A brand image generates a unique set of ideas, feelings and
attitudes in people. To remain competitive, large companies sometimes alter or
completely replace their images and relaunch themselves as fresh corporate
brands. Similarly, competition between urban places to attract new investment,
tourists and residents has led many areas to establish completely new brand
International events are often used by urban areas to create a
new place image and act as a catalyst or process for fresh development and
change. Barcelona has a history of reinventing itself using events dating back
to 1888. The Universal Exhibition was held in Ciutadella, today the largest park
in Barcelona, an oasis of leisure and culture in the centre of a busy city. Its
1929 World Exhibition is todayís main exhibition centre in PlaÁa EspaŮa. The
1992 Olympic Games changed the whole concept of a city which previously lived
with its back to the sea and its legacy has been a successful and enduring
'Barcelona Olympic City' brand.
Rebranding an area can help people become aware of the
existence of new place products such the beaches constructed for Barcelona's
Olympics. Urban localities may be regarded as 'products' in the sense that they
provide labour, land, premises and industrial infrastructures to businesses,
housing, shopping, leisure and other amenities to residents, while offering
cultural and heritage products to tourists.
Rebranding can also address the issue of 'MacDonaldisation'
common in tourist destinations, and help differentiate an area from other
places. The promotion of an urban place as a product will be enhanced, giving it
a substantial competitive edge.
The MacDonaldisation of cities
Tourism has tended to cause uniform growth of cities, with the
objective of making the tourist experience as similar as possible to what the
tourists are accustomed to. Consequently, tourist destinations become
indistinguishable and lose their richness, minimising their unique cultural
features. Faced with the 'MacDonaldisation', emphasis should be placed on the
heritage (social, cultural and natural) of the cities, and such heritage should
be the object of tourist attention.
Rebranding helps to discard negative imagery connected with an
industrial heritage. Old industrial centres are frequently defined in the media
by severe economic and social deprivation, homelessness, high levels of crime,
vandalism, public disorder, pollution and a lack of civic amenities. As a
consequence, they have increasingly needed to reposition themselves as centres
of leisure and amenity rather than of production and heavy industry.
Rebranding, carefully planned, can help engender civic pride.
Barcelona used its 1992 Olympic Games to generate city-wide development. The
process was presented as a 'one city' exercise in that it offered something to
everyone, and was an effective means of uniting a city around a public project.
Decisions relating to Olympic development were taken at all levels, creating a
sense of local ownership and helping to re-assert Catalan pride and identity.
Barcelona has also added a new verb to the Spanish language to
highlight changes in the character of its once infamous inner city Raval
district. The aim is to attract new visitors to the district, create pride of
belonging amongst its residents and help develop a new brand image for the
Rebranding: simply add a new verb to
The Barcelona City Council wants to improve the perception of
one of its most marginal and insecure inner city districts: the Raval. The
campaign seeks to project a more cohesive image of the neighbourhood but without
losing its characteristic identity and personality.
El Raval: Ravalejar
The aim is to attract new visitors to the district and create a pride of
belonging amongst its residents. The proposal to introduce a new verb, Ravalear
(Ravalejar in Catalan), is meant to create a brand personality for
the neighbourhood: a way of life, of feeling, of doing things. The verb
represents the edgy attitude and nervous energy of the Raval, is deliberately
ill-defined and meant to be interpreted in an individual way. To Ravalejar,
simply visit and take in the atmosphere of the Raval and have fun in the wide
range of bars and clubs.
An increasingly common practice is for a cityís authorities
to attach a fresh brand identity to a particular locality within the city,
especially when the area has been redeveloped so extensively that its basic
character has changed. Many inner city districts of 'industrial' cities went
into decline in the 1960s and 70s, resulting in high levels of economic and
social deprivation. Often the people who continued to reside in these districts
were unskilled and unemployed. Government policy both in Western Europe and
North America has been to enhance the attractiveness of depressed inner city
areas by stimulating both business investment and the inflow of new residents.
