Thanks in large part to the global economic reboot, cities have been forced into to re-thinking their strengths and about marketing them accordingly. Many cities (ours included) are struggling to find a refreshed identity.
Some challenges for lacklustre brands and their parent cities:
- A lack of common goals and values between citizens and municipal leaders, and municipal leaders and business;
- A sense of brand confusion or even conflict (struggling to reconcile or eradicate images and perceptions from the past, ones largely driven by a top down approach);
- Inadequate recognition of the importance of public ownership and collective identity (or the notion of creating a new one);
- Care and feeding falls to marketing communications departments who are inadequately resourced and subject to being #1 in line for cuts during tough economic times.
Alternatively, cities with strong brands tend to:
- Have a clear, definite identity that can be projected and owned by every citizen;
- Create platforms for their citizens to share and shape the strengths of the existing culture;
- Understand the importance of strong, vibrant and consistent strategic marketing as an economic driver;
- Have identities rooted in the truths of the day (read: authentic - not what they were 20 years ago, but what they are, with just a dash of future aspiration.)
Successful city branding projects are entirely exercises in leadership and engagement.
Empower your citizens first. Your vibrant, sustainable (dare we say, sexy?) brand will follow.