Causes and effects

Building a place brand is a harder task than that supposed. What happens is urgency pushes stronger and not all the campaigns we can see are real branding ones. This is the result of the historical confusion between some disciplines, such as marketing, touristic promotion and even propaganda, among others.

Place branding is a very specific science. I dare to name it so, as I firmly believe we can design and plan actions to meet our goals. As a lab issue, this is a matter of causes and effects.


Madrid vs Barcelona

There is an interesting thing to highlight when observing the rivalry between the two main Spanish cities, Madrid and Barcelona. While locals from Madrid are known for their confident way of talking, the proud they are of their city… Madrid, although the capital city of Spain, seems to feel little behind Barcelona in terms of brand recognition and admiration.

There was a clear milestone for Barcelona to make its self-confidence grow and to launch itself to the world: the 1992 Olympics. Though they were a national project and effort, Barcelona knew how to capitalize them and take the lead of the Spanish city brands. They did it brilliantly.

And, since then, Madrid has not found the way to emulate that brightness abroad. No doubt Sports -and particularly Olympics- have such a branding power it can shadow many other plans.

There a few, very few places in the world at the cultural and historic level of Madrid. Few that can say they have an even similar sense of openness to anyone, that offer such a way to enjoy people and life. This means a lot.

To my understanding, Madrid has tried to emerge as an admired brand with a lack of creativeness and a dangerous and risky sense of urgency. Maybe the key lays in the sense of community and more-than-a-city conviction Barcelona has versus this short-term plans Madrid usually think of. Even those plans thought for long-term always come full of urgency.

Maybe Barcelona found by chance its way to brand. 1992 Olympics were planned to vertebrate the country, immerse in its way to economic growth. Olympics, Seville Universal Expo, the High Speed train… A part of a global plan that Barcelona understood perfectly and turned into the starting point of a global branding strategy.

Maybe Madrid is too immerse in the world of huge consultancies, big thinkers, and -as I pointed- lack of common sense and creativeness.

As they came, they faded away

Not too many months ago, we were used to hear about many cities´  branding campaigns that pretended to be the gateway to a world of prosperity for those places that were “visionary” to take that way.

Personally, I have never believed in those pseudo-branding campaigns that ended in a slogan and a logo, launched in expensive events that had hundred of reasons to adore the budget invested and to have the firm conviction it would work.

Work? I have always wondered what was really to achieve with those campaigns. I have no doubt those expensive campaigns, touristic and little more, led nowhere. And facts have shown me I was suspecting right.

Local governors have a peculiar sense of power when it comes to this kind of things. They should see what is branding about before buying a several hundred thousand “project” to launch their city internationally.

I am very worried about the lack of creativeness and innovation we see everywhere. The easy is to dazzle a local governor telling about big slogans and fantastic logos. Let´s forget the standardized things, the texts that “match any plan”, the (in 3 words) copy-and-paste projects that just change the name of the city.

To me, those things have never been branding projects. Branding is about a very different challenge: it is about thinking every single place is a singular one, as their people are, about surfing into creativeness -which requires real effort-, innovation and commitment.