Stages of City Branding – A Continuous and Long Process
The concept of city branding is not known to many and thus often ignored. Stakeholders at different levels have in depth discussions and deliberation for deciding the “brand” which they wish to impart to the city. This is a long process and thus various stages of city branding exists. These stages provides a systematic sequence which is generally followed for the purpose of city branding or place branding.
The number of stages might differ from place to place and country to country as the vision and complexity involved is different. Its obvious that the strategy adopted by a city with 1 million residents will differ from the cities with 10 million population even when they both are competing for tourism. This is so because the built infrastructure and the natural heritage is different for all places and they have their own strengths and weaknesses.
Various stages of City Branding
Making a city as a “brand” is a long process and the final result is a outcome of years of planning and work. The desired outcome is visible only if everything goes as per plan. Planning for such a long term goal requires a continuous monitoring and evaluation at every step. The strategy adopted must allow modification as per the changing need. The various stages of city branding are:
First stage: This starts with the process of city audit, where the strengths and weaknesses of the city are audited. Unique characters of the city are identified which can be used in future as growth potentials. Major influencers of the city are studied and various stakeholders associated are recognised. An impression is generated from an outsider’s position; these include the messages sent out by the industries, government through their policies, and tourism in the market place. This helps in understanding whether they are on the same line or not, if not then the reasons behind it are identified.
Second stage: At this stage the identity of place is constructed through discussion between the stakeholders and community participation is taken into account. Generally while accounting for a place, its people are overlooked but they are the main components of the city and very crucial for branding it. Audiences at different levels are engaged example the people at civic level, tourism level, marketing level and the community level. After this common threads between them are identified. Creating a coherent message and position between the different stakeholders is important for city branding to bring them on same alignment so as to create a single image. This is a part of internal branding.
Third stage: It deals with comparing the position and services offered by the city with its competition and what should be done to make it at par or better than them. The image of the city as perceived by the others and the stakeholders should match only then everybody would be on common ground and steps for betterment could be taken.
Fourth stage: At this stage a vision for the city is created. The vision keeps in mind the ambition of the city as a whole and where do its people want to see it in next few years. This vision should be followed by various objectives to build upon the brand of the city.
Fifth stage: This is also considered as last stage where a strategy is developed to promote the city on worldwide basis. This includes promotion on different media and improving relations with different cities. Various interventions are made at policy level so as to provide an infrastructure and appropriate base for city to grow.
The measure is done in value terms by estimating the increase in Foreign Direct Investments, exports and percentage increase in contribution of tourism sector to the economy of that city. The increase in numeric value suggests the intensity of success and development on those lines.
The other ways of evaluating it are surveying people around the world about the image that city creates and asking about their first hand experiences in the city. This helps in analysing the fact whether the perception of people matches with the kind of environment that was developed and stated in the goals and vision of the city.
Media coverage in the national and international domain also helps in understanding whether the city is being accepted around the world or not. If the reviews are positive, or if the interventions in the city are being adopted in other cities of the world then the brand name is a success. If the reviews are negative then a change in direction of approach is required.
Brand name would also result in development of local industries and as a result they would use the city name to market their goods, this is also one of the indicators.