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Colourful logos, dark realities


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The top five most-read articles on PlacesBrands motivated me to write this post, along with some disquieting thoughts I’d been having. I want to follow up on my thoughts about the application of …

The top five most-read articles on PlacesBrands motivated me to write this post, along with some disquieting thoughts I’d been having. I want to follow up on my thoughts about the application of branding techniques to places, in particular by highlighting elements often hidden by scholars and misunderstood by practitioners. Nowadays, policy makers and practitioners tend to apply place branding as a ‘magical tool’ to solve everyday challenges. But that application has pitfalls that should be carefully contextualised, not randomly applied.

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  • 1. 06/01/14 Colourful logos, dark realities | places | brands Home about placesbrands contact team Articles Brand Campaigns City Brand Expert Interviews Nation Brand Public Diplomacy Reputation Social Media Colourful logos, dark realities Posted by Eduardo Oliveira on Jan 5, 2014 in Articles, City Brand, Nation Brand | 0 comments The top five most-read articles on PlacesBrands motivated me to write this post, along with some disquieting thoughts I’d been having. I want to follow up on my thoughts about the application of branding techniques to places, in particular by highlighting elements often hidden by scholars and misunderstood by practitioners. Nowadays, policy makers and practitioners tend to apply place branding as a ‘magical tool’ to solve everyday challenges. But that application has pitfalls that should be carefully contextualised, not randomly applied. 1/10
  • 2. 06/01/14 Colourful logos, dark realities | places | brands photo credit: Arktekt via photopin cc Place branding is not a magic solution As a geographer researching place branding, I recently found myself confused about practical developments in place branding. Confused, and struggling to find a consistent storyline between the outputs of place branding strategies, and the reality of places. This mismatch, in my view, brings traps and pitfalls. One trap of place branding is the fact that everyone thinks they know what it means, because we confront brands daily in the shopping mall or supermarket. Treating a place as if it were a branded product does not apparently seem to be a major step in logic. Adopting branding as a magic solution for a bewildering diversity of economic and social ailments in places could sound like a paradox at the heart of place branding. Place management authorities often take the wrong approach. They should first improve their places and then do the marketing. But it seems that policy makers are more focused more on the potential effects of a colourful logo and joyful strapline. In many cases, they focus on these superficial marketing tools and less on their own communities, which often experience many troublesome issues that do not enhance place reputation. From traps to topophobia Place branding commentators repeatedly point out that logos and slogans are insignificant in meaningful place branding. But practitioners and policymakers continue to spend money and effort on them. In my view, this is not the most outrageous approach. For example, I wonder about the sense of designing a colourful logo if the government is still oppressive to the gay community. Or even, what is the sense of creating a catchy strapline, aimed at attracting foreign investment, if there are non-incentives to the development of local business or a lack of equal opportunities to access funding? In our globalised environment we are bombarded every day by unrequested ads that attempt to communicate place brands, mostly for tourism purposes but also for investment. The international mainstream media talks about investment possibilities in Macedonia or Kosovo, Incredible India, the Winter Olympics Games in Sochi or the tourism potential of Cambodia. I can’t call these campaigns examples of place branding. They are simply place promotion and in some cases dangerous propaganda where taxpayers’ money has been wasted. Rather than communicate place uniqueness, the contemporary place promotion exercises only express more of the same. Instead of 2/10
