What is City Branding?
City Branding is the process of branding a city or place is called as geo-branding, place branding. Cities around the world are branding themselves just like other commodities as they compete to be the best “A strong place brand helps a place compete in the global marketplace,” says Chris Fair (President, Resonance, Marketing Firm), “A business or a potential resident or a visitor can go anywhere they want today, so articulating differentiating and unique characteristics is important to attracting investment, people and capital to your place”. Cities these days contend with each other to have sustainable development and provide its citizens a decent quality of life: in terms of good economic opportunities and environment. This way they brand themselves to attract investments and people to enjoy these services.
Walk around the streets of neighbourhood and you’ll find big posters showcasing not your favourite clothes, shoes or electronics brands but cities. This is most common with tourism, Australia, Maldives, Malaysia, India have came up with different tag lines which try to create an images in readers’s mind. Within the ‘Incredible India’ we have Bangalore as the ‘Silicon Valley of India’, Jaipur- ‘The Pink city’, Gurgaon-‘The millennium city’ and many more. The main idea behind city branding is that we give an image of the city to people so that it turns from a location to a destination. Similarly, Malaysia’s tourism board calls Malaysia – Truly Asia; Australia – There’s nothing like Australia; Las Vegas gives a image of Casino’s all over!
Why cities should brand themselves?
Within few years the city adds value to itself with the efficiency and efficacy of maintain the brand name, this results in royalties in terms of good economic growth of the city, increased per capita income and increase in funds for municipalities for future development. City branding should not be perceived simply as branding or marketing, it is the art of creating image of a city in peoples mind so that they are attracted towards it; the unique character of the city is what makes it different from the rest of the world. These days the movement of people is very fluid and hence it is important to articulate what the city has best in it and how it is different from its other competent, therefore making it more eye-catching with respect to other cities. Earlier marketing techniques were used to promote cities worldwide. Place branding is a new trend, only half a decade old, where image of the city was considered as a pre-requisite for future investments, export of products and enhancing tourism. Place branding should not be confused with marketing, as it is more inclusive and displays cities ideals, accomplishments and aspirations apart from just concentrating on the markets to be served.
Well marketed place branding strategies strengthens communities’ sense of place; it creates a line between the communities, business and visitors. Most of the time city focuses on building capacities and enhancing growth of various sectors and city branding helps in enhancing the pace. Traditionally the character of the city was mainly defined by its geography and the industry supported by it, that is mainly the physical traits. However, today culture, people, innovation, ideas generated and experiences given by that place contribute towards its image.
Kotler et al, (1999) suggested four critical reasons explaining the need of city branding. These adapted reasons are:
- Cities have to compete in the modern day world and have to adjust to it because of the constantly changing environment
- Cities grow due to urbanisation. A powerful brand name would help to brush through economic slowdowns and would be a shield to negative publicity.
- Countries are more competitive these days for affluent residents and tourists. To sustain competitive advantage, countries are now more attentive to become a more attractive destination for tourists.
- Self-governance and local funding is the final reason. Cities these days understand the power of creating international events to place them on a world map. It is also through these efforts, that different types of funding (advertisements, live telecasts’ fee, tickets revenue, food and beverage, hotels, etc) can be generated.
City branding is a long term process and cannot be achieved in few years; effective city branding requires real changes before campaign and public relations can come with effect. Short term advertising and vague goals portraying pretty picture of the city won’t help in long run. Systematic approach targeting each stakeholder is what works. This approach should be inspired from real time experiences of investors. The same city can hold different interests for various people so these need to be addressed and adopted rather than incorporating singular approach.
City branding is done in 5 stages:
- City audit to identify the strengths and weaknesses of the city
- Construction of identity through discussions
- Understanding competition and position finding
- Creation of vision for city and listing of objectives
- Developing strategy to promote city or the process of “branding”
Once these stages are completed the city/country gets a distinguished identity as reflected in the image above! Brand name helps in getting investment for the city or country which can be for a specific sector like tourism, industry, manufacturing, research, innovation etc.
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