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Making London hip again

View original article here.

Alfredo Muccino
Chief creative officer, Liquid Agency

Some destination brands are easier to define than others. Las Vegas is defined by the motto What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, and the brand promise is very clear. Vegas is a place where you’re invited to be wild. Everyone who goes there knows what to expect, and they immediately belong to a tribe. And, of course, Las Vegas delivers. In Vegas you are transported into a surreal landscape of make-believe palaces and landmarks, adult entertainment, gambling, bars and dancing girls. The value proposition is clear and anchored in truth.

So how can we define the brand for a city like London? What sets London apart from other cities? Why should I choose to visit London instead of Paris? What does London deliver? Is it the Royal family and Buckingham Palace? Is it the sense of tradition and propriety? Is it the punk movement that today feels rather traditional? Is it the pub culture, the warm beer and the fish and chips? I think that these are outdated stereotypes, and in my opinion London delivers a very different experience today. The brand should capitalise on that.

Today, London is a vibrant multi-cultural centre where the modern provides a great contrast to tradition. You see this in the people, the architecture, the music, the food and the fashion. I find London to be sophisticated and energetic, filled with people who are creative, interesting, highly educated and extremely cosmopolitan. The city is not just a destination for business people but for visitors who seek a dynamic, entertaining and inspiring experience. In my opinion the London brand should leverage the idea of modernity challenging the past. It is in this contrast that lie the refreshing ideas that make London exciting and memorable. London is the cross roads of old and new… past and future… tradition and rebellion. This is something worth experiencing and something that London delivers with plenty of charm.

Richard Sunderland
Managing director, Heavenly Group

There’s a saying at Heavenly that ‘the brand is what the brand does’: no matter how much you talk about brand positioning and brand values, it’s what you do with them that counts. As we approach one of the biggest years in London’s recent history, it’s not clear to me that London has either a clear proposition as a city or a way of manifesting it.

London can learn a lot from New York: distinctively associated with entrepreneurship and creativity, the symbols of the city (taxis, subway, etc) are marked by the distinctive ‘nyc’ badge, creating a visible symbol of civic pride.

We need to:

Step 1: Define the London brand. In my view, our capital’s core proposition is ‘influential’. London has huge impact on what happens around the world, from culture and sport, to entrepreneurship and politics. Let’s not apologise for London’s association with financial services, let’s embrace it – the City is one of our greatest assets.

Step 2: Create a strong visual identity. We need a symbol for our city, as iconic as itself. Given the controversy resulting from the 2012 logo, Londoners should vote on that symbol from a short-list. This will build some consensus and, more importantly, allow the people of London to take ownership of their brand.

Step 3. Bring the brand to life. Where are the signs that say you are now entering London as you approach on the M1? Where are the signs on Regent Street that remind passers-by that they are in this fantastic street? Where is the badge of London on its iconic transport networks? We should stop taking our city for granted and start celebrating it. Location branding can have a wonderful effect on bringing people together and reminding them why they live in this fantastic city.

Brigid McMullen
Managing director, The Workroom

Is the Mayor right in his assumption that London is predominantly considered to be a financial centre? The city’s offer is as deep as it is wide and is as much about culture as business. Of course a redefinition of what London represents could be a worthwhile exercise. A well-managed and thorough rebrand would define London’s essence, what makes it tick, the benefit it brings. Topping the simplicity of the iconic INY would be a difficult challenge – launched in 1970 in a time when the world was less cluttered and has had years to gain resonance. It still works today because the slogan doesn’t say anything specific or tailored about the city itself or what it stands for. It simply gets to the core of a destination brand – you only have to love New York, or an aspect of it, to want to go. Enough said.

London, lets face it, is a Marmite city.  On the one hand it is grimy, dangerous, frustrating, expensive, big, unfriendly and yet it is… exciting, vigorous, richly diverse, fascinating heritage, architecture, business, creativity, green spaces, food options, free events.  In many ways it is the world’s cultural centre or melting pot – and maybe that’s the message.

Everything starts here. Without sounding completely jingoistic and pompous, it is quite possible that London is the most vibrant, culturally diverse and tolerant city on earth. Not everyone will be comfortable with such confidence, but a successful Brand London needs to be bold and aspirational. If we can’t shout about what makes the city great, no one else will.

Maybe Boris should talk to us and we can help articulate the creative brief in the first place – that’s always the most important place to start. It’s worth reminding him too that a transparent process and clear brand strategy is essential – and may not always end in a ‘logo’!