A city is not only what it shows on the outside, but most of all everything it inspires and transmits. The brand of a city is a strategic asset in terms of communication and business: a good city brand construction leads to good economic and financial results. In this age of hyper connection and cloned models, where everyone looks too much the same, those in charge of cities are starting to understand the key value they have in their hands -even though in general they still undervalue it or directly ignore it. Competition among cities for the attention, time and money of businesses, travellers, tourists, students will keep on growing in the coming years, but if they really wish to be successful in the completion of their goals, they must embrace Branding in a professional way.
Along with the changes in the global scene, new rivals will keep on coming, hungrier, more passionate and willing to grab people’s attention, time and money. There are almost 2 million cities in the planet already, and it’s in that context where the brand is presented with the imminent challenge to personalize an environment that is growing more impersonal, to bet on authenticity and honesty, and to stay away from cloning other models that have almost nothing to do with their own.
It’s not an overstatement to stress the importance of having a brand strategy to face the new demands in a technological and globalized world. Cities have to compete every day to lure tourism, investment and business. The brand of a city cannot be imposed, but certain aspects of it that attract the attention of the world can be found. It is a short term, medium term and long term task. It takes a lot of time, effort and consistency to build a brand, but the results are really worth it. Those in charge of the cities should put the brand above partisan interests, and nurture it and protect it for what it is: a strategic asset for the city.
To encourage the construction of an integrated and coherent city Branding will help to develop a consistent narrative and a strong idea on which to base and develop a plan with clear goals. That is, a city brand linked to innovation, creativity, emotion and the interest of an audience oversaturated with “copy-paste” messages. Why do the majority of brands prefer to fit in rather that to stand out? Cities must ask themselves if they have a place in the mental and/or emotional map of the people. If their positioning goes beyond the physical, if what they are, what they communicate and what they want to be is credible, honest and authentic.
Do they understand that an identity can be univocal, personal, recognizable and memorable? Branding is the DNA, the essence and what defines and differentiates a city at the same time, what makes it unique and inimitable.
Why not attract talent to take your brand strategy to the next level? The fierce competition in the international arena does not and will not give a break.
Those cities that do not have a plan will eventually fail. Not all cities make good Branding, neither do they all make bad Branding, but they all make Branding. A good brand strategy does not guarantee success, but a non-existent or bad brand strategy equals failure.
There’s no doubt that the greatest capitals of Latin America have quality ingredients to achieve much better results. They are at a crucial moment for the economy of the countries in the region, and this can be a good opportunity to reinvent themselves and create a new future. In this sense, the right planning of their brand strategy will help the future of their economies. That’s why embracing Branding will be a very profitable investment.
Which cities have embraced Branding in a successful way? There are many examples, and some of the most relevant ones are Sydney, Melbourne, New York, Dublin, Berlin, Tokyo, London, Dubai, Las Vegas, Rome and Paris to mention a few. Spain in not turning its back to this new reality and has some examples of cities that have started to work in that direction: Barcelona, Malaga and Bilbao. Same in Latin America, with cities like Buenos Aires, Rio de Janeiro, Mexico City, Medellin or Brasilia.
How the visitors are received and attended to, how the city makes them feel or if they are made to feel part of the stories of the city. We may forget what a city is saying to us, but we will never forget how it made us feel. In that sense, if the goal is to improve the relationship the cities have with their “clients”, it is essential to propose the active participation of the citizens, since they are responsible for building the personality of their cities and their unique characters. They all contribute in a decisive way to create what every city transmits and inspires.
Then, we cannot help but wonder whether there’s coherence, consistency and constancy in said Branding, whether your brand generates trust, attraction and interest.
The Branding that bets on creativity, differentiation and an emotional link has the best chance of standing out in the digital maelstrom. And it will be easier to get a return on your investment. Creative content is shared and consumed. The city evolves from being an amplifier to being a magnet of attraction. New technologies today help brand management and with a better experience in situ. The Branding of the future is offline + online.
Design, architecture, food, art, music, sports, science, culture are some of the hooks that attract an ever demanding and picky “client”.
The construction of a city brand is a very complex task, much more so than that of a product or service. There are no secret formulas: only a mix of a clear strategy with hard work, vision, talent, creativity, innovation, quality of life, sustainability, technology, connectivity, development, efficiency and well-being are some of the ingredients of the essential recipe, plus leading professionals to cook them to make the perfect dish.