Advertising our Cities… this is what attracts people


Humans can be simple creatures, we love to generalize and place things into boxes. It makes it much easier to understand our world. While someone may have diverse and complex interests we define people by their role in society. Fred is a plumber, John is a lawyer, everyone has a role to fulfill. City identity is similar. Consumers like to generalize about locations.

It seems to me of late that storytellers prefer to have audiences daydream about romance or mysterious discoveries. Marketing cities has therefore become less about the Single Minded Proposition and more about what happens to you when you get there.

In advertising it seems to make some sense to place the projected consumer in a romanticized context in hope of consumption. These fantasy environments, reminiscent of Alice in Wonderland for example in the Auckland campaign “BiglittleCity” have interwoven reality and truth. Only time will tell if Big Little City comes close to the cry of City of Sails.

What interests me is, how do these creative campaigns build long-term regional identities in the minds of consumers. How do we get everyone signing of the same page so to speak, and the same song?

There are a myrid of possibilities in this question given that locals get to define their song, and consumers or visitors may already associate right or wrong stories with a location. Which may make convincing them otherwise more difficult. Take my home city Dunedin for example. A commonly heard story outside of Dunedin is “Dunedin is too cold”. Yet Dunedin has a beautiful climate even in winter where locals get outside in the sun. Stories are everywhere, and they can confuse and complicate the marketer’s role.

So what core stories exist already in New Zealand? When thinking about the core story for Wellington, I would use the words, fun/quirky, lively, forward thinking/proactive, and creative. Brand advertising and even on the ground environmental design evidence reinforces this story.

When Dunedin questioned whether to build a stadium there were people for and people against it. Ultimately, that passion came down to touching a nerve of the core story of the city. When the idea was progressed it was a defining moment where the core story of the city was changed. Dunedin through off conservatism and reflection and became progressive, proud, bold and confident. Dunedin’s evolutionary story will always be about revitalizing a proud prosperity and a new future and not languishing on what it was in the past.

The challenge of the City Brand Identity champion is to define a role for the city and to craft a song. A single minded proposition that sets the location apart from any other. We can flirt with supporting campaigns and other objectives but before all that everyone must know the core story. After all, like cities, we may all have jobs and roles to play but we are all have our own unique story, and this is what sets us apart in this world, this is what attracts like minded people to us.

By Hayden Breese