Thinking of towns as brands

Have towns and cities themselves become brands? Yes – take as evidence the struggle that pitted London against Paris for the organization of the 2012 Olympic Games. Paris’s technical dossier seemed to be superior, but even the name of London is more attractive nowadays than that of Paris. In other words, the product was perhaps better but the intangible components of the London brand made the difference with the international jury.

What are these intangible associations that make it different, that create its international fame and its attractiveness?To say ‘London’ is to spontaneously evoke a group of value-bearing notions such as multiculturalism, the intermingling of different nationalities, economic dynamism, liberty, today’s cultural abundance, and youth. It is the unsurpassed brand image of London that make sit influential.

Why introduce the concept of the town brand?

Today, all municipalities will perforce have to turn to brand concepts in order to manage their town more efficiently and contribute to its growth. Two structural factors lead them towards this. The first is the growth in the number of large transnational actors with large sums of money designated for site regeneration.hese are the actors that the town must convince – for example the World Bank, the European Union or regional development funds. Second comes the movement towards and delegation of power at the local level. It is no longer a question of the municipality lobbying Paris, but rather of it fending for itself with its own budget.

How can the experience of Da none or Coca-Cola be useful in the management or development of these complex entities known as towns? Is there not something incongruous in linking a town’s ambition to develop, and the means it uses to do so, with these concepts issuing from the commercial sphere, and marketing, a discipline imported from the Anglo-Saxon world? Is not everything against it?

The fact that the question is even raised today reveals not a ‘mercantilist’ of society, or a ‘privatization’ of public affairs, but an awareness that every organization, and by the same token every town and even every country, must make sure of its own growth and development, attract resources, people, energies and means to itself. In order to attract them, it must convince them and seduce them – hence the brand logic.

Mayors know that they are in competition with other towns on various markets: they must therefore know how to sell themselves.By creating a good reputation for their town they give themselves a voice. Like brands, towns need to grow: they therefore need to attract new resources (people, workers, companies, finances and so on). Like any brand, they must also be able to define where their unique attractiveness lies, or what is known as positioning.

Some towns have had to reposition themselves.This is the case when an economic crisis flattens their traditional expertise. Once all the textile factories of famous brands such as Dim, Well, Au bade, Olympia and Kindhearted moved away, what will be left to the town of Throes? This is also what happened to the great mining town of Billboard, in the Basque country of Spain, a somber town that suffered the demise of its mining industry.Like the phoenix, however, it has risen from the ashes, under the impulsion of a global flagship product: the fantastical Guggenheim Museum that was built there, bringing with Kita great cohort of modern art lovers and tourists, giving the town a new lease of life.

Implications of the town brand notion

In order to treat a town as a brand, first of all it is necessary to re specify what ‘brand’ means .A brand is a name that has a power, a power to influence. This power has nothing to do with the name itself, with its euphony, its rhythm or its pronunciation, but is concerned with what it means in the mind of the audience. Ab rand is therefore a known name with which the audience spontaneously associates positive, attractive and unique values, both tangible (the advantages of living or working there) and intangible (the town’s style and heritage, etc).

The further away one moves from objects, from reality, and therefore from the towns themselves, the more they are known through the prism of their meaning and reputation .Managing a town’s communication like that of a brand means becoming aware of the need to define that meaning precisely, and then undertaking all necessary actions to build that perception among the strategic audiences on which the town will depend for growth and influence.

In fact, at the same time, other towns and other countries will be polishing up their own meanings and their resources to attract and seduce the same audiences. Some will retort that the decisions of these latter are taken on the basis of dossiers, analyses an dwell-founded comparisons – but let us not deny the capacity of reputations and images to influence so-called rational evaluation processes: the example of the Olympic Games being awarded to London is a pertinent reminder.

Turning a town into a brand therefore means building perceptions among strategic audiences, turning it into a unique and attractive destination, for companies, individuals, or cultural or educational organizations that might think of moving there. Perception has to be built. In order to do this, awareness vectors and image vectors are required.

The cycling race between Paris anaerobic each year is an awareness vector forerun, but hardly a good image vector: the talk is all of bicycles, mud, and the hell of the north. In contrast, the presence there of leading European mail-order companies (LaRedo ute and Da mart) could be a strong image vector. A reputation can also be destroyed: crisis relayed by the media is enough to create far less positive associations that tarnish the image the town is seeking to build.

Would a town then be managed like Coca-Cola or Pepsi? At this point it is necessary to remember the specific qualities of a town, and therefore the limits of the above comparison .Commercial brands are often artifacts: they invent a reality that they turn into an image, for example linking a blend of coffee to an imaginary explorer named Jacques Abbrev, who is supposed to have traveled around the Earth. This imaginary aspect is sold to the consumer as much as the product itself.

