• Transform magazine
  • December 07, 2023


City Nation Place conference addresses high stakes for brand UK


While UK-based place branding professionals have been trying to plan in an uncertain Brexit world, any place can change in an instant. It’s in holding the value of places on the one hand and the changeability of the world on the other that the inaugural City Nation Place UK conference will be bringing urban, national and regional place branding teams together.

The shock, mourning and outpouring of donations from around the world after the burning of Notre Dame in Paris last week illustrates just how powerful place branding can be, even in times of strife. As Ryan Tym, director of Lantern says, “The events at Notre Dame show the resolve and enduring passion for the city that all Parisians hold. That continues to be a powerful characteristic for the city’s image and it’s one that’s shared by the many people who have chosen to invest their own money in rebuilding the iconic landmark. What better way to reinforce the capital’s positioning as the ‘City of Love?’” Its perceived value appears to be without measure, as it has as a historic, cultural and religious symbol, catalysed locals, a nation and the world to rebuild the gutted building, with donations crossing the €1bn mark late last week.

Successful place branding campaigns appeal to the collective consciousness and have wide reaching effects. As Clare Dewhirst, director of City Nation Place says, “More than just a place marketing campaign, a real place brand strategy will have the necessary collaboration behind it and the long-term vision to secure economic resilience for towns, cities and regions across the UK, at what is turning out to be quite a politically and economically turbulent period.”

Central to the work being done by UK place branders right now is identifying where a place has influence over its own population as its positioning in the world changes. The recent ‘Portrait of UK Travellers’ report by MMGY GLobal indicates that UK’s resident Millennials are the most likely to travel within the UK, planning to take 41% more holidays and increase their holiday spending by 20%. Though often derided as a demographic, as Millennials represent most young families now and may want to avoid international travel for some years, tapping into the interest that these under 40s have in local culture, especially in rural areas, may be a key to the overall success of less traditionally popular locations within the UK for travel, migration and economic development. The Office for National Statistics’ most recent listing states that 34% of all births in England and Wales were by women over 30.  

As the daily machinations from Westminster continue to create ripples across the country, the future of the UK’s cities, counties and nations remains an open ended question. But whatever happens to brand UK in the coming months, looming or unexpected, getting UK’s place branding community together to strategise at this crucial moment is critical. The City Nation Place UK conference will take place on 14 May in Birmingham.

For more from Transform magazine, sign up for the Transform newsletter here and follow us on Twitter @Transformsays.

To attend the City Nation Place UK conference with a 10% discount, click here and enter the discount code: MPTransform10.