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Branding a City is No Small Task


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Especially if it is over 19 million people!

New York City is one of the great cities in the world that has successfully branded itself. What is the first image that comes to mind when you hear the name New York City? “The Big Apple, " I hope.

Tourism is big business in attracting affluent travelers to spend money in your city. In 2007, New York saw over 46 million tourists come to see, shop, eat, sleep and be entertained. If each person spent $1,000 (which would be cheap in Manhattan) that would equal $4.6 billion. So branding big cities is big business.

But how do you create a brand image for such a complex beast? Remember a brand is part personality, part single mindedness. What you want to do is own a place in the consumers mind. How do you take a city and boil it down to one simple and relevant thought? Well, many cities have done it. The most romantic city is? The city where what happens there stays there? Or how about a city fit for a queen. Then here is the city within a city that rules Catholics around the world. Which city is the fashion capital, the fine dining capital or the music capital of the world?

The hard part is boiling a massive city down to a simple sentence or words that articulate its promise. The hard part is finding that one thing that defines a city because most cities have many attributes and landmarks: symbolic buildings (Eiffel tower, the White House, CN tower, opera house, Colosseum), icons (a white wooden sign, white cross, orange bridge) and unique environmental characteristics (beach, mountain, river, water). But remember, a brand is owned by the consumer so when you show them a gondola with a gondolianer they will think Venice or maybe Las Vegas cheap imitation. A city eventually gets defined by what is the most memorable feature or collective customer benefit. The clearer the feature or benefit the stronger the brand.

How would the city of Sidney, Australia be viewed today with out the Sidney Opera House and Crocodile Dundee? Not only are the city attributes important, but the peoples’ lifestyle and the dynamic quality of energy is vital in building a vibrant and engaging city brand. Sometimes this can be kick started by a global event such as the World Expo, FIFA World Cup or the Olympic Games. The FIFA World Cup soccer event can attract over 28.8 billion viewers over the month. The more concentrated Olympic Games can catapult a city to the global stage. The coverage so far on Beijing, China is staggering. On the Beijing Official 2008 Olympic website it states that “over 300 channels broadcasting the Athens 2004 Olympic Games to 220 countries and territories, 35,000 hours of dedicated coverage (2000 per day), to over 3.9 billion people (unduplicated). " This was the strongest Olympic broadcast ever.

As globalization continues to make the world smaller, the competition between cities has increased tremendously for tourists, investors, businesses and major events, so maintaining and building a city brand is paramount.

Derrick Rozdeba - I am a connoisseur of fine brands. Using my brand appreciation and insights, like a sommeliers, I will impart my knowledge and opinion in savoring the many brands that identify our lives. Visit my blog


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