From post globalization city marketing to human capital regeneration

"I love Los Angeles. I love Hollywood. They're beautiful. Everybody's plastic, but I love plastic. I want to be plastic." Andy Warhol

Big cities look like big spots in a spiderweb, but when you think of Paris, what springs to mind? Maybe the first word around its identity is about romantic landscape and love. It is not the same for London, Berlin or New York. 

Nowadays globalization poses a particular question about city’s identity. Cities, like any other marketable product, need to be competitive. They must create a reputation to call investors, visitors and attention. "City branding" is a discipline and if applied properly, is a powerful tool at the disposal of contemporary cities in order to survive in a globalized world. Successful branding can turn a city into a desirable place where people want to spend their life, work and visit. Obviously the most common application of branding within cities is focusing on the visual elements of branding such as the creation of a new logo, the incorporation of a new slogan and the design of advertising campaigns around those visual elements.

Sometimes trying to create city brands artificially is a dangerous and, sometimes, presumptuous business.
New York has succeeded at this with "I love NY". Berlin’s city logos and campaign "beBerlin" with the Brandenburger Tor, the symbol of the recovered German identity, became the municipal tool to remark a new born. The same for Amsterdam –‘Iamsterdam’  brands the city as a thriving hub and instils civic pride. 

brand that tries to associate with everything, is risking association with nothing. A strong identity is vital to attract mass tourists and business or relaunch an area, but sometimes the technique to brand the city it is not just a logo, rather a particular aspect or service of the city. 

The city’s infrastructures play an important role for the transit system because it may quite possibly be where people spend most of the time while living in a city. Berlin U-Bahn is one of the best city transit systems in the world and its well designed and ease of use plan contributes to the success. The London underground also is one of Britain’s most identifiable symbols.

But what does it really make these cities pop? What does it make a city a desirable place for the mass?

In order for a city to be a good brand, it must possess defining and distinctive characteristics that can be readily identified. These are functional as well as non-functional qualities. These include city appearance, people’s experience of the city, people’s belief in the city, what the city stands for, and what kind of people inhabit the city.

Richard Florida, considered an expert in city trends and forecasting, wrote a book in 2002 called "The Rise of the Creative Class". Florida coined the term the ‘idea worker’ or ‘creative class’. This group is made by people in science, engineering, architecture, education, arts, music, and entertainment, whose economic function is to create new ideas, new technology, and/or new creative content. It is important to attract this class in order to have a highly educated and open minded city population. This class has an important role in city branding.

Many economists in the past decades have talked about the decline of cities, especially American cities. The old formula was that companies moved to cities, then attracted people to live there. 

This is not working anymore. 

If the only attraction to the city is just a job, people may move for the job, but will be hard pressed to stay long term and invest in the city. The Creative Class is changing this by moving to cities that not only offer employment, but cultural attractions, restaurants, clubs, tolerant neighbourhoods, bike routes, and recreation.

There are reasons why people choose particular cities in which to live. A desirable city has some fundamental properties:
• Offer attractive employment.
• Not be unduly expensive in relation to wages.
• Provide good and affordable housing.
• Have reasonable public transportation.
• Have good schools and recreational/cultural attractions.
• Have a reasonable climate.

The way that brands work for a city is how these qualities are projected. Society now has the choice of living in one place and working in another because of the Internet and wireless connections. People now have the option of being able to do business anywhere in the world and can decide what is best location-wise to provide them with the most benefits. There must be an attraction to individuals. The city must be “live-able”.

Cities are competing for people’s lifestyles, and in order to do this successfully they need to maintain a strong brand.
Creating a distinctive brand that captures the spirit of a city must be able to inspire – the travellers, the industry and the general populace itself. Branding of cities has to be very specific about what it wants to sell and to whom, yet also has to appeal to as wide a market as possible.

Successfully branded cities possess a definite identity. They are highly distinctive, and there is no room for interpretation. They know who they are. There is no confusion about the brand or what the city stands for and there is something about the city that is not available anywhere else. This is a clear message, one that is very specific about what the city brand is and what kinds of added value and attractions the city possesses. This is not only perceived value, but also real value. These cities will continue to be successful as brands, since they are open to evolvement and change.