..... Statement magazine Spring 2008 # 15 o n r e a l e s t a t e d ev e l o p m e n t Area development .......... connecting uses and users Blurring borders between .......... public and private space..... Simon Anholt: ‘Places have a certain truth about them’ By ING Real Estate ..............
Simon Anholt, leading expert on place branding:‘There are no shortcuts to a better reputation’ A good image is a valuable asset. Place branding expert Simon Anholt tells governments, corporations and developers how they can manage their brand: ‘Places are not like products.’ By Ro b H a r t g e r s , p h o t o g r a p hy : C h r i s G l o a g / D e Be e l d r e d a k t i e
‘Branding is not about hen Simon Anholt first coined communications – it’s aboutW the phrases ‘place branding’ and ‘country branding’ 12 years ago, the British press denounced him as the ‘evil priest of globali-sation’. ‘People were upset,’ explains Anholt.‘They assumed I wanted to turn the nationstate into a product.’ Anholt stood his ground doing real things to earn that positive reputation’ stuck with a bad image you constantly have remained. The initial scepticism has beenand confronted his critics: ‘I never meant to apologise. Image matters in all possible replaced by unrealistic expectations. ‘Peoplethat you can just “rebrand” Britain, Africa, circumstances.’ expect miracles from branding,’ says Anholt.or any other country or region. That’s ridicu- ‘But there are no shortcuts to a better reputa-lous! There are simply too many factors you True stories tion. The story has to be objectively excitingare not in control of. Place branding is not Managing a national or regional brand is and has to be demonstrated. In the end,the same as marketing. Marketing is about complicated because of the many stake- places get the reputation they deserve. Youselling something. It is a repetitive strategy. holders. The tourism authority may prefer can’t argue with a public image. You have toBranding is cumulative; it is about building a a picturesque, unspoilt and rustic image, ask yourself what you have done or failedpositive reputation over a period of time, not while the inward investment board finds to do to get an image, and what you can doabout communications – it’s about doing real this image not very helpful when it is trying to change it.’things to earn that positive reputation.’ to attract investments in local industries. On the smaller end of the scale, whenThe harsh criticism in the British press did it concerns area development, applyingnot prevent Anholt from building a highly branding techniques is easier, thinks Anholt.successful career as a branding guru. The ‘The first requirement is that you involve allEconomist dubbed him ‘one of the world’s the stakeholders. Not just the developers,leading consultants to governments who but also the future residents. Try to findwish to build global brands’. He has addressed out what their aspirations are, and if therethe United Nations, advised multinationals is common ground. Look at the surround-and works with politicians, business and ings and at the history of the place. Ignoringcivil leaders of around 15 countries, cities those factors is dangerous. People may haveand regions, helping them develop policies, a certain view of an area and you will findstrategies and investments to improve yourself fighting their prejudices. My job is totheir international standing and reputation. look at all the evidence, to talk to people andAnholt also founded three global surveys of ask: what is possible? What is the real storythe reputations of places: The Anholt Nation of this place?’Brands Index, City Brands Index and State ‘Places are not like products,’ stressesBrands Index. Anholt. ‘If you want to market a product, you can put together a creative team andSelf-defence tell them to invent a story. You cannot doLong before Anholt started his surveys, places that with places. Places have a certain truthcarried a brand image. There have always about them. The story has to be both truebeen ‘friendly’ and ‘unfriendly countries’, or and interesting. If the story is cool enough,‘good’ and ‘bad neighbourhoods’. Because of people will start telling it to each other.’globalisation, mass media and the internet, Although compromises are inevitable whenthese images have gained in importance. constructing a brand, Anholt warns againstA ‘good’ or a ‘bad’ image can make the too much sophistry: ‘When large sums ofdifference between a booming economy and money are at stake, it is hard to come upeconomic failure. ‘Taking control of your with a story that is not bland. But in the end,own image is not a choice,’ says Anholt. ‘It an edgier story is more rewarding.’is a matter of self-defence. If you don’t do ityourself, others will do it for you. Your image Unrealistic expectationsis an import asset. It has a profound impact Place branding has come a long way sinceon what a place achieves. A good image can Anholt first introduced the concept 12make life a whole lot easier, but when you are years ago. But the misunderstandings have12