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Four Ideas about city branding in the Atlantic Arc

Originally posted in Atlantic Cities’ blog (December 2012)

Awareness on the importance that city identity has on attracting tourists and businesses and even on retaining population has been exponentially increasing on the last ten years. However, this race against the machine (!) can be very tricky at times.

From all the strategies used by Atlantic Arc Cities, four main dimensions arise when building the city brand:

First, a city brand is more than a logo. Choices are multiple when it comes to graphics, some of the CAAC cities have chosen to keep old logos as a sign of identity, and others have created more modern ones. Nevertheless, the core of their brand strategies is the city project, the city they want to be, planning ahead for the next ten or even twenty years.

Second, a city is more than a city council. As CAAC mayors remind at every meeting, a city is composed by citizens that should be taken into account. Atlantic Arc Cities have a large expertise creating participation structures, from decision-making rules to observatories, including participatory budgets and local currencies.

Third, the city is larger than its legal boundaries. So as to make a consistent brand, the habitat of the city has to be anlysed: i.e. how the city functions in relation to the surrounding areas, considering flows like short delivery chains or commuting as part of the city. In an eco-systemic approach, the city cares for sustainable development in and out of its own borders.

And, last but not least, coopetition. When founding the Conference of Atlantic Arc Cities in 2000, Atlantic Arc Cities created a fundamental tool to stand out. They translated their identity, social and cultural values into a formal structure. Bilateral relations (many of them are twinned to each other) were not enough anymore. Each of them has different expectations from the network (competition) but all are ready to pool resources (cooperation.

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