Copenhagen – A city that defines its place brand

How my arrival experience at Copenhagen Airport informed my understanding of city and brand. Do first impressions count?

Place branding can be subjective. Comprising of so many stakeholders and components it’s unlike a product or service. There’s often no executive usp or sales proposition – that’s what makes it so difficult. However on a recent visit (my first visit) to Copenhagen I experienced brand and place working together in its true sense.

Stepping off the plane in most airports you’re often greeted by ‘bland’, nothingness. And quite often you could be in any city, anywhere. And for the first few steps I felt the same, but then I started to look around. Actually maybe I’m wrong here. From the clever use of materials including the obligatory ply and the fresh open spaces and white light I was sensing something unique.

Before you knew it the simple way-finding had brought me to a train platform which would take me to the heart of Copenhagen (about 20mins).

Again, sitting down on this comfortable, clean and spacious train made me stop and look. Okay, it’s a train but if u start to look closely at the details, you realised the design and user experience is key to how the Danish thought and how they regard their citizens. Music player socket overhead was a simple and nice touch but the tray table really got me excited. No seriously! Push down from the seat in front and out slid a walnut verneered thick ply table with brushed steel, recessed cup holder. Right then I knew and understood how this place lived by its values. No sexy strapline, logo or campaign. This is place branding at its best and at its purest.

Tel Aviv – the creative hub of the Middle East

Looking into Tel Aviv’s liberal, innovative and creative approach to place brand. 

Arrive in Tel Aviv and you cannot fail to notice the vibrant mix of culture & creativity. Tel Aviv, only 100 years old, has fast developed its own unique identity. A city, in which the average age of the population must rank as one of the lowest of any metropolis on the planet. Its inhabitants certainly live life to the full basking in the warmth of the Mediterranean Sun and on its golden sandy beaches. A mere 45 minute drive from the holy and spiritual city of Jerusalem. One may be forgiven for assuming that the Middle East is a part of the world inhabited by conservative religious people shunning the modern lifestyle immersed in prayer and contemplation, but here in Tel Aviv they clearly prefer the more liberal approach to life.

Tel Aviv which in English means ‘Spring Hill’ symbolises the idea of something new coming from the old and is a city where creativity, innovation and a love for life is in constant flow. The wide European style tree lined boulevards flow down to the beaches as its inhabitants seek to avoid the traffic jams by riding their electric scooters and segways with laptops slung over their shoulder navigating their way to one of the many independent cafés and bars.

Rothschild Boulevard, a stunning mix of Bauhaus buildings is at the epicentre of what has come to be known as the “ Start Up Nation” behind the façade of the seemingly carefree and beautiful people enjoying their Lattes lies a population striving to create the next must have High-Tech App. This is the city where innovation resides. Apps such as Waze; ICQ Instant Messaging for text and WhatsApp;  Babylon,  a single click computer translation program. No wonder the likes of Google, Apple and Microsoft choose to have their most important R&D centres here. On the streets of Tel Aviv tech wizards exist side by side with street artists seeking to make their creative mark.

When I looked into the governments current stance on graffiti, I was surprised to find that, just like most cities, it is still very much illegal and punishable by heavy fines. It was the fact that they obviously don’t try to clean or cover it up which I found interesting. This is a city where the people have persevered through harsh times, once physically and ideologically divided by a concrete wall, which I think plays a really important role in the cities identity today… Berlin is free – when the wall fell there was obviously a strong desire for radical expressionism, something which seems to still linger in the city’s culture today. The fact that the government doesn’t try to completely mute this I think makes for a really raw and fascinating sense of place.

The brand story of Tel Aviv expresses that “Tel Aviv is the image and mirror of the people who live and create in the city – artists, entrepreneurs, makers, and all those who choose to live in a city that lives NONSTOP. No matter who you are, this city will accept you, embrace you and push you forward. In Tel Aviv, you can be whoever you want to be, do whatever you want to do, with whomever you want, however you want, when you want.”  Living the dream however comes at a price, if you are thinking of staying for more than a short break you will soon find out why Tel Aviv is rated one of the 10 most expensive cities in the world.

Exploring Berlin’s raw, unapologetic city identity

Reflecting on a recent visit to Germany’s capital and creative hub – experiencing the city’s unorthodox approach to placebrand

Upon arriving at Berlin’s Schoenefeld airport, I wasn’t greeted with a particular welcome or ‘energy’ I’ve come to experience in other European cities.  There wasn’t a lot to it – a generic look, a few forgettable shops… odd for a capital city revered for it’s culture – we didn’t stick around too long. Schoenefeld is the secondary, smaller airport in the city, so I can’t speak for it’s primary airport.

A short walk to the station and we were on the train to our destination, Friedrichshain. We jumped off and then it started to happen. A city covered wall to wall in graffiti, street art, tags and messages. There was an instant sense of identity here which spread across the entire city. We could easily go into a debate at this point about whether graffiti constitutes art or if it’s just mindless vandalism, but for the me the sheer amount of the stuff made my experience in the city visually stimulating – I really felt like I was somewhere rather than anywhere.

When I looked into the governments current stance on graffiti, I was surprised to find that, just like most cities, it is still very much illegal and punishable by heavy fines. It was the fact that they obviously don’t try to clean or cover it up which I found interesting. This is a city where the people have persevered through harsh times, once physically and ideologically divided by a concrete wall, which I think plays a really important role in the cities identity today… Berlin is free – when the wall fell there was obviously a strong desire for radical expressionism, something which seems to still linger in the city’s culture today. The fact that the government doesn’t try to completely mute this I think makes for a really raw and fascinating sense of place.

When I looked into the governments current stance on graffiti, I was surprised to find that, just like most cities, it is still very much illegal and punishable by heavy fines. It was the fact that they obviously don’t try to clean or cover it up which I found interesting. This is a city where the people have persevered through harsh times, once physically and ideologically divided by a concrete wall, which I think plays a really important role in the cities identity today… Berlin is free – when the wall fell there was obviously a strong desire for radical expressionism, something which seems to still linger in the city’s culture today. The fact that the government doesn’t try to completely mute this I think makes for a really raw and fascinating sense of place.

I’m aware of the Be Berlin brand, but I didn’t once see it plastered over the city, even in the more touristic areas. The official website stated “3.4 million men and women in Berlin who make the city so unmistakable and play an active part in shaping the city’s transformations”. Berlin doesn’t need to force it’s place brand – the people make the city what it is. It’s real, it’s raw, it’s honest.

Why Amsterdam may be the new creative capital of Europe

As Black & Ginger grows into Europe we look at what makes Amsterdam a great place for the creative industries

So what are the crucial ingredients that are making this dutch city simmer with excitement and explode as a leading digital hub?

Inherently born from wealth from its trade port roots, you don’t have to look far to understand where the city’s rich culture has trickled through the veins of its canals into the DNA of its people.

Yes we all know Amsterdam as being free thinking, but what Amsterdam does well is the idea of ‘citizens’. This place is designed for people and where people come first, and this creates a unique environment for ideas and radical thinking.

From Rembrandt to Van Gogh this is a city who’s creative past informs its future.

“The dutch are so used to constraints of building up and along narrow roads, creativity is a way to break these restraints and express their true selves.”

From the huge tech giants to the latest tech start ups, Amsterdam provides not only an infrastructure but also a way of life that promotes creativity and freedom of thought, unbound by an agenda. No matter where you’re from there is a unified understanding that citizens come first. Give people the power to live their best lives and history will write itself.

Keep your eyes peeled as B&G goes Dutch.

If you share our passion for big ideas, we’d love to hear from you.
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