Friday, February 05, 2016

Selling Emotion: City branding

Madrid. What does it stand for? If you have any suggestions, you may wish to direct them to Carlos Chaguaceda. He is the director-general for tourism in the community of Madrid, which is the region of Madrid as opposed to just the city.

Interesting chap, Chaguaceda, as he doesn't seem like the normal type you would expect to be appointed as a regional government's head of tourism. He is, dare one say, a professional. Which is not to say that there have never been other professionals in similar positions in other Spanish regions, such as the Balearics. But which is to say that they haven't necessarily been obvious.

Chaguaceda's CV includes having been the director of corporate communications for Coca-Cola España. In other words, he knows a thing or two about marketing. He also been Brussels correspondent for Antena 3 Televisión. He knows a thing or two about journalism and the media.

Last November, a manual written by him was published. Its title in English is "You Can Be News". In explaining the book he observed that in the world of the media, if you're not in the media, then you don't exist. Everything, where the market is concerned (whatever this market might be or how it is defined), is dependent upon communication. From what is communicated comes the prestige that is wished to be created. But it isn't enough to be visible in the media, there has to be an understanding of the roles played by advertising, social media, creating viral communications and so on.

All this should be obvious, but sometimes it does require someone to state the obvious. And there is more. Another book that Chaguaceda has penned translates as "The Happy Monkey". It is more scientific in that it explores brain functions in generating emotions and in considering how there is a common process for finding happiness.

This latter book might all sound rather obscure and technical and perhaps it is, but its message is not. Its application is what Chaguaceda is now considering within the broad context of media management and marketing for the community of Madrid. He wants to make an emotional connection between visitors, the city of Madrid and its surrounding areas.

Though his geographical responsibility is broader, the city is of course crucial. It bears the same name as the region and so it is what the outside world recognises. But while there is recognition and visibility as well as there already being high numbers of visitors, what is that Madrid represents? What does it stand for? What or where is the emotional connection and the impulse towards visitor happiness?

Chaguaceda says that a brand (in this case a city or region) means creating an experience, an expectation and an emotional relationship. But what emotion is Madrid associated with? Indeed, what is it associated with full stop? Other than Real Madrid, in global terms, it's a struggle to think what this might be. The same cannot be said of other major European cities, such as London, Paris or Rome, or even certain cities in the next tier, like Milan or Amsterdam.

Madrid is already a successful city, meaning that the region is successful, but success needs to not only be consolidated it has to be enhanced. What Chaguaceda is aiming to do should, therefore, be of interest to Palma and to Mallorca. If one were to ask the same questions of Palma as of Madrid, then what would the answers be? What actually does Palma stand for? What is it that creates an emotional bond? What is its iconic imagery?

With Palma, though, I would suggest that the challenge is different to the one Chaguaceda is grappling with. While Palma is known and is visible, it is the region (Mallorca) which is far more known and visible. It is also something with which one is well aware that there is an emotional bond, and one that has existed for decades. The same, I would argue, doesn't apply to Palma. Chaguaceda says that co-operation with the city has been straightforward because essentially the city and region are promoting the same thing. In Mallorca, however, it can appear as if Palma is tangential to the rest of the island and is overlooking the strength that the Mallorca "brand" gives it as a city.

Communication for Palma has been getting better, and the city is becoming more successful, but the communication is still well short of what it should be. The same can most certainly be said for Mallorca as a whole and for individual municipalities, whose communication is, in overseas terms, all but non-existent. The two - the city and island - need to dovetail. They draw strength from each other and not separately. The icon of Mallorca is the emotion of decades. The marketers (and politicians) might do well to remember this.

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