Begüm Tatari in this interview shares her experience of helping the Turkish city of Izmir develop and implement its city branding strategy.
Begüm, do you remember the first time you heard about city branding? What triggered your interest in the topic?
Although I cannot remember the first time I heard about city branding, I remember starting to take a professional interest on the subject around 2004. I was working in the Foreign Economic Relations Department of Izmir Chamber of Commerce, then. A meeting with the title “Brand is Power” was organized in Izmir. The Chairman of the Ports, Customs and Free Zone Corporation of Dubai was a guest speaker at the event, and he impressed the participants with the branding case of Dubai.
After that, seeing Dubai as an example for Izmir in regard to place branding started to become a popular approach in the city. I found this quite scary and wrong because the two places have very different characteristics. I had written a report comparing and contrasting Dubai and Izmir.
How has your view on the topic changed since?
Since then, I have been fortunate enough to be involved in the coordination of preparing a city marketing strategic plan - the first of its kind in Turkey - then a visual identity for the city of Izmir, while I was working for Izmir Development Agency (IZKA). In order to gain further insight on the topic, I was charged with participating in related national and international events. I continued to make research and write reports, conduct analyses on the subject as well.
In light of my experience and learning, I can say that in city branding, there is not one magic formula which can be adapted to all cities. Each city has its own unique characteristics, and a functional strategy would be one that understands and sincerely communicates this to the target groups.
I also think that in many cases, residents are highly sensitive on how their city is branded and it is not possible to please everyone.
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