Posts tagged ‘destination branding’


With ‘Wellywood’, Wellington Airport misses the point about how to brand a city

21.05.2011

I think this shows just how badly Wellington Airport CEO Steve Fitzgerald misses the point:

Being niche and understated is cool positioning for a local audience, but to be relevant on the world tourism trail, we need to shout about why we are great.

   Actually, not always. And even if we did have to shout about it, saying, ‘We are loser tryhards’ is not the message we want to give off.
   Mr Fitzgerald, have you asked how potential visitors would perceive this sign? Did you not learn much from last year’s experience, where there were international people joining anti-sign groups? Or that there were comments from branding experts abroad who felt this sign was a massive joke?
   Marketing is not always about shouting, nor is destination branding. It’s about, first and foremost, getting your internal audience on side. In the case of the ‘Wellywood’ sign, you’re failing at that. One poll last year showed four in five Wellingtonians were against this sign.
   Secondly, marketing is a job that’s done not just by Tourism Wellington, but by all residents, because it’s no longer a mass media, top–down discipline. People power drives a destination’s brand.
   You’ve just made this city that much harder to sell, which has consequences for visitor numbers and airport users—but should I really expect a non-Wellingtonian, non-New Zealander to understand what this place means to us?

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Posted in branding, business, culture, marketing, media, New Zealand, politics, Wellington | 5 Comments »


Time to fight the Wellywood sign—again

21.05.2011

Wellywood sign: see blog posts from last year (like this).
   You’d think Wellington Airport would know that the majority of residents are against this awful idea. An intelligent person would think: floating an idea in 2011 that was nearly universally rejected in Wellington in 2010 isn’t smart.
   Yet that’s exactly what they’ve done.
   As I said last year: copying someone does not celebrate our originality.
   The sign runs counter to any notion of Wellington’s creativity and civic pride.
   Let’s go through the motions again. Time to dig out last year’s emails to the Hollywood Sign Trust, the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce and the licensing company with a new link to the Fairfax Press article.
   Yeah, I’m a narc when it comes to protecting originality, more so when it’s going to make our city look like a global laughing-stock. I would similarly act for any Kiwi firm that gets ripped off by someone else. Even in non-election years.

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Posted in branding, culture, marketing, New Zealand, Wellington | 2 Comments »


Wellington needs a new brand for a new decade

21.10.2010

A very good Vista Group luncheon (Jim, Natalie, self), where we discussed: the Gap rebrand; The Hobbit, unions and the BNZ Centre boilermakers’ strike; and my mayoral campaign.
   On the first topic, we concluded that it was down to a simple cock-up. None of us could see any reason for the Gap to rebrand (was there a change of strategy, management, or trend?) though we did see a reason for Wellington to do so.
   ‘Absolutely, positively Wellington’ has been with us for 20 years. I remember when it was first released, all set in Perpetua Bold, adorning the new office of the Wellington Chamber of Commerce after its shift from Church Street. As Jim pointed out, it was a contrast to the negativity that Wellingtonians had about our city’s own image, as typified by TV shows such as Gliding on: drab, grey, and full of civil servants.
   The one event that might have given us a bit of a boost was Sesqui. And what a disaster that turned out to be: an event that never began.
   I said as much when we discussed the arts and cultural side to Wellington during the campaign. The brand, Mayor Prendergast mentioned, was revamped when she took office. Nine years on, I think we need to move on again: that Wellington’s brand does not reflect our city’s passions.
   Every brand must be inclusive. It must also differentiate. There are many people in the ICT sector, who are an important part of Wellington, who need to be included. We have fashion designers and event producers, who thrive on the notion that Wellington is the most creative city to be in. When the former mayor said that we were now also the culinary capital, I said that we had to define that by way of our city’s creative manna: not just the culinary capital, but the culinary arts’ capital. Everything we do seems to be underpinned by this idea of putting in that extra zing, whether it’s my oft-quoted example of Silverstripe or the quality behind Mojo Coffee.
   There is work to be done, and I’d love to engage with Wellingtonians on getting some kind of framework down for a 2010s city brand. The campaign may be over, but it’s only highlighted the things that need to be done. Let’s start with the strategic ideas and work our way to the operational.

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Posted in branding, business, culture, leadership, marketing, New Zealand, politics, Wellington | 1 Comment »


The rise of the city brand

17.03.2010

I don’t have the other writers’ permission to show their side of this Facebook dialogue, but we had been chatting about growing the creative clusters here in Wellington as one of my mayoral policies.
   I wrote:

Mostly by focusing on growing creative clusters and taking a bigger slice of the cake. So it is not from technocratic ideas or the notion that we are liberating more of the economy, but by growing entrepreneurship. The city will take the most socially responsible, entrepreneurial start-ups and act as an agent to grow them (with an agreement that they remain in Wellington, of course) and create the capital flows to get them funded. I realize there is Grow Wellington already, but their ambit will be shifted.
   So, it’s economic growth from the bottom–up.

