Thinking of your home town as a ’brand’ may require an active
imagination, but for cities which want to attract investment or host a
major event, marketing is essential for getting onto the map.
Many will think of Manchester’s repeated attempts to host the Olympics,
but several other cities are reinventing themselves and turning to
marketing professionals for help.
’Marketing a city is probably the most challenging of marketing tasks,’
declares Steve Jardine. As director of specialist agency Drakes Jardine,
he has created brands for towns and cities such as Leicester, Bolton,
Manchester and Derby. ’It is undoubtedly possible to change the
perceptions of a city,’ he says, ’but it can’t be done in an
When a place is your product, you certainly have your work cut out. To
start with, you have very little control over your brand. You also have
to work with a large number of stakeholders, each with their own
Then you have to find a promotional message which convinces everyone,
from the locals to the outside world.
It’s a tough job, as Elizabeth Jeffreys, chief executive of Marketing
Manchester, can testify. Jeffreys and her team have consulted with a
staggering 600 interested parties to launch a new promotional image for
’You have to be careful that you are not pulled in 100 different
directions and end up settling for the lowest common denominator,’ she
However, Manchester’s new slogan, ’We’re up and going’, has been widely
slated since its unveiling this summer.
Jeffreys remains positive and says: ’The controversy over our slogan
provided more effective marketing than we could ever have afforded to
buy. Now we have to focus our energy and move forward. To do that we
have to get all the partners working together.’
According to Creenagh Lodge, of agency CLK, the Manchester message
doesn’t work because it does not communicate either a proposition or a
Lodge has worked on country branding projects, and CLK’s work for New
Zealand spawned the ’Far and away the finest’ slogan, which Lodge says
’acknowledges the distance of the country and makes a virtue of it’.
Marketing Manchester’s strategy is based on the premise that ’the
perception of cities and places, and the mental image we have of them,
are key to the economic success or failure of that region’. It is
encouraging others to adopt the new identity and has set a target of 100
organisations to use it in the first year.
Jeffreys firmly believes that ’marketing can help to change the
perceptions of a city’ and that tools for the job, such as mission
statements, logos, slogans and promotional identities, are both apposite
Lodge agrees: ’When it comes to marketing cities, you use the same
disciplines as you would with a corporate brand.
’A slogan has to communicate what you are offering and explain why
someone should buy into it. The message has to be simple and clear. The
difficulty is that local people see a city in a very different way to
The solution, according to Jardine, is to tackle the internal audience
first. ’A crucial first step is to have a positive self-image before you
project an external image. Then you have to settle on one stance for the
brand and use it consistently with each sales message, whether it is for
tourism or business.’
That’s the approach adopted by the Newcastle Marketing Initiative, which
unveiled its ’Newcastle - a real eye-opener’ campaign this year.
’Our broad aim is to sell Newcastle to the world,’ says city marketing
co-ordinator, Tim Cantle-Jones. ’But, more specifically, we want to
create a unified approach to marketing the city.’
The ’eye-opener’ slogan will appear on campaigns that promote everything
from business and culture to shopping and sport.
Newcastle Marketing Initiative plans six projects in its first year.
These include Virtual Newcastle, a virtual reality model of the city on
the Internet to bring Newcastle to a global audience, as well as
production of a conventional city guide.
There are also plans to improve the city’s first impressions and to
develop a cultural quarter in Grainger Town, already home to the Theatre
Royal and China Town.
’Our marketing efforts will only work in harness with real change,’ says
’The danger is that people expect PR to change things on its own. But
the reality is that unless the product is there, marketing won’t
Newcastle is a very distinctive city and a strong product. Our campaign
identifies the city’s strengths.’
To bring about these changes, the initiative has support from Newcastle
City Council, Tyne & Wear Development Corporation and also from
companies such as Procter & Gamble, which is providing resources as well
’City marketing initiatives only work when there is true partnership,’
says Cantle-Jones. An annual research programme will measure shifting
perceptions. ’We are conducting research on several levels,’ he
’There are a number of groups in the city that are constantly giving us
feedback on our internal image. There is also a more formal research
programme, among the public and opinion-formers outside the North East,
to see how perceptions are changing.’
