How do cities successfully build a name for themselves and make a lasting impact on the public's perceptions? We ask the experts.
Want to turn your location into a destination? Try branding it. Successful branding, says Robert Jones, consultant director at international brand consultancy Wolff Olins, can turn a city into a place where people want to live, work and visit. A strong identity is vital if you are vying with other places for attention in tourism and business or relaunching an area after a regeneration initiative.
However, branding is not a magic wand to mask a city's problems. "The brand has to be based on what is already there in a city or else it is just like giving someone a nice haircut — it might look good for a while, but it doesn't give you a new personality," says Marcus Mitchell, strategist at branding agency Corporate Edge. So what makes a well-branded city, and which places are the most successful?
Our panel of five experts give their opinions:
Alex de la Haye, founder, Adelahaye Strategic Branding
Robert Jones, consultant director, Wolff Olins
Jonathan Gabay, founder, Brand Forensics
Michael Hamilton, founder, The Hamiltons
Marcus Mitchell, strategist, Corporate Edge
Which cities have successful brands?
Most great cities have a brand that's developed organically — Paris around romance, or Hong Kong around trade. For many cities, it's impossible to sum up the brand in a word — they're multi-dimensional and also changing. So trying to create city brands artificially is a dangerous and, sometimes, presumptuous business. New York has succeeded at this with "I love New York" and the more recent NYC work. So has Glasgow.
New York is probably the world's greatest branded city. The brand key is integration and direction. That is driven by a combination of single-minded leadership about what New York is: an eclectic mixture of people, all of whom, regardless of sex, age or creed, have the potential to realise their dream — if they work at it. NYC means a "can-do" attitude that manifests itself in everything from towering skyscrapers to customer service. This combination is so admired that it seamlessly gets branded on anything from a baseball cap to a coffee mug.
Without seeming too biased London has done a great job at building its brand organically and then refreshing it recently with the work on the Olympics. London is quite an easy target as it is already such a dynamic city at the head of trends, fashion, music and popular culture what will be interesting is how the city attracts more visitors and guests in the post brexit climate and rising and inaccessible house prices and business competitiveness. Other cities worth noting would be Melbourne, New York, Liverpool and Glasgow in the UK but also look at some of the new Asian cities and existing revitalisations around that region.
Liverpool, Edinburgh and Paris are successfully branded cities. They ooze the most culture. Liverpool has had an incredible turnaround in terms of its politics and physical deprivation. It's such a thriving city — with clubs and bars, a financial centre and retail — so there's something for everyone. Any tourist or business visitor wants to have a sense of where a city's heartbeat is, and that's what I get from these cities, along with a sense of pride and dramatic architecture.
Sydney has maximised what it could from hosting the 2000 Olympics but did so in a coordinated way across business, tourism and in developing a profile for the whole city. New York and Glasgow have both, over decades, used a series of campaigns to get people to reassess what they're about. The roots of "I love NY" was in the 1970s when the city wanted to instil pride in itself and get across the idea that New York was somewhere you'd want to visit.
Which cities have failed as brands?
Belfast has recently announced a logo, but it's not clear what the brand idea behind it is.
I would reference some of the new City builds in the UK such as Milton Keynes and some of the docklands as well as some of the Chinese and Asian city developments, I think the main point of contention here is that the product doesn't match up with the marketing and they do not put enough energy into putting the facilities and community drivers in place to create the "destination".
As a Londoner, I am ashamed to mention London. Everything about brand London is turning into a disaster. From unfocused brand values — what exactly does London stand for in 2008? — to poorly managed transport, policing and environment, and disenfranchised communities. New York's brand reflects progress; Brand London speaks of uncertainty. That was best exemplified by the logo for the 2012 Olympics: disjointed and crude.
Jerusalem also needs a rebrand. The ancient "golden crown" capital city of the world's major religions has become synonymous with the centre of the world's biggest question mark. Rather than try to be everything to all people, every brand must have a single-minded purpose. In Jerusalem's case, anyone who shouts loud enough somehow feels entitled to have a claim on Jerusalem's brand meaning.
There's lots on offer in Birmingham, but it's still in the shadow of Manchester and Leeds. Bristol's got a fantastic location, with access to London, the south-west and Wales, with a mixture of tourism, industry and large corporations based there, but it's not really exploited its assets.
Toronto doesn't have a strong identity and is dwarfed in branding terms by other cities like Vancouver and Montreal. The city's brand, Toronto Unlimited, was launched in 2005, but it hasn't really linked the different faces of the city — its tourism and its business — nor capitalised on its nature as a 24-hour city.
What are your tips for branding a city?
Start by working on reality, not image — do the regeneration, the investment, the transformation first, and only when change is visible should you start to "brand" it.
Branding a city is not just about the logo but the intricate details — as small as clean streets and as deep as getting a city's residents to feel proud to be brand ambassadors. When citizens are proud, visitors are encouraged to find out what the fuss is all about and then tell the world.
Really look hard at the audience in the branding process and how they tier, look at investor level and see how that translates down to eventually the end user and try and work in stages to build up brand equity along the way. Be genuine and don't over promise but make sure you have key differentiators, your visual language and identity should also match up well with your strategy and be flexible and versatile to allow for growth and expansion.
Look at the key assets. The magic formula is to make something about the city tangible and make people switch on to that — location, for example.
Branding isn't just about one logo or a strapline, it's about coordinated activity and a joined-up approach to attract all the city's audiences. Your brand needs to address the tourist who may come one year and then next year have a child who is due to study there. Photography is also difficult because it's hard to capture the spirit of a place. Visit Britain, the tourism agency, has done some great work in building up a special and freely accessible photo library that captures the essence of personality and place.