Then (italics added for this post):

The clusters have naturally formed but they can get so much stronger. If the city is being them, then there is no reason Wellington cannot become internationally known for them. I think in this last week I have shown that borders mean very little to me, and anyone who wants to be mayor in the 2010s needs to have a similar mindset. We are not competing just for national resources, but global ones; and by being part of the global community, we might start bridging more communities and getting some greater global understanding. The nation–state as it was understood in the 20th century is dying as a concept, and governments have only themselves to blame. Things are shifting to the individual–community level, and you are right, real things happen when it is people acting at the coal face. Those who distance themselves will not be equipped for this century.

   I wish I could claim I had some vision of the death of the nation–state years ago, but I hadn’t. It was something that dawned on me fairly recently, given the scepticism many people (not just in New Zealand) are having toward their national governments. There are many factors, from governmental misbehaviour to the simple fact of a very divergent population, but very importantly we have the rise of technologies that give rise to people power. We want to know that political leaders are one with the public, prepared to do their bidding.
   People are reclaiming their voices, prepared to tell those in authority what they think. Even without the authority, a few of you have told me what you think—good and bad. That’s the way it should be in a democracy—and if we truly believe people are equal. Finally, we are organizing ourselves into active groups more rapidly than before.
   Nation brands are harder to pull off because some marketers are failing to grasp the overall philosophy underlying their people. In New Zealand, we might accept the “100 per cent pure” ideal of our destination-branding campaign, but surely being a New Zealander is something far less clear—is the Kiwi spirit not in independence, innovation, team spirit and, once that team is formed, taking a punt? Very seldom do we see such unified efforts as the successful ‘Incredible India’, which must have changed perceptions of that Asian country more effectively than any nation branding campaign from the continent. It is, however, easier to understand the concept behind a city, and to gain agreement on its meaning.
   The other thing that is emerging in the 2010s is the rise of one-to-one communications across the planet. We might argue we have had this since the internet first dawned, and we can even trace this back to the first satellite TV links, but this is the decade that these ideas are mainstreaming and available to more people than ever before. Twitter is a wonderful example of the awareness of individuals and the death of national borders (which is why it is feared by certain dictatorial régimes): suddenly we are in a community together, fighting everything from copyright law to commemorating the death of a woman during the Iranian election’s bloody aftermath.
   I am reminded of a seminal moment on the Phil Donahue show, where he linked his 1980s, Cold War-era audience via satellite with a similar group in the USSR, hosted by Vladimir Posner. There was a tense, icy moment till one of the Russians stated that if he could reach out across the airwaves and give his American counterpart a hug, he would. Humanity came through.
   Anti-Americanism is a very interesting concept, because the American national image has leaned regularly toward the negative. No more so than during the Cold War, in the USSR. Certain American corporations and lobby groups have a lot to answer for, so you don’t even need to travel back in time to find that hatred. How many times have we heard during the 2000–8 period, outside the United States, ‘I don’t mind the Americans, but I hate Bush’?
   I get plenty of strange looks for my preferring the -ize ending, being told that it was ‘American’ and, therefore, inferior and unsuitable for consumption in New Zealand. I simply point them to the authority I trained with in my work: the Concise Oxford Dictionary. For as long as I can remember, -ize is English and the first variant in that publication. My father’s 1950s’ edition and my 1989 one agree on this point. The use of -ise is French, and it only began coming in to English as a knee-jerk reaction against ‘American English’. But the “wisdom” prevails: if the Yanks (a term that some of my American friends find humorous, since in the US it only applies to a certain part of the population) use it, it must be bad. Look at the Ford Taurus.
   It is a trivial thing to argue about, but it is an example of how silly things get. I get dissed while half the population believe their Microsoft Word default spellcheck and write jewelry. By all means, oppose the technocratic abuse of workers wherever it comes from; oppose those lobby groups trying to wreak havoc on our private lives. If they happen to be in the US, direct your wrath at those groups via email or whatever means you have. On those areas the nation–state is not dead yet—not when we need central governments to safeguard our rights. Or when we need someone to root for in a football match. But for everyday matters, being against any one nation—and I have been accused of Japan-bashing (which, incidentally, I deny)—is futile, because we are now so much more aware of how much individuals in other countries are like us, thanks to all these social media.
   Once we start reducing the arguments down to individuals and groups, we begin taking the nation brand out of it. We begin liaising as a global community. For all the hard times I give Facebook, it has probably done more to give us a glimpse in to foreign countries as “just another place my friend lives in” than any travel show on TV. We begin understanding theirs are lives just like our own. We realize that not all Japanese eat whale meat or even care about it. We realize that many Iranians do not believe that their government has a mandate to govern. We realize some Sri Lankans believe their recent election was unfair. (It is, for instance, hard to imagine things getting more personal than when an arrested opposition leader’s daughter starts blogging.) When we reach out, we reach out to people, not to countries.
   Where is, then, our pride about where we live? I argue—as this whole ‘Wellywood’ sign débâcle has shown—that it resides at the city level. We have a far more homogeneous idea of what our cities stand for, and as we come together and choose to live in any one place, we take into our regard what we believe that city’s assets and image to be. Over time, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. New Wellingtonians choose to make this their home because they see it either as the most creative city in the nation or they are fed up with the excesses of a more northern location. It is, as two of my friends who have left their Auckland home this year put it, ‘more cerebral’. While there have been city campaigns that have been botched—‘I Am Dunedin’ was met by plenty of criticism by Dunedinites—there is at least some understanding among citizens, who feel they need no slogan to unite them. (In Wellington, who has uttered ‘Absolutely positively’ in recent years?)
   So the 2010s are the time of city brands. At Medinge, my friend and colleague Philippe Mihailovich stressed that while ‘Made in China’ was naff, ‘Made in Shanghai’ had cachet. Over the weekend, I joked with one friend over poor French workmanship on the Citroën SM—though ‘Made in Paris’ would probably do quite well for fashion and fragrance (Philippe has more on this, too). Wellington deserves to be alongside the great cities of this world if we can show technological and creative leadership—and we get willing leadership prepared to understand just how we compare and compete at a global level. We already have the unity as we all understand who we are; we now need the voice.

