Territorial branding and city identity
Territorial branding (branding of places) is the strategy of certain territories competitiveness improvement (cities, areas, regions, countries) directed at various target groups of "users" involvement: new inhabitants, tourists, investors, qualified labor. The main objective of the strategy is material and non-material resources provision of the territory increase as a result of getting the message of its uniqueness across vast audience.
The feature of places branding is an integrated, diversified approach unlike focusing on one of aspects only (for example, tourists involvement). The author of this approach is Simon Ankholt – one of the leading experts in the field of branding in the world. According to his concept, competitive identity of the territory can be presented in the form of the hexagon showing six components of the brand: tourism, exported brands, international and domestic policy, investments and immigration, culture and cultural heritage, people.
Popularity of places branding in Russia and in the world increases from year to year. Authorities more often realize that it is difficult to solve effectively arising social, economic and political problems without competent positioning and promotion of the region. Besides, popularity is promoted also by brightness and expressiveness of projects realized successfully in the world, their seeming simplicity and fast implementation speed. Nevertheless, in spite of the fact that territory brand development methodology is well-known, in the world and Russian practice it is not always used.
The main mistake when developing the territory brand is the uniqueness created artificially far from values, stereotypes and feeling of inhabitants, and its adjustment under the current strategy of the territory development. So, while external conditions are changing the strategy will lose its relevance, the same will happen also to the brand. However, even if the brand has been created before the strategy, then it remains and can become the basis for the new strategy development. The essence is that a good territory brand is based on its authenticity which is extremely conservative and keeps up with generations. Thus, the city or the region development strategy has to consider these territories brand, and not vice versa.
Also it often happens that places branding is not supported with real actions for investment climate, infrastructure improvement, living standard improvement from local authorities. In that case, the question is about the territory advertizing.
Territory branding gives great opportunities if handed properly, it is connected with creation of the place identity which is not deprived of sense and idea, and its integration into communications system. At the initial stage of the brand development the task comes down to stereotypes identification, representations and associations which then form the basis of identity. It is possible to find prerequisites for territorial identity emphasis for any territory even if at first sight it seems that they are absent.
High-quality branding of the territory is a long, expensive and difficult process which demands attraction of serious research, analytical and expert resources, professional teams of developers. Analysis of considerable data array, sociological information collecting, experts in the field of marketing, branding, design, advertizing and public relations involvement are necessary for effective territory brand development.