The marketing of a city is not your typical advertising campaign that says “go to the supermarket and buy it now.” City marketing tends to be more intangible and nuanced, and seeks to change the perceptions of a city. This mental picture seeks to attract not only tourists, but also business visitors, expats, events, and other groups who can enrich the community. The goal is to encourage them to use the city as a hub for entertainment, networking, and development and community-building.
A city needs to position itself with its key features to make its residents and potential visitors fall in love with the city. To establish this mental picture, it is important for cities to consider their branding on a regional, national, and global level.
This is where city branding comes in: defining the personality and image a city wants to portray. This form can be both very obvious (ever seen one of those “I ❤ NY” shirts or “I amsterdam” signs?) or more or less in plain sight through events, activities, and attractions that get the city “on the map.”
Since the introduction of the concept “globalisation”, the world has become a large village. We can hop on and hop off to cities that our grandparents didn’t think of visiting. This new mobility makes for a competitive marketplace of cities worldwide, with city marketing as full of opportunities as it is for marketing products and services. Winning the hearts of potential visitors makes for an interesting challenge. A Belgian traveller could now be more tempted to visit the hip vibes of Vancouver over colourful Bangkok. Meanwhile, a Spanish business visitor could very well be more charmed by the busy ambience and people of New York than Scandinavia.
The diverse and multicultural audiences worldwide mean that city marketing and branding has to be everything to everyone. This is to attract people from various backgrounds and walks of life. It has to be different but inclusive, serious but fun, colourful but intelligent, straightforward but hipster, and tech-savvy but historical.
As a marketer from the Netherlands, I see many opportunities for Ottawa to market itself globally, post-“Canada 150”. The key is to differentiate and keep adapting to different audiences. A certain, perhaps unconventional, reputation could be turned into your biggest asset when marketed effectively. You can make your city ‘sexy’ for various audiences, without losing track of Ottawa’s character! Also, by accepting that certain aspects of your city may be strengths to some and weaknesses to others, a city can excel in the destination marketplace worldwide. Start focusing marketing campaigns on your international image by understanding what has international appeal within your local culture. (This is known as “glocalisation.”)
In the end, we not only go off of what is marketed to us but also what we can see in the eyes, traditions, habits and looks of the locals who walk the streets of the city. A well-branded city is made by people who love it, and who make it a place you want to visit and become a part of.
At Acart Communications we know all about city marketing and branding. We would love to help you position your city internationally.
About the author: Lea is an intern at Acart for three months and originally from the Netherlands! She is joining the Client Services team while carrying out her marketing research. Connect with her on LinkedIn.