What I learned at “Place Branding? It’s Not About the Logo”

Last week Up There, Everywhere hosted a vibrant discussion event on place branding. With speakers from Amsterdam to Stockholm, the day promised lots of brilliant insights on how to build a city’s brand.

While the speakers had a range of experiences, their talks often came back to the same point: official communications and messaging are important but it’s what others say that truly matter to your city’s brand.

Places are dynamic and it is the people who use those spaces that truly shape them. People live in spaces, work in them, love and hate them and even use them in ways that they weren’t intended for.

The multitude of different uses of a place leads to there being multiple stories to tell about a city, rather than just one. As we live in a truly connected world, people are able to share these stories easily.

This can be positive. For example, take London Partners’ #LondonIsOpen campaign. After the shock result of the referendum, London needed to do something to allay the fears that trade would dwindle in the city.

Rather than the messages all coming from London authorities themselves (although the Mayor did kick off the campaign), they encouraged Londoners, businesses and organisations to spread the message that London was still optimistic about the future. By harnessing the voice of the community, the #LondonIsOpen campaign was successful and had a large reach, boosting spirits in the UK, and reassuring internationally.

However, the authorities in charge of place branding don’t always get it right. Sometimes when it comes to branding a place, there can be a mismatch in ideas between what those who live in an area and those in charge with branding the area.

To avoid criticism of campaigns it is best to get buy-in from stakeholders as early as possible and actively listen and respond to their feedback. By engaging with the communities to understand their expectations, trust and transparency can be established.

Ultimately, the job of a place brand is to inspire those who live, work, learn, and visit a place. By creating these experiences people will enjoy, they will want to share their stories.

If you have a place branding project you’d like to talk about, give us a call and we’ll pop the kettle on.

Posted by: Catherine Appleby

Date: 12 June 2018

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