A City Brand Assessment of Warsaw, Poland

In this guest contribution, Michał Basiński of Synergia place marketing agency in Lublin shares insights into the company’s analysis of Warsaw’s strengths and weaknesses as a city brand: the first step of any successful place brand management strategy.

Warsaw is undoubtedly one of the most dynamic capitals in Europe and the leader of the Central and Eastern European region. However, does the brand, and in particular its management system, correspond to the ambitions of the Polish capital? What is the current image of the Warsaw brand? The answers to these questions are provided by the diagnosis of the city’s brand, carried out by Synergia consulting over the last months.

Purpose

The aim of the diagnosis was to describe the condition of the Warsaw brand from many different perspectives. The diagnosis is an element of the process carried out by the City Marketing Office – the creation and implementation of a new Warsaw brand management system. The system will enable the coordination of promotional activities, will make it consistent and maximize the effects of all marketing activities in Warsaw.  Finally, it will build a coherent image and a strong brand of the city.

Key questions were asked and were grouped:

  1. Brand DNA – what is the Warsaw brand like?
  2. Brand positioning – what does the brand say?
  3. Brand actions – what does the brand do?
  4. Brand relations – sub-brands as co-creators.
  5. Stakeholders – who co-creates the brand and who is it for?
  6. Brand communication – how and what does the brand talk about?
  7. Brand management – who coordinates brand management?

Methodology

To find answers to these questions, we used existing data, and methods of IDI and workshops with stakeholders. All sources were used to describe the 4 dimensions of the brand, according to the original Synergia method, allowing for a multi-faceted look at the brand.

  1. Brand identity – was described using Jean Noel Kapferer’s adapted brand identity model (Strategic brand management: new approaches to creating and evaluating brand equity, London 2008).
  2. Brand equity – analysis aimed at a clear indication of the most valuable assets of the Warsaw brand equity; the method used was a modified place brand equity analysis model according to Keith Dinnie (Nation Branding: Concepts, Issues, Practice, Oxford 2007).
  3. Brand image/brand implementation status – the tool used was the proprietary model for diagnosing the state of Synergia’s brand implementation – Place Brand Trigger (PBT), in which the current image of management, key products, communication and brand experience was examined.
  4. International position of the Warsaw brand – the brand’s strengths and weaknesses in an international comparative context, based on its position in international rankings.

For each of these dimensions we calculated the total index figure. It allowed for the development of the main synthetic index of the Warsaw brand. The indicator was used for a benchmarking analysis, for which we selected the following cities: Stockholm, Helsinki, Copenhagen, Vienna, Rotterdam, Berlin, Prague, Budapest, Barcelona, Tel Aviv. Synthetic brand indicators have also been developed for these cities. As a result, the strength of the Warsaw brand was shown in relation to the selected group.

At the final stage of diagnosis, each of the seven areas of research issues and questions received a set of key conclusions and strategic recommendations.


Results

Brand identity

Today, Warsaw is:

  • a city of opportunities – it means a variety of possibilities for action in many areas, an unlimited horizon of thinking and acting, from the micro to the macro scale;
  • the city of being oneself – means the possibility of choosing a lifestyle, a variety of development perspectives, often asylum, escape into anonymity, but also finding a community of values ​​and lifestyle.

The identity of the Warsaw brand is subject to an evolutionary but also dynamic process of reaching an aspirational identity, the direction of which has been outlined primarily in the City Development Strategy #Warsaw2030. We can define this direction as the replacement of egoistic identity (Warsaw as the arena for my success) with community identity (together we create an even better city).  It is a turn from the city of personal success to the city of community success. Therefore, the city should be attractive on every scale, both micro and macro, and thus strengthen the identity of the city citizen and not only the closest circle (often homogeneous in terms of lifestyle and culture).

Brand equity

Warsaw is a city whose potential exceeds the equity of its brand. In particular, brand equity understood as awareness of these assets and appreciation of their uniqueness and, consequently, the willingness to choose Warsaw as a place to live. Warsaw is still the city that gains the most from getting to know it better. From a distance, the city does not live up to its potential (even if it has already been realized), so its actual attractiveness is not easily noticed.

Warsaw should develop new city brand equity assets more effectively. Cities rich with history and culture become even richer thanks to the expansion of the brand’s equity with new assets. These assets are less and less in the form of single objects and more and more often they become system solutions. Warsaw also should be an umbrella brand for districts that want to communicate their unique identity, but realize that they should speak with one voice about Warsaw as a whole.

Brand image/brand implementation status

The image of Warsaw gains in direct contact with the city. It is the diversity of the city’s experiences that plays the most important role in creating its brand. The common denominator of all the experience of the city is the modus operandi of Warsaw, which gives energy and does not allow for inaction.

A strong association and experience of Warsaw is its urban greenery and symbiosis with the Vistula River. The image of a green city is not used effectively enough. The city should definitely develop its competences more towards the eco smart trend. Warsaw must be an innovator on a global scale and should implement proven concepts creatively. Warsaw should also be a thought urban leader that works out and proposes innovative development directions to other cities, shows new perspectives, patterns and inspires.

The Warsaw brand management structure is insufficient for its needs. A brand needs a more consistent implementation policy and a well-established management organization.

International position of the Warsaw brand

A comparative analysis of the position of the international brand Warsaw included cities that can be models for Warsaw and cities that are geographically and culturally close. Warsaw has to make up the gap between perceptions of its own brand and that of the analyzed cities, which at this stage still outperform the Polish capital.

The existing brand equity, which is the heritage of the past, is not enough to positively distinguish Warsaw from other cities. Warsaw must reach for new solutions and create new reasons for being interesting. It should also focus on creative local implementations of global development ideas, which can be examples of good practices of the city in the international arena.


Summary

This diagnosis provides a solid basis for the development of a new brand management system for Warsaw. Today it seems that the Warsaw brand is not well managed with no clear ownership, which leads to problems with consistency and lack of a wider, overall vision.

Therefore, the most important tasks for Warsaw are to:

  • define a Big Idea that is clear and attractive to the world, based on the city’s identity;
  • create an effective brand management organization;
  • reach further into the future by creating innovative experiences.

We are sure that the process that has been initiated will help Warsaw gain its rightful place among the most dynamic metropolises in Europe.

Featured image ©City of Warsaw

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