, its impact will be limited. The most effective approach is to build stakeholder buy-in from the earliest stages of the planning process and then maintain regular communications with those stakeholders. 3. Failure to grasp the scope of branding: also referred to as logo and tagline fixation. Many communities forget to ensure that they are able to orchestrate outstanding visitor experiences before they roll-out a publicity and advertising campaign. This is vital, since branding is about delivering on a promise and is based on differentiation, focus, and organisation. Supporting this idea is a statement by Paul OConnor, Executive Director, World Business Chicago, who has stated that: the greatest piece of advice I can give to other cities is to accept taglines only as a last resort. A tagline passes for branding, but it is not the same thing. Taglines are fragile, limited or too broad. They do not represent who you really are. A brand is the DNA of a place, what it is made of, what it passes from generation to generation. It is authentic and indicates what makes a place different from others. ii 4. Focusing on short-term results: heads in beds is vitally important to the viability of cities and their tourism partners. However, setting brand objectives focusing on short-term traffic alone is unlikely to support the long-term health of the citys brand image. An over-emphasis on tactical and price driven initiatives restricts the communication of the core brand messages which shape perceptions and positioning - it takes time to build positive awareness, associations, name recognition and reputation. 5. Forgetting the customers view: insufficient customer focus and undue political influence and self-interest will mean the brand is almost bound to fail. The preference by some political and opinion leaders to adopt risk averse, parochial, inclusive, self-interest, or popular positions can run counter to the best interests of a city trying to promote its competitive edge. The focus should be on distilling the single strongest competitive advantage that will resonate with the external customer. Too many city branding efforts fail because they are based on what locals like and how they see themselves, rather than on what will be meaningful and valued by their external customers. 6. Not agreeing what is being branded: what are the spatial boundaries of branding? Is it just the downtown or the entire city? Is it the overarching brand for all marketing efforts on behalf of the city? There is a delicate balance in the geographical and political scope of a brand. If the brand tries to cover too wide an area and address too many different audiences, it may become diluted. All stakeholders should be clear from the outset about the parameters of the ass