There are many examples of district rebranding within urban
conurbations. For instance, plans were proposed in 2002 to transform Londonís Bishopsgate
Goodsyard area into the 'Covent Garden of the East End', with a raised 'park
in the sky' alongside 'green paths and modern amenities'. Controversy surrounded
the development, however, as the district was the centre of one of Britainís
largest Bangladeshi communities and housed a local market and many small
ethnic-minority owned businesses. Another example of district rebranding
was the 1996 'Londonís Wild' campaign which attempted to rebrand some of
Londonís central tourist areas as vibrant and exciting, with a 24-hours a day
night-life and culture (rather than their being traditional historical places
dominated by museums and art galleries).
The modern approach to district rebranding is to try to make a
location a desirable place in which to live (as well as to invest and develop
industrial activity) and one that outsiders will want to visit for social and
recreational purposes and in order to shop and spend money. Hence an urban
regeneration programme might devote as much attention to removing graffiti,
laying flower beds and refurbishing facades as it does to the conversion of old
warehouses into cheap business premises. The availability of parks, libraries,
swimming pools, theatres and museums may be deemed as important as the creation
as new manufacturing premises, car parks and convention centers.
Although the marketing of an area cannot of itself physically
improve the district it is undoubtedly the case that, in the words of Hultink
and Hart (1998), 'the world will not automatically beat a path to the door of a
better mousetrap'. Rather, the advantages of new developments must be
communicated forcefully and meaningfully to the public. Successful urban
regeneration can only be achieved when people become aware of the existence of
new place products and recognize that they possess real benefits. This implies a
critical role for the marketing function during the process of rebranding.
The Problems Involved
Urban regeneration typically involves the rebranding of the
area concerned and can fundamentally change the character of a district. This
may be highly controversial because the changes involved might result in the
importation of financially well off residents, business infrastructures, and
cultural and leisure facilities more suited to better off people than to poorer
pre-existing inhabitants (who might be driven out by rising property prices and
A brand image suitable for one group of stakeholders (business
investors for instance) may be inappropriate for others (e.g. pre-existing
residents). Ideally, the brand assigned to a place will reflect its attributes,
characteristics and core identity. In many cases, however, the area that is to
be rebranded will have a history of social and economic problems and may be
extremely diverse in terms of local residents' ethnicity, social class, culture,
lifestyle, income levels and types of employment. There need be no unity of
purpose among resident groups, each of which may perceive the 'city product'
differently. Consequently it might be difficult to develop a brand that
convinces everyone, from local citizens to potential foreign investors.
Pre-existing residents of a community may want its brand image
to project the districtís local distinctiveness and the aspirations and
cultures of current inhabitants. Urban development agencies, conversely, may
seek to establish place brands grounded purely on commercial advantages, e.g.
the availability of cheap labour, government incentives, low costs, ancillary
business services, technology infrastructures, and an areaís international
links and orientation. Such messages may have little meaning for local
Urban development authorities may well be taking decisions
about which groups they wish to attract from outside and which preexisting
categories of resident they want to retain and nurture. Many urban places have
multiple stakeholders (old and new residents, business investors, retailers,
domestic and foreign visitors, owners of sporting and leisure venues, etc.) and
conflicts among them may occur. The UK Department of the Environment (1998)
reported 'continuous warfare' between local residents and business interests
over proposals for the redevelopment (and by implication the rebranding) of
certain districts in several English cities and noted how 'resident communities'
did not always experience the benefits of regeneration programmes as much as
newcomers, tourists, visitors, and others from outside.
The challenge for the marketing manager is therefore to merge
multiple identities within a specific location into a concise and easily
understood brand which appeals to business investors and tourists but without
compromising urban local culture and the distinct pre-existing characteristics
of the area.
The Process of rebranding
The main steps in rebranding comprise name creation and
registration, the design of a logo and associated visual image, market research,
and advertising. More fundamentally, rebranding might be seen either as a
tactical issue whereby the new brand is operationally attached to the place
product, or as an important strategic matter in which all the processes of the
urban development authority revolve around the construction and development of
the new brand.