Confront Reality if You Want a Better City Image

I recently spoke with the mayor of a small city on the East Coast. She said they wanted to create a new city brand and change their city image over the next one to two years because the place had a negative image. Rather than outline how we may be able to help them achieve their goals, I instead firstly focused on managing their expectations and what a brand strategy realistically can and cannot do for them.

I explained that branding can bring many short-term gains, but the true value and rewards will be long-term and cumulative. No doubt, it probably took decades, or longer, to shape the city’s current image and identity. Successful place branding is the result of many small victories, again and again. True success will only come from the consistency of messages and the delivery of outstanding experiences from many sources hitting their mark again, and again, and again – over a long period.

Big marketing budgets and better communications alone will not turn around a city’s image if its reality is standing in the way. It may suffer from unattractive public spaces, crime, outdated infrastructure or lack of cooperation between businesses and among government officials that is holding the place back. Addressing these can take time and possibly many generations of elected officials.

The benefits of branding a city are considerable. However, they will not materialize overnight. From the outset, leaders must set objectives that are realistic, programs are well funded and that there is an understanding of what branding is and isn’t – and broad buy-in from across the business and political spectrum.

Produced by: Total Destination Marketing

Best Selling Book: Destination Branding for Small Cities

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