When it comes to branding there’s a very simple rule: actions speak louder than logos. Increasingly most commercial brands understand this approach. Yet in the practice of place branding there is still a significant gap between contemporary theory on branding and the implementation of brand as logo. This isn’t too surprising given that the public sector isn’t developing brand initiatives within the same profit-driven considerations as commerce, however, the great irony for nations, regions and cities is that unlike the world of beans and shampoo they are primarily about meaningful and purposeful action. Places are about values and purpose, the very things that the people who sell beans and shampoo would kill to have in their portfolio
The confusion need not arise as so often cities are taking actions which contribute to their brand and improve perceptions of visitors, investors and talent. London demonstrates this well. Over the years I’ve been involved in many initiatives about branding, marketing and promoting London but I would argue that the best initiative on ‘Brand London’, more than any logo, marketing campaign or even the Olympics, was the introduction and implementation of Congestion Charge. It projected London globally as an innovative and bold city willing to take risks and think about future challenges. It even had a logo;
There is hardly an urban conference which takes place in the world today in which London and the then Mayor Ken Livingstone doesn’t receive praise for taking the risk of putting the congestion charge on the ballot paper. Livingstone made it happen despite so much resistance from the media, establishment and political opposition. They say that imitation is the highest form of flattery and nowhere is this more clearly proven as cities around the world roll-out their version of Congestion Charging. From Singapore and Milan, through to current proposals for San Francisco major cities are implementing traffic pricing initiatives to manage traffic flows, but a broader trend was set on cities taking environmental initiatives seriously. From rapid bus transit through to cycle hire and emissions zones, cities are putting forward bigger and bolder city management initiatives that prioritise liveability and the values of the citizen.
But what is London’s next big initiative? What action will maintain and further London’s reputation as one of the most important, innovative and forward looking cities in the world? The incoming Mayoral candidates will no doubt be inspired by the city to develop equally interesting policies which not only move London forward but also engage Londoners and inspire the rest of the world to imitate.
Posted by David Adam on 3 Jun 2015
<< Back to Global Cities blog home