The city will now focus on marketing its other attractions, with much
emphasis on an ambitious events programme.
Newcastle hosted the Tall Ships Race in 1986 and 1993, put on Eurofest
in 1996 and is home to the annual Great North Run. Cantle-Jones plans to
create ’one definitive period when lots of things happen at one time and
pull in a large number of people’.
For many cities, events play a key role in their marketing strategy.
Glasgow’s renaissance in the past few years, for instance, has been
thanks in part to an ambitious events programme.
It hosted the 1988 National Garden Festival, secured the coveted
Cultural Capital of Europe title in 1990, held the Festival of Visual
Arts in 1996 and will be UK City of Architecture and Design in 1999.
’Events are tactical, rather than strategic,’ says Jardine. ’They have a
finite life. But they do get a lot of people working together and if you
can attract events that reflect your image, so much the better.’
Underpinning its events programme, the city council has been promoting
Glasgow effectively since the early 80s. In 1983, it took the first
steps with the ’Welcome Home’ campaign, which targeted the huge and
potentially friendly market of ex-patriate Glaswegians. The project
triggered a tourist boom, with visitor numbers rising from 750,000 in
1982 to over 3,500,000 in 1989.
The internationally acclaimed ’Glasgow’s Miles Better’ promotion soon
followed, based on the successful ’I Love New York’ model, and it has
proved to have real staying power.
Aimed at an external audience, research showed that the campaign has
helped to eradicate the negative image of Glasgow and attract new
business and tourism. Ten years on, the slogan was reintroduced when a
1994 campaign based on the slogan, ’Glasgow’s Alive’, was judged a
Bidding for the best
Like Glasgow, Manchester continues in its efforts to attract big events,
despite its failure to win some of the most coveted bids in recent
Bids are big business.
Jeffreys says: ’Event bids are a major opportunity. Our bid for the
Olympic Games brought in over pounds 200m of investment, which we
wouldn’t have got otherwise, and it also raised our profile. Now we have
the largest indoor arena in Europe, a new national indoor cycling centre
and the Bridgewater concert hall.’
When London beat Manchester in its bid to host the Millennium
Exhibition, the reasons given for its success included the fact that
Greenwich is the ’home of time’ and that it is natural to host national
celebrations in the capital.
Anna Barlow, communications manager of London First Centre, says:
’London is a wonderful place to promote.’
But attractions do not market themselves. London First was established
in 1994 to attract businesses to the capital.
’When we started, we found there was a dearth of information about
London,’ says Barlow. ’There were bits and pieces but nothing cohesive.
So we defined the city’s USPs.’
The London First service includes a free consultancy service for
potential investors, providing access to property, introductions to
surveyors and estate agents and giving information on workforces,
training and referrals to legal and accountancy advisors.
The favourable press coverage that London has enjoyed in the past year,
including the recent Newsweek cover, ’London Rules’, has, says Barlow,
been generated thanks to a combination of London’s own attractions and
its effective marketing.
Of course, there are factors which can have an enormous impact on the
perceptions of a city which cannot be controlled by any marketer,
however talented. A successful football team, for instance, can do
wonders for the image of a city.
’Success at sport is a big plus, if only we could manage it,’ says
’If your local team is on the crest of a wave then you have to make the
most of it. The more you are in the national news, the more coverage you
get, and if you are top of the league then people are genuinely proud of
their city or town.’
A survey conducted this year revealed that Newcastle was seen very
positively, with football doing a lot for its popularity.
’Football has given us a feel-good factor and it has also helped to put
us on the map,’ says Cantle-Jones.
Even so, Jardine warns, promoting a city must not be left to chance.
’UK cities are facing an increasingly competitive and aggressive
Cities that don’t appreciate and understand the threats could well
mirror the experience of numerous US cities - the doughnut principle
creates a plethora of satellite work and residential sub-centres and a
’Cities have to act now. Proactive, co-ordinated and consistent
promotional activity is one of the vital ingredients.’
Manchester - ’Up and going’
’Glasgow’s miles better’
’Newcastle - A real eye opener’
Leicester - ’A city full of surprises’
Dundee - ’City of Discovery’
Stoke - ’Fires the imagination’
’I Love New York’.