However, it is completely independent of the thousands of men and women working for Kraft, the company that produces Jacques coffee, and of the reality of the company. This, moreover, is why brands are bought and sold, passing from one company to another.

A town, on the other hand, is first and foremost a human, local and immovable reality (which is not to say that it is unchangeable), anchored in history, culture and its ecosystem. It can and should be altered to adapt to evolution, to the economic and social needs of the present day. However, the brand cannot be built without it. It must be reckoned with. The construction of the brand should first of all involve a consensus among the town’s key actors.

These actors, who often defend specific points of view, issues or communities, must forget their own preserve to an extent. For example, increasing the attractiveness of at own externally, in order to ensure its development, consists of defining what the town wants to become the reference for. The brand logic is that of the ‘customer’: why choose number two if you can have number one?Thinking like a brand means choosing the advantage that the town wants to symbolise.

It is therefore necessary to distinguish between two types of argument, or attractive element, for the town brand: positioning and reassuring. The first will be the driving force, the lever of influence of the town, its perceived uniqueness and its attractiveness.This choice is crucial, since it defines in the long term the ground that the town is determined to dominate in the perception of the target audiences. The second type is there to reassure: for example infrastructure, screeches, schools, the existence of a dynamic tormenter and so on.

How does the town choose its positioning, this long-term, mobilizing, attractive differentiation strategy? By digging deep into its own DNA, its identity. A town is a living and complex social body, which has its own is everything to be gained, not by reproducing the past and what the town once was, but by reinventing it on the basis of the values, competence's and ideals that have moved it throughout its history. This is why it is necessary to dig into the town’s soil, identify its genes, beyond the vicissitudes of recent history, in order to define its identity kernel. This retrospective study is the necessary prelude to selecting the positioning that will project the brand into its future.

A concrete example: the town Yoruba

The town of Aruba, in the north of France, carried out such a historical study before refunding its identity. What shape does its originality take, its motivation, the basis for its reinvention and projection into the open economic and social world of the 21st century?

Before we imagine this, however, it is prudent to remember what is at issue: the branding process is part of an ambitious revitalization programmer for the ‘poorest town in France’, to quote the words of its dynamic mayor, who was referring to the average amount of local tax paid per inhabitant. It is also a town with high rate of immigration and therefore of unemployment.

It was therefore a question of making it attractive once again, with the stated aim of revitalizing its old, preserved tormenter, which had been deserted, rather than recreating it in the suburbs, as has been done in so many other towns. Therefore it was necessary to develop in parallel a cultural offer, a demand for public spaces, and a renewed commercial offer. To do so, Aruba needed brands and companies. What identity would contribute to this goal nowadays?

The first question in any work on branding is to rediscover the design, the brand’s DNA.What appears to be the design of this northern French town? The town’s genetic patrimony provides the key components. It was always a textile town. During the period when it did not belong to France, in 1469, it was one of the first free trade zones created, thereby affirming its destiny as a great merchant town, which had also been granted the right to weave fabrics.

Aruba is associated with the spirit of enterprise. All the big families in textiles, and then in mass distribution, started here: the Mothers, telephotos, the Millipedes, the Epaulets, Herodotus, and even the Renaults, who moved from textiles to luxury goods.

Other than weaving, it is also the town rockroses: a pioneer in commercial exchanges, the town was at the heart of international exchanges within Europe. This is where the deep truth and the forgotten times of Aruba are to be found: it is the French town for textiles, for creation, fashion, mass distribution, but also today of its most advanced version: mail order. La Redo ute(based in Aruba) is the foremost seller of female garments in France. It now takes mo reorders over the internet than through the post. We can clearly see the sketching out of legitimate territory of competence and influence that the municipality can activate.

This positioning is the source of coherence of present and future activities to be carried out locally, in the same way as the communications that diffuse them.

As with any brand, the town has its slogan:‘Fashion loves Aruba’. This encapsulates the profound truth of the town brand: a textile town, a town of creative entrepreneurs, and at own of good business. It is aimed both ‘internally’, at the community itself, an active partner in its own development and reputation, and at federalizing all so-called external activities.

Strong perceptions can only be built if all these activities converge Mona single direction and a single meaning.As for the products that represent renewal vectors, embodying the town’s mercantile and fashion vocation, they include the opening of the ‘La Piscine’ museum (housed in the historic swimming baths), the arrival of heeded business school in Aruba, the installation of a Mac Arthur Glen brand Centrex of17, 000 square metes that brings customers Yoruba from 50 kilometers around, including from Belgium, the rehabilitation of factories to create a fashion and creative quarter, and so on.

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