City marketing and city management are the focus of this short interview with Gildo Seisdedos, Professor at IE Business School in Madrid, Spain, and a solicited advisor on smart city trends and challenges.
- Why Gildo Seisdedos chose to focus his academic and consulting career on city marketing and urban management;
- The concept of “Smart Cities”, and the two mega-trends fueling it;
- The importance of mega events, such as Olympic Games, for cities;
- Latest trends in city marketing practice;
- Madrid’s sustainability challenge;
- His thoughts on the image of Madrid and Spain.
Gildo, how did you get involved in urban planning and city marketing? What fascinates you about this topic?
I have a marketing background (academic and professional) and I was fascinated about the idea of applying marketing (and other management tools) to cities. Cities are such an interesting entity, as they represent us as human race.
How would you describe the concept of “smart cities”? Which cities are qualified to follow this model?
Smart city is the tag describing the impact of two megatrends: digital revolution and urbanization. The result are new spaces to live, new cities and new ways to manage them. Smart city has become the most popular tag concerning this reality, where mankind is deciding its true future.
You actively collaborated in the Madrid bid for the 2016 Summer Olympics (which was won by Rio de Janeiro). How important are such mega events for urban planning and city marketing?
They used to be the Holy Grail everybody was looking for. But now they are suffering from a huge wave of citizens rejection, probably because they are not supposed to be an end but a means to a certain urban transformation. This strategy behind the event is in many cases missing: we need to get this link back. Otherwise, it is just empty noise.
Which trends do you observe in city marketing practice?
The first trend I observe is that city marketing practice is evolving from an overall, one-size-fits-all approach to different models adapted to specific city characteristics, such as smart destinations.
Second, technology is impacting city marketing, and the limits between smart city and city marketing are blurring.
One of your most highlighted publications is on how to manage 21st-century cities. Which are the main insights of the book and why do you think it was so successful?
In 2007, at the time of publication, this book (in Spanish, available through Amazon) showed an easy-to-follow road map to understand that a new urban governance was on its way. It provided a comprehensive approach to city management that encompasses all the isolated silos: helping city managers and marketers understand that the new urban management is more and more interwoven.
You combine teaching, research and consulting activities. To your mind, are there any gaps between those three areas?
Absolutely: the gap between research and cities is considerable, which leaves room for consultancy.
Conducting research isolated from city managers is pointless, since understanding the needs of the cities is key to guide research.
Teaching helps me to order and challenge mental frameworks and to enrich my perspective. In a world of mega specialists, I fell very lucky to practice this very special, renaissance-style “triathlon”.
We recently read in the news that Madrid plans to cover every bit of unused city space with plants, in an effort to combat the city’s rising temperatures. As the funding director of the Madrid Global Chair in International Urban Strategy, which is your opinion about this plan?
Madrid has a big issue with (lack of) sustainability that demands bold solutions: political determination should be the starting point but unfortunately the scale and urgency of the issue is not so evident to many mayors.
Your thoughts on the brand image and reputation of Madrid, and Spain at the moment?
We have a healthy image but still associated to an everything-under-the-sun tourism destination. Spain (and Madrid) are also wonderful places to innovate and develop business projects with a very powerful corporate fabric. Conveying this corporate image is still a challenge to be tackled.
Thank you, Gildo.
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