Author Archives: Julian Stubbs

Place Marketing: Can cities be brands?

The logo that transformed a city

Today’s New York City is a delight; one of the world’s most desirable places to live, work, or visit. Its name is synonymous with success, wealth and the American dream. But back in the mid-70s, New York was a different place. It was dirty and rundown, suffering from serious crime and drug problems. People associated New York with danger and lawlessness. Despite the city’s low morale at this time, New Yorkers still regarded their city with great affection. Perhaps some kind of catalyst was needed to rally people around and set much-needed social change in motion. In 1977, Milton Glaser was the man who provided that catalyst. His historic ‘I Love NY’ logo design harnessed the positive spirit of New Yorkers and, with its bright uplifting looks, became a tangible representation of people’s inherent love for their city. As their sense of pride grew, so people became more inspired to make New York a better place to live. As Glaser himself once commented in an interview, New Yorkers suddenly experienced a ‘shift in sensibility.’ One day the streets were ‘full of dog crap’ and no-one cared; the next day, people got fed up with stepping in it. The city began to react. Authorities started levying $100 fines upon careless dog owners, and the streets quickly became cleaner. Many have said that Glaser’s logo helped turn New York’s image around. And it wasn’t just a temporary shift.   Throughout the 80s and 90s New York experienced a meteoric rise in popularity and success. International firms jostled with each other to invest in New York and foreign tourists flocked to see the city’s iconic landmarks. Shows such as Friends and Sex and the City furthered enhance New York’s new image and spread it across the world via people’s living rooms. Today, Glaser’s bold red on white ‘I Love NY’ is one of the world’s most recognisable city logos, adapted, satirised, loved, changed, featured on t-shirts, mugs, and all kinds of souvenirs. Some call the New York campaign the first true example of planned city brand strategy.

What does a city brand do?

As today’s city brand experts are well aware, it usually takes more than just a logo to brand a city. City branding involves communicating the feelings, culture, and overall mindset people experience when visiting a city. The best brand strategies always dig deeper into the history and culture of cities, to discover their archetypes, their soul, their identity, and their reality. In our current digital age, it’s easy for potential visitors to quickly Google a city and decide whether or not they want to go there. For cities, it has become vital to define themselves. Else they risk becoming bland and irrelevant, getting swept away and perhaps even buried by the tide of information that consumes audiences every day. That makes having a distinctive city brand one of a city’s most valuable assets. The brand promise is an essential part of building a city’s brand. What does the city wish to become known for? And is it making efforts to live that promise on a consistent, long-term basis? That’s what an effective city brand strategy should look like. Think of Paris, London, or Stockholm. What associations come to mind when these city names are mentioned? We all carry a certain set of associations in our minds that are invoked almost subconsciously when we hear the names of these cities.

What drives city brands?

A city brand has a number of key drivers: attraction of tourists, inward investment, and talent in the form of new taxpaying residents. The key to powerful, resonant branding is to find what makes your city stand out from the crowd. For example, most tourists want similar things in a destination, such as plenty of decent hotels and places to eat, lots of history and culture, things to see and do, all wrapped up in a safe environment in which to do them all. But these are nothing unique and many cities offer these benefits. To truly stand out, a city needs to find its unique story and then tell it to its target audiences in an original, compelling and believable way. Successful city branding depends largely on how well a city can define its offer and make itself stand out among the competition. Positioning is everything – and it must be simple, credible and relevant. In conclusion, yes, cities can be brands. In fact, many of them become so with little effort on their part. But rather than accepting the reputation your city gains organically, it’s wise to take steps to steer it in a direction that will be beneficial for all stakeholders, from local government to business and civil society. Responsibility for driving the brand of your city rests in your hands. Be strategic, be imaginative, and make the most of it! Listen to our Place Branding podcast interview with Milton
The world's most famous, and copied, city brand device.

The world’s most famous, and copied, city brand device.

