17/12/2009

Why Brighton needs a rebrand

Last month Michael Wolff, co-founder of one of the world's most iconic design companies - Wolff Olins – addressed the city of Liverpool in a lecture called ‘Branding the City’. Wolff’s decision to focus on the brand identity of a city is another addition to the list of high profile bids to capture the brand of a city, in order to attract tourists and businesses. The City of Melbourne’s newly unveiled brand has caught people’s attention worldwide, as did The Greater London Authority’s recent (disastrous) invitation to tender for the design of a ‘Brand for London’. With all of this recent attention on destination branding, we thought it was a good time to consider the identity of our city and soon realised that Brighton needs a brand.

Why bother with a brand?
With the recent recession driving more holiday makers to British tourist spots, now is a perfect opportunity for Brighton to address its identity crisis. Over the past twenty years Brighton & Hove has undergone a massive cultural change. Development work and local communities have grown exponentially since it achieved city status in 2000. Tourism is still massive part of the local economy and with more than 8 million tourists visiting each year, it's vital that the city is able to compete with other seaside destinations.


Brighton’s identity crisis
Brighton represents a melting pot of history and youth. You will find a blend of social and economic groups mixing together happily. However focus on the city's nightlife has damaged its reputation in recent years. From its middle class cafe culture, to its architectural flamboyance. From booming digital businesses to exuberant nightlife. There are many different sides to Brighton, but it strikes us that there is no powerful symbol that can unite these different aspects.

There are existing logos used by Brighton & Hove City Council, that have different amounts of success and recognition. However Brighton deserves an icon that can become internationally synonymous with the city. Something infectious, something worn with pride by the people of Brighton, something that visitors are drawn to.

What a brand can do for Brighton
If you want to see a city using branding to its full potential, then take a look at how the 'I heart NY' icon created an inspirational worldwide icon. By building a brand that people believe in, you can promote Brighton to businesses, domestic and international students, tourists and investors. All of which brings money in to the city council, which can be re-invested.

Engaging the people of Brighton
Iam excited by the power that the web can give communities. By connecting with Brighton's digital culture there is an opportunity to let anyone in Brighton have a say in how their home is portrayed. The deep pool of digital specialists can be used to develop a system for residents to rate, share, comment, discuss, record and respond to the city's culture. A shared brand that everyone has a stake in.

Creating the brand
Creating a brand for Brighton is a unique challenge and it would take a unique process to be successful. It's the designer to get as close to clients and their audience, as possible. This is where you would need experience of working with public sector organisations.

An open invitation
This is an open invitation to Brighton & Hove City Council, to talk about Brighton's future and how we can help to make it better.

Footnote:
I originally wrote this for the Preview news feed in Novemeber 2009, to follow up discussions with BHCC's communications team.