Nowadays we are seeing that the cities of the future tend to define themselves as Smart on their way to transforming towards offering better services and quality of life for citizens. The concept of Smart City describes the ability to use a city’s capacity to create and adopt solutions that overcome community challenges and detect opportunities that help transform cities into thriving and enjoyable environments for the lives of citizens.

To the extent that the Place Branding It is a strategic tool that provides a roadmap for the definition, management and communication of the main assets that make a territory attractive above the others, it is time to think about the management of the brands of cities, or territories, from a really different perspective. Smart. But its development is not easy, territories depend on governments as the main decision-makers and, all too often, the concept of brand is relegated to image factors. A territory is an immersive experience, and its reputation depends on its natural and cultural attractions, its rulers and leaders, its businesses, its services and its visitors, on which an adequate strategy must be articulated.

Most definitions of the concept of Smart, and in particular of Smart Cities, focus on the role of technology and data in facilitating the conversion to this higher level. Many cities have already incorporated so-called smart solutions: intelligent regulation of lighting or traffic lights, intelligent irrigation based on humidity factors, selective collection of containers when they are full…

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But in the same way that the general evolution of the market has progressed towards a
customer-centric
vision, to be truly Smart, the branding of territories must be transformed towards a citizen-centric vision. However, when we think of smart cities, we often tend to focus on what new technologies can bring to the city, leaving citizens as mere users or receivers. A good place branding strategy must be multi-stakeholder and multi-channel. That is why today it is necessary to think about collaboration, which incorporates the vision and participation of citizens and other agents, facilitates co-creation and allows an approach that greatly improves results, increasing the rates of commitment to the brand, in this case to the brand of the territory.

A Smart City must recognize the importance of citizens in the same way that a Smart Brand must place the customer at the center of its strategy. Integrating citizens, as well as the rest of the agents that participate in the life of the city, in the different initiatives is a key aspect that generates chain reactions that favor the emergence of a collective intelligence, which will ultimately lead the city to become more sustainable. Smart and, therefore, more human.

Technologies are already making infrastructure, connectivity, accessibility, mobility and urban resource management more efficient than ever. But there is still a long way to go in building open communication channels with brand managers (governments and institutions), where co-creation reaches a truly proactive level. From a City Branding perspective, cities will not be Smart if they are not able to develop their city branding strategies based on the needs and demands of citizens, so that they are an active part of their strategy.

 

Carlos Puig Falcó

CEO of Branward

Photos: Shutterstock

 

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