Glaser here:

The Rise of Independent Workers & e-ployment

The UK’s Daily Telegraph ran a feature on the growing trend of people living and working where they want, as independent workers, through the use of cloud based tools. These global digital nomads are becoming an increasingly important part of the global shift in employment economics and cities and countries are having to consider the best ways to attract and retain these people as new residents. Daily Telegraph Article A new book covers the topic called E-Ployment: Living & Working in the Cloud. e-book-4 copy The book makes the point that globally there is a dramatic shift taking place in employment norms. We are seeing a large rise in the number of self-employed people around the world. Not all of them wander the globe either. Some observers in the US have called this the rise of the 1099 economy, a term derived from the form Americans fill in and and file to the IRS (US tax authorities) to denote their self employed status in their annual tax assessment. This 1099 economy is predicted to count for a large and growing proportion of the total US working population within the next decade. Although the US self-employment rates are a topic that are debated, some commentators predict that self employed people will account for a major proportion of the US total workforce. In an article on GIGAOM, a US blog that follows technology, Gene Zaino, CEO of MBO Partners, predicts in a report from his company that there will be 65 to 70 million independent workers within the next decade. The same report also states that the majority of people in independent work chose it, and had not been forced into it, and that a large number of those in traditional employment are considering moving across to work independently because of the lifestyle benefits and because of a lack on fulfilment with traditional employment. This rise in the number of freelance workers obviously raises a number of different issues with regards to insurance, healthcare and pensions etc. These issues vary greatly depending on where in the world you are located. As an independent worker in Sweden for example, provided you are paying your personal tax, the governmental systems for health and pensions will cover you.   E-Ployment Living & Working in the Cloud is available on Amazon.    

Three elements of great place branding

Place branding book

When it comes to creating a place brand that works, there is much more involved than just creating a logo and slogan. You can’t just slap your city (or region’s) name next to a heart and call it branding. Yes, “I Love New York” is often used as a classic example of place branding success (even by me). But to create a brand that resonates and works for all stakeholders requires a bit more understanding and consideration of your long-term goals than simply copying what worked for another place.


Three elements of great place branding

Several criteria that make for good place branding, which go beyond just the creation of a logo and slogan include:

1. Long-term focus.

Too many place branding activities are ‘campaign focused’ rather than thinking long-term. Places are difficult things to market and create strong brands for. Branding takes time and a campaign tends to be a shorter term, one off, event. I think part of the issue is that traditional advertising agencies themselves are very campaign oriented. Traditional advertising agencies aren’t terribly good at dealing with the greater complexity that place branding really demands. Equally the place or destination itself needs to clearly identify goals with definable long term strategic objectives. What is the place trying to achieve? What are their goals in terms of either inward investment, tourism or residential growth? Too often these are missing and even when present, tend to be expressed in generalities. Each place is different and demands a different, long-term, set of objectives.

2. Distinct positioning.

Once these longer term goals and objectives are identified the focus should be on creating a really distinct positioning. The art of marketing is the art of branding. The art of branding is the creation of a distinct positioning. Being number one in your chosen category. It is the hardest thing to get right. You need a simple and clear proposition. A distinct positioning means being just that – distinct. You can’t be all things to all people. You need to stand for something and that will probably lead to some people not liking it. But if you produce wallpaper that doesn’t stand out, odds are you won’t offend anyone — but equally you won’t stand out either.

3. Communication that really communicates.

Beyond the branding elements, clear communications thinking with a good mix of traditional media and activities and social media is important. I think nearly all places and destinations engage in some form of social media activity nowadays, but unfortunately too much of it is disjointed and sporadic. The world of marketing has been turned on its head in the last ten years and nowadays customers are in control of what they want to see and experience. They can get more information, and form opinions about places, and brands, without ever looking at your website or following your social media posts. The whole focus nowadays should be built around attracting the right customers to seek you out and the way you do that is with great quality content and strong inbound marketing programs. If you are not using this approach in your marketing yet, odds are you are producing lots of content but it is probably being wasted, and measurement of results is not being utilised to refine messaging and campaigns. The key is creating great quality content, without it being overly sales oriented. Approach it as you would a relationship with a person. On the first date you don’t normally offer to get married and have kids. You get to know each other and gently build the relationship. It’s like that with marketing and especially content and inbound. More about Place Branding – Q&A

Place Branding Insights

Learn more from experts in this free book chapter on Working with Stakeholders: Re-thinking Place Branding from a Practice Perspective.   Go to this link: Re-Thinking Place Branding Chapter
    Place Brand Podcast Stockholm edition and interview with Spotify:  Place Branding Podcast Stockholm
The Stockholm brand was also developed during a financial crisis.

The Stockholm brand was also developed during a financial crisis.

