Tuesday 27 March 2007

This is not a logo. This is Manchester.

If a city commissions a new logo, crafts a strapline, or launches an advertising campaign then four times out of five you could see it as a cry for help; a civic flare gun being fired into murky international skies. Not so with Manchester.

We’ve been lucky enough to spend the last nine months working with Peter Saville on his brand vision for Manchester: Original Modern. It’s a project Peter has been working on for around three years now and through workshops, media relations and now a new book, we’ve been helping him and Manchester City Council bring the brand vision to life.

The full story can be found in the book we produced for Manchester’s Marketing Partnership entitled the ‘Manchester Edition’, but in short, Manchester is following a different course and its brand development project is not about a quick visit to the logo shop, it is much more about new ways of thinking and about a shared vision and shared values.

These values include creativity, sustainability and the value of communities, making this project a dream fit for Creative Concern.

This development of shared values and a shared vision is how you become your brand. For a place - rather than a product - your brand is what ‘you’re known for’ to borrow a phrase from Peter Saville. It’s probably sacrilegious to cite Ghandi in relation to brand development but here goes - in relation to civil disobedience, Ghandi said that you should ‘be the change’ you wish to bring about in the world and that’s a lesson that cities can learn as they seek to ‘project’ themselves onto the world stage.

Modern cities operate in an increasingly competitive global marketplace. To be relevant in this millennium they have to be known for something; they have to be bold and ambitious in all that they do; they need to take every neighbourhood, every citizen and every enterprise with them; they need actions that project the city into a global media environment that shifts dramatically with the single click of a mouse button; they have to be unabashed and unafraid of chasing dreams such as creating bold new projects or staging major events; and most importantly they need strong, stable leadership that pulls together a city wide partnership that’s singularly focused on working together to make things happen.

Place branding - something we’re increasingly involved in at Creative Concern - is all about the product and the interpretation of that product. It’s about subtleties, about nuances and about storylines. When people get overly obsessed by logos or straplines they’ve lost the essence of what good place branding is all about: you must become the brand you want to be.

Note: Images above are of the Original Modern light installation we created in Manchester's Great Bridgewater Street Tunnel in September 2006.

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