  • 3. 06/01/14 Colourful logos, dark realities | places | brands enhancing the love of place, topophobia – fear of place, may be produced. photo credit: Pink Sherbet Photography via photopin cc From love to fear: phobias in branding places People’s attitude towards certain places depends greatly on their perceptions and personal experiences. Feelings about a place are often produced through books, travel guides, documentaries, visual arts, television and the internet. But instead of creating or maintaining interest, a place also risks developing a sort of phobia. Place authorities play a crucial role in this context. I ask again, what is the sense of branding the tourism potential of Cambodia when the country faces a dark reality of human trafficking? Or do Russia’s branding efforts make any sense when the policy making is clearly against equal rights and full respect of the LGBT community? Oppression of inhabitants generates fear and distrust. It directly contradicts the aim of a successful place branding exercise. Branding places should encourage love of a place, enhancing the intimate relationship between humans and the places to which they are attached. The basic steps of success for place branding exercises recognises the need to engage communities and include them in the process, not unrest them. Place brands only have value if they are created by everybody. If this process is fuzzy a topophobia may be generated. This means that repulsive feelings regarding a place might be created in the mind of people. I personally feel repelled, not attracted, by places that clearly do not respect the rights of their own citizens. A mismatch between place branding exercises, and the hopes of communities for a better future plus the expectations of the outside could make a place brand empty in nature and spirit. These ‘phobias’ in branding places reflect my thoughts regarding the inequalities between place promotion and the reality of places. We have witnessed countries condemning the gay community and even going as far as implementing anti-gay laws. In some cases places are wasting opportunities and money to make things right. The inside environment must be ready before it can be positioned and marketed to the outside world. A more liberal attitude towards full 3/10
  • 4. 06/01/14 Colourful logos, dark realities | places | brands freedom of their population naturally enhances place reputation and makes a place more attractive. Improve a place, from physical elements to legislation and symbolic assets, is the best way to position a place. Does it still makes sense to use place branding in countries which do not respect every single human being? Is the world able to visit, live, invest, develop entrepreneur projects in places where the basic human rights are knocked down every day? I personally wonder about the value of a brand when primary rights of citizens, freedom of expression and behaviour are condemned by place authorities. I would rather settle in a place that protects and treats everyone, instead of a place that treats its own community differently. photo credit: Darwin Bell via photopin cc Not only sense of place, the place should also make sense Another trap of branding places is the frequent failure of branding campaigns to meet expectations. Instead, the place’s distinct assets often deteriorate as a result of homogenisation and standardisation. The sense of place begins to decline. The distant feelings of communities regarding a place or the decay of the ‘genius loci’ also has impact on the way the external audience perceive a place. They may perceive it as only a 4/10
  • 5. 06/01/14 Colourful logos, dark realities | places | brands geographical location, or a place without spirit, and empty of human relationships. So a place should make sense as a place by taking all the ‘dwellers’ in deep consideration. When successful, a feeling of happiness upon a place is created. A recent article emphasised the proactive attitude of the mayor of Reykjavik, the capital city of Iceland, regarding the desire to host the 2017 World OutGames of the Gay and Lesbian International Sport Association (GLISA). Reykjavik lost the hosting bid to Miami, but the city’s reputation has been reinforced. Videos and blog posts show the excitement of the population and the depth of their involvement. Ensuring the well-being and pride of local communities is of core value when conducting a place branding initiative. Places that strike a balance between more profitable goals and the needs of their population are more likely to be successful in their branding efforts. Challenging notions of inclusion, tolerance, and equity Well-being is fundamental but inhabitants should also feel they belong to the place. If so, they are more likely to share that feeling with those close to them. As a snowball effect more people will try to stay or to visit and the reputation will be improved. But some places are doing exactly the opposite . Countries currently doing branding exercises may be affected by ‘negative internalities’. This includes a lack of tolerance regarding sexual orientation of citizens, a lack of equity of treatment in terms of civil rights and a lack of inclusion and integration of all social groups and their needs. Place brands are designed to reveal the positive side. But it is dangerous is to hide the negative side without attempting to solve it. Attempts to position a place in a globalised market environment could lead to nowhere in particular. Place branding might be seen as a profitable exercise for those who drastically need the reinforced image but could have disastrous consequences