Big cities are getting even bigger. Like magnets they suck in people and business. Their easy transport connections link them globally. The world wants their products, services and ideas. Their supply chains are truly international and their reputations global.
But this pulling power, can be bad news for smaller cities. Those on the edge, far away from thriving conurbations. Those with poor international connections and those which grew on old world industries now extinct. These cities need a new role. A clear fresh purpose and a positive narrative that is understood and supported.
No doubt the leaders of these challenged cities would agree that this is what is required. But tell them that they need a new brand and the reaction might be different. Place branding is often greeted with scepticism and suspicion. Many politicians don’t understand it. Directors of Economic Development prefer to talk about grants and city planners can’t see how a brand influences how a city works.
And who can blame them? There have been so many examples of place branding done badly, with a focus on shiny new logos or expensive ad campaigns. But a place brand should go much deeper. It should get the heart of how a city operates not just how it communicates.
Places need distinction. They need to stand out by recognising and celebrating why they are outstanding. Places need to think strategically about the management of all the factors that affect place distinction. Then they need to sum up why they are special in a way which people quickly understand. As Einstein said “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough”.
Session during ICRE2018
Join Roger Pride for his session “Achieving Place Distinction” during www.icre2018.eu on April 5 2018. Roger will lead a discussion on how places can build profile and reputation in the digital age. He will outline why reputation is so important for places. He will suggest how places can ensure it is organised to plan, how cities can manage the city assets and strategies which can affect reputation. He will introduce the concept of Place Distinction as a model to achieve this. He will lead a discussion on how the retail offer and experience in cities can influence distinction.