Place Brand Podcast New York edition and interview with Milton Glaser: Place Branding Podcast New York
The world's most famous, and copied, city brand device.

The world’s most famous, and copied, city brand device.

A CRISP Approach to Place Marketing

In my organisation – UP THERE, EVERYWHERE – we work a lot with place marketing. Now although place marketing is a highly demanding and very specific area with its own unique set of challenges, learning from some of the best practices of regular consumer goods brands is important, and many practices and issues are applicable. I’d like to introduce you to a friendly little acronym we have developed at UP THERE, EVERYWHERE -. CRISP. Consumer brands teach us that whatever strategy and tactics we might use and whereever the message might appear, it has to be deployed in a consistent fashion. McDonald’s provides a great example of a brand that is incredibly consistent globally in managing its messaging but more importantly in managing its products and customer experience. Wherever the brand touches consumers it’s consistent. Do we go to McDonald’s for the best food in the world? Possibly not. Do we go there because it’s consistent wherever we visit a McDonald’s in the world? Absolutely. Whatever you are going to do, do it consistently. When it comes to the positioning and marketing approach you take for your brand, it also has to be relevant to your brand’s offering as well as relevant to the audience you are talking with. The Energizer Bunny has been bopping around our television screens since 1989 and has been used by the Energizer Company of St. Louis, Missouri to demonstrate the company’s claimed superior battery life. The little pink bunny with its motto of Keep Going perfectly communicates the relevance of this message. The campaign has resonated with the public so well in fact, that the bunny has his own personal website where he (and I’m assuming despite his colour preferences it’s a he rabbit) lists a number of personal facts, among them that the person he’d most like to meet is Lance Armstrong. Relevance is everything in brand building. Emotional intimacy is central to branding. We all make our choices based on a mix of both practical as well as emotional reasons. Great brands know that you have to leverage emotional intimacy. I love holding workshops with engineers, indeed some of my closest friends are engineers. The wonderful thing is that they are very logical people and often claim never to have acted out of emotional intimacy in their lives. Everything comes down to cost and specification. I’d love to have seen some of these people propose to their wives or husbands if that’s the case. “Well, you seem to be the best available model for your age, I reckon you’re a fair catch for what it’s going to cost me. Now would you like to get married?” Don’t think so. These logic driven individuals also claim that, frighteningly, their customers are just like them. Again it’s about cost and specification. Now I’ve observed a number of times these are the same people who drive up in a BMW or a Mercedes. They are the same people who stand there with a Mont Blanc pen tucked in their shirt pockets. When I see this, I always offer to swap my Pilot ball pen, which is a fine pen – having cost me all of three dollars – for their Mont Blanc but they never seem to want to take me up on the deal. Strange really, I reckon my Pilot works equally well. The truth is we all buy things for a mix of both practical as well as emotional reasons. To get people to love you and your brand you need emotional intimacy. It’s not all pure logic. Thank goodness. Get close to your consumers and get intimate. Getting people involved on this level is vital for, consumer, business to business and Place Brands. The idea at the centre of the brand approach will also need to be very simple, to cut through all the media noise we are all increasingly facing every day. Simple ideas are normally powerful ideas. The remarkable Sam Goldwyn said: If you can’t write your movie idea on the back of a business card, you ain’t got a movie. This same sentiment is equally applicable to any great idea. In essence, they have to be simple. Apple is one of the best known brands in the world, and its advertising always goes right to the heart of the issue with its simplicity. Great brands make a habit of keeping things simple. Finally, if we are going to be serious about gaining some traction and awareness from our marketing efforts, we will also need to be persistent over a long period of time. Great brands keep on going, doing similar things over an extended period of time. Again a bit like that really annoying little pink Energizer Bunny. But take Coca-Cola – the world’s most valuable brand. In the 2011 Interbrand Best Global Brands Report, the Coca-Cola brand has an estimated book value of plus US$ 72 billion. One of the keys to the success of the brand has been the persistence shown by the company since it was started in 1886. The same basic theme of delicious and refreshing is still used today – over one hundred and twenty years after it was launched. Being persistent –it’s the real thing. Acronym for the day – CRISP. Consistent, Relevant, Intimate, Simple and Persistent.

Place Branding & Names

Well as the bard said ‘A rose by any other name might smell as sweet’, but names for places really do matter and can have an impact. Good bit on the Beeb on the topic. Click the link: BBC Importance of names