• Transform magazine
  • June 26, 2019

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Place branding communicates about culture, economy and character

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A recent series of place branding and rebranding announcements illustrates the crucial role place branding plays in communicating new messages about a place to a regional, national or international market.

The idea of reducing all that a city or a country is, its diverse people, businesses and culture, into one logo can seem nearly impossible. Yet just as company logos help brands craft an identity that represents their principal services and ethos, place branding allows cities and countries to highlight the most valuable, and often lesser known, aspects of their economy and culture.

Often, place logos are used to emphasise a certain marketable feature of a place, painting a destination as tropical vacation hotspot or a cultural landmark. For example, the recent rebrand of the Philippines’ tourism campaign and country brand, ‘It’s More Fun in the Philippines!,’ designed by marketing agency BBDO Guerrero, portrays the Philippines as a unique travel destination for adventurous travellers. The branding includes a woven icon, which symbolises the combination of distinctive cultures and languages that the Philippines offers, while the unconventional wordmark highlights the unexpected variety of experiences the Philippines provides.

Other times, place rebranding is employed to convey the evolution of a place over time. The old logo for Newcastle, Australia, created in 1993, employed a black and white colour palette and a serif font, which failed to capture the Newcastle of 2019. Now, the city has recently rebranded in order to better convey Newcastle’s vibrant modernity. The colourful new logo, designed in collaboration with creative agency Headjam, suggests a successful, multifaceted city known for its beaches and a growing community of contemporary businesses. According to the City of Newcastle, “As a progressive, dynamic and rapidly changing City, it was important that our logo complements Newcastle’s transformation from a regional town into a smart, liveable and sustainable global city.”

Similarly, following a recent period of significant investment, the City of Chelmsford, Essex, UK has announced that creative agency We Are Fred has been chosen to rebrand the city over the next four years. As Nick Street, creative director and cofounder of We Are Fred says, “Chelmsford has undergone significant change in the last few years and we want to tell the new story for the area while engaging with the people who really believe in and connect with the City…We look forward to building a brand that truly reflects all that our cosmopolitan city has to offer.” The campaign will take place in coordination with One Chelmsford, the local Business Improvement District, with the aim of elevating the city’s profile in an effort to attract visitors and businesses over the coming years.

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Even globally recognized cities like Los Angeles rely on place branding and rebranding to redefine what a place represents to the outside world. While LA is internationally known as the capital of the film and entertainment industries, it was recently announced that the City of Los Angeles Department of Convention and Tourism Development has engaged Resonance Consultancy, a global advisor in tourism and economic development, in an effort to sustainably expand tourism in the city in the lead-up to the 2028 Summer Olympics. Resonance Consultancy’s strategy will engage key representatives throughout the city, including ambassadors from small business, arts and culture, education, environment, government and more. 

Moreover, when successful, place logos can even have the power to alter negative perceptions of a city. Milton Glaser’s iconic 1977 ‘I love NY’ campaign for New York City is often credited with significantly revamping New York City’s image, transforming its reputation from that of a financially unstable, crime-ridden city to an international tourist destination, an image that remains to this day.

City Nation Place UK, the forum for strategic place branding and marketing, will take place on 14 May 2019 in Birmingham, UK. The event will focus on bringing teams together to collaborate on developing strategic campaigns in order to drive economic development.