Günter Soydanbay in this interview shares unique insights into the world of city branding by taking us on a journey to the cities of Gaziantep and Izmir in Turkey. He discusses the role of psychology in place branding, frequent mistakes (and how to avoid them), and reveals three points which - based on his experience - he considers essential for city branding success.
The interview is part of a special series with place brand professionals participating in the City Nation Place Forum and Awards, taking place in London, UK on 9 November 2017.
- What place branding has to do with psychology;
- Key elements for place branding success;
- Common mistakes in city branding, and how to avoid them;
- How to engage and align stakeholders in city branding;
- Lessons learned from city branding projects in Gaziantep and Izmir, Turkey.
Günter, you hold a bachelor’s degree in Psychology and an MBA. What led you to branding and what is it about place branding that you like?
As far back as I can remember, I have always been interested in meaning. And to me, brands are primarily about making meaning. So, in that sense, you can say that branding chose me as much as I chose it. I first stepped into this world as a strategic planner, working at an ad agency. Yet, I never felt at home in advertising. The use of terms like consumer and target audience irked me. Metaphorically speaking, I think advertising is like fireworks. It’s eye-catching and awe-inspiring yet exaggeratedly present-oriented and short-lived. I was looking for its opposite, a lighthouse so to speak. To me, that was branding.
As per place branding, I owe my introduction to this field to two people. The first one is Jeannette Hanna, who mentored me. Though we never worked on a place branding project together, I learned the intricacies of this métier by observing her. The second name is Emrah Yucel, the founder of I Mean It Creative, who activated my potential. He gave me a platform, through which I transformed my knowledge into experience.
What I like the most about working with places is the fact that even the smallest village is infinitely more complex than the largest corporation. That’s why I see place branding projects as the ultimate platform to cross-pollinate many ideas, from systems thinking to depth psychology, mythology, storytelling, and change management. That fascinates me.
Have your studies in Psychology proved to be useful for your destination marketing work? If so, how?
Psychology has been vital to my work. I am deeply interested in Jungian and archetypal psychology, which is the ultimate discipline that deals with grand notions such as meaning and purpose. That’s the branch of psychology that harvests insights. While I can’t speak for others, based on my personal experience, if you help an organization to discover its authentic purpose, you have a high chance of succeeding.
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