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Posted in branding, business, culture, India, internet, leadership, marketing, New Zealand, politics, technology, USA, Wellington | 5 Comments »


The Downfall of ‘Wellywood’

11.03.2010

Necessity is the mother of all invention. I never thought some of the Der Untergang (Downfall) parodies could be topped, but I think this just happened.

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Posted in culture, humour, internet, New Zealand, politics, Wellington | 2 Comments »


The ‘Wellywood’ sign: people power gets things done

10.03.2010

That was a very interesting 30 hours. I found out about the ‘Wellywood’ sign yesterday afternoon, through Twitter, and Tweeted to say I hated it. Little did I know then that there was a huge Facebook group—6,000 strong at the time of writing—where Wellingtonians were making their voices known.
   And when I got there to Facebook, I was inspired.
   While my opponents were still talking hot air, I decided to act for the good of the city. I was inspired by one comment on the larger anti-sign Facebook group, which asked: surely someone holds the copyright?
   First stop: the Hollywood Sign Trust. If anyone knew who owned the sign, it would be them.
   I received a very nice reply from Betsy Isroelit of the Trust at what must have been very early hours in California, to say that she had referred it to the correct parties.
   By the time I got up today, I had an email waiting from Global Icons, LLC, which, with the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, owns the original Hollywood sign’s intellectual property. Global Icons, from what I understand, looks after this side of things for the Chamber. And would I please send them the artist’s impression of what the sign would look like?
   And that kicked it off. I mentioned this to Rachel Morton at TV3 news before I was interviewed, and she took the initiative by contacting the CEO of the Chamber for comment immediately. It turns out that he did not know that the matter was already brewing in California, but he does now. Rachel tells me that he then put the Chamber’s lawyers on to the case. That’s two for us, nil for Mayor Prendergast and the airport.
   All it took was the creativity of Wellingtonians to show something I have said from day one.
   You know, creativity? The thing that this sign does not represent, and makes fun of?
   And all it took were everyday Wellingtonians collaborating. I was inspired by the person on the Facebook group. And if I hadn’t approached the Trust and Global Icons, I wouldn’t have mentioned it to Rachel. And if Rachel hadn’t called the CEO, Global Icons would probably be going it alone. It doesn’t matter who gets the credit, because the credit is, really, everyone’s. The result should hopefully be that this horrible sign does not go up because people were prepared to act—whether by making their voice known on Facebook, or making some phone calls.
   People power, not corporates, not élites, gets things done. And that includes this year’s mayoral election.

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Posted in culture, internet, media, New Zealand, politics, technology, Wellington | 5 Comments »