A bit about corporate identity by Wally Olins

by | Aug 29, 2013 | Life Thoughts, Post

The beautiful Olivia Tower rooftop, currently the highest point of the Olivia Business Centre in Gdansk, was yesterday evening the decor for a potentially historical discussion. Officials of the Gdansk government, honorary consuls and business representatives were invited to join a discussion about corporate identity in general and more specific the branding of Gdansk. Wally Olins, corporate identity guru and chairman of the world famous Saffron Brand Consultants, served some heavy food for thought.

Branding is about emotions

As a kickoff Wally quickly took us on a worldwide branding journey. From aboriginals in Australia up to Red (euh black) cabs in London, from doctors up to police officers he showed us that branding has to do with “I belong to”. People choose to join something because they want it. People choose to drive a Volvo because it’s safe, a BMW you know why and Alfa Romeo just because it’s an Alfa.

People love Italy because of its historical sites, wine and food. This barely needs any marketing.

A brand is neither a logo, nor a tagline. A brand is something you really stand for!


How to market a brand

To make others aware of your brand you can make use of three kinds of marketing:

  1. Paid
  2. Owned
  3. Earned.

If you have plenty of money, then you can buy advertising space and try to convince people about your brand or product. But, for the majority of brands this is not the right way to go. This will only work if you can do it continuously.

Today the Internet offers basically everyone the opportunity to market his brand/product by himself. You can do a lot online, among others by using social media. If you know your audience and you send a clear message this might work really well.

And if you are doing a good job with spreading this message and delivering what you promise, it’s possible that people start sending the message for you. Then you earned that others do the marketing for you.

City marketing means hard team work

Wally easily jumped from corporate identity and branding towards city branding. Of course all theories apply here as well. He confronted the audience with the painful message that Gdansk is hardly known abroad and that people abroad in general have an opinion about Poland that matches the situation about 30 years ago. It seems Poland didn’t manage to paint a different picture yet, even Google doesn’t seem to know better.


Meanwhile, many cities are fighting for attention in an increasingly flat world. We have to compete with everyone in a global market.

And the situation is pretty clear according to Wally. If we don’t do anything, nobody will know about the amazing change Poland and Gdansk achieved.


How to position a city (or brand)

Before you can send a clear message, you will have to know what you want to be known for. Cities/area’s like Las Vegas, Dubai (according to Wally the Last Vegas of the Middle East), London, Singapore, Vancouver and many others are known for a certain reason. Some people will like their image, others don’t, but at least it’s clear.

Branding has to follow the following 6 steps:

  1. What do you stand for?
  2. Who do you talk to? And who do you listen to?
  3. What do you say?
  4. How do you say it?
  5. Where do you say it?
  6. How do you manage it?

What does Gdansk want to be famous for? Wally himself was positively surprised about Gdansk. He believes Gdansk has everything it needs to compete with the big cities. Vancouver seems to be for years one of the most favourite cities partly thanks to its geographical location next to the water.

Gdansk also has the advantage of a seaside with beautiful beaches combined with beautiful forests, hills, lakes and fields. In addition the beautiful historical old town, the modern shopping malls, universities, etc make Gdansk a perfect place. The Gdansk inhabitants seem more relaxed and optimistic than elsewhere in Poland claimed Wally.

This means the basics to become a well known city are there, but all parties involved will have to join forces. And that might be a big challenge in itself. 


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