What 'Second Cities' Teach About Branding

A recent news broadcast showed the mayor of Tacoma with a backdrop of the city of Seattle. The feeling of being hidden in the shadow of larger, older neighbor cities is familiar all over the world, but what are “kid sister” cities to do about it?

The task of creating a unique identity in the shadow of a famous neighbor is tricky, according to Ali Modarres. “This is not a logo problem. It is not about a catchy phrase, and it is not about another cultural event.”

Keeping up with the Joneses is either futile or impossible: “Unique architectural landmarks can create memorable identities, but these phallic symbols already dot cities the world over. Whether in Dubai, Barcelona, or Beijing, starchitects would be happy to add the next jaw-dropper to any city willing to deposit a large sum of public funds at their altars.”

Instead of implementing “best practices” and calling on “experts” to, in effect, copy what other cities are doing, Modarres suggests that second cities focus on their own unique qualities. “[Cities] like Tacoma need more than cultural fairs and gimmicky tourist attractions. They need an inclusively created branding strategy. It is important that they know what works and what doesn’t, but strategies need to be based on a vision that gives the city the self-confidence it needs to move forward.”

Full Story: Life As A Second City

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