as well. The practice of place branding continues the ‘logo fetish’, following branding fashion, ignoring realities or oppressing those that should be involved in any single effort of place branding. Many practical examples put their faith in the false powers of logos, slogans or media campaigns, diverting focus, wasting resources and effort from what actually is important in place branding. Concentrating the assets of a place in the design of a logo or slogan can be highly controversial, ineffective and often leads to very bleak concepts as a result of applying common denominators. So it is no surprise when inhabitants reject the branding exercises of their place authorities. A successful place branding initiative is the one that can ‘fix the bug’, one that can overlap the traps and build engagement with stakeholders and communities, as well as with the outside world. It should be tolerate, inclusive, promote equality and generate the kind of desirable engagement that is impossible to replicate elsewhere. This is one reason why place branding efforts that apply the ‘I’ such as ‘I Love New York’, ‘I AMsterdam’ or ‘I Feel Slovenia’ became successful. Successful place branding exercises should be developed using future thinking, creativity and respect. Respect for people, making the inhabitants feel proud of living there, but not ignoring ‘dark’ realities such as human traffic, or prostitution. Without solving internal issues any place branding effort is doomed to failure. New Year’s resolution #56: follow PlacesBrands! email address 5/10
  • 6. 06/01/14 Colourful logos, dark realities | places | brands email address Subscribe Eduardo Oliveira (5 Posts) Eduardo is a Ph.D. candidate at the Department of Spatial Planning & Environment, Faculty of Spatial Sciences, University of Groningen, The Netherlands. He was born in Braga, Portugal, and studied Geography and Planning at the University of Minho, Portugal. Then, he completed a post-degree in Tourism and Regional Development at the Portuguese Catholic University and he currently holds a M.Sc. in Marketing and Strategic Management from the School of Economics and Management, University of Minho and University Sains Malaysia. His work focuses on the theory and practice of place branding in strategic spatial planning. You may also like: Marketing ‘Communities’ – 5 Tips to Ensure Your Place Unpacking sense of place, Brand USA: Global The Basics Brand is Of the People, By revealing place brand Viewpoints the People, For the People The European Union: To In Search of Place Branding Brand or Not to Brand? Geographies Like 1 Leave a Reply Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked * Name * Eduardo Oliveira Email * 6/10
  • 7. 06/01/14 Colourful logos, dark realities | places | brands Website Comment You may use these HTML tags and attributes: < h e = " t t e " > < b r t t e " > < c o y a rf" il=" ab il=" arnm tte"><><lcqoect=" <ie <oe <e dttm=" <m <>< il=" b bokut ie"> ct> cd> dl aeie"> e> i q ct=" <tie <tog ie"> srk> srn> Submit Comment Notify me of follow-up comments by email. Notify me of new posts by email. Subscribe to PlacesBrands via email Email Address Subscribe Popular on PlacesBrands City Diplomacy: A New Alternative to Branding The Case of a Bankrupt City: Japan's Yubari Five 'Thrilling Cities' of the past, by Ian Fleming Yeni Diplomasi: Digital Diplomacy Review 2013 The European Union: To Brand or Not to Brand? Izmir: Branding a Frontier Mentality 7/10
  • 8. 06/01/14 Colourful logos, dark realities | places | brands Marketing 'Communities' – The Basics Twin Cities: St.Petersburg Learns from Barcelona's Example Swedish Rogues: Daring Nation Branding on Twitter PlacesBrands on Twitter Tweets Sam M @placesbrands Follow 10m New on Placesbrands: Colourful logos, dark realities: Traps of #placebranding Yeni Diplomasi @YeniDiplomasi 15m Isn't this cool #SocialMedia Handbook by Swedish Radio |… | @gillinger @sahlena @johanljungstrom @7direkt @YasmineSR Retweeted by Sam M Expand NEWSMODO @newsmodo_com 6h Digital Nomads: Social media tools for journalists #modonews #news Retweeted by Sam M Expand Sam M @placesbrands 4h Yeni Diplomasi: Digital Diplomacy Review 2013 #placebranding #digidip Tweet to @placesbrands 8/10
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  • 10. 06/01/14 Colourful logos, dark realities | places | brands December 2012 November 2012 October 2012 Blogroll Bearing Consulting Brand Avenue Brandchannel Branding Places Build Strong Cities Charles Landry Creativebrief City Focus Dig in Dip Fair Observer Global Chaos James Kennell Jeremy Hildreth John Brown's Public Diplomacy Press and Blog Review Jose Filipe Torres Juan Carlos Belloso Place Branding & Marketing Place Matters Places Re-imagine Jamaica Project Small City Branding Around the World Soydanbay Strategic Brand Consulting and Design Strategically Thinking Strengthening Brand America Using Our Intelligence Yeni Diplomasi Zenpolitics © 2013 Samantha Manniex Designed by Elegant Themes | Powered by Wordpress 10/10