5 Ways to improve your city business brand

As cities increasingly compete on a global scale to attract commerce, talent and investment, city governments must consider their role in brand-building. In Saffron’s City Brand Barometer 2019, we revealed which global cities have been most successful in building a place brand that resonates with decision-makers in international business.

We have seen first-hand the value that a carefully crafted place brand can bring. Thanks to our experience of developing place brands from Vienna and London to Poland and Turkey, our consultants are expertly placed to share insights on place brand building.

Here are some strategic questions for places to ask themselves as they think about building a stronger place brand to attract the business community.

1. Are you thinking long-term?

Building a strong place brand is not a short-term objective. Assets that underpin strong brands require continuous investment: legislation that supports ease of doing business, infrastructure that allows for a fluent business practice, boosts to quality of life, innovation and sustainability. At the same time, your city, region or country must be able to maintain good perceptions and create buzz to stand out. You must be able to tell your story, inspire a team to amplify it and stay at the forefront of audiences’ minds. Take a look at some of the Top 10 cities in our 2019 City Brand Barometer: New York, London or Singapore. These are cities that are always in the spotlight as business hubs for a reason: they have crafted a powerful narrative and ensure that everything they do supports it in the long term.

2. Are you creating a great place to live and work?

This is a powerful lever to pull to improve your place brand. You can improve quality of life by paying attention to key factors - i.e. keeping living costs affordable, ensuring reliable public services, creating or maintaining green areas, leisure facilities, competitive education standards and valuing sustainability. In fact, one of the top reasons people move abroad is to increase quality of life. This in turn makes it attractive for business to settle as it will make it easier for them to attract the talent they need.

3. Do you know your place’s key strengths and weaknesses?

In order to increase your place brand strength, you need to be aware of where you excel and where areas for improvements lie. It is impossible to focus on everything at the same time, so identifying which key levers you can pull will make a difference in the short-term. Then you can begin to plan for high-investment or complex objectives that will ensure long-term and sustainable competitiveness.

4. Are you telling the right story?

Strong assets alone do not make a brand, illustrated by the underperformers in our Barometer, including cities such as Stockholm, Zurich or Dublin. It is important for places to focus communication efforts and avoid trying to be “all things to everyone”. To build a place brand that attracts investment and business, a city must position itself in a way that is authentic, differentiated and relevant to the business community. Then consistent communication of these key themes will create clarity and facilitate building a strong business reputation with the right audience.

5. Is your place growing too fast for comfort?

While strong GDP growth is indeed an indication of current success and future potential, it poses a challenge in terms of asset strength. High GDP growth usually means that a place is growing fast, with population increasing too. This can put a strain on the quality and availability of public services, sustainability efforts, affordable housing, etc. It is therefore important to keep an eye on these factors in order to build or maintain your city’s business brand, and make the most of the opportunity at hand.

By Michele Richner, Strategist

If you want to discuss these ideas in more detail, please get in touch to discuss your place brand challenge.