One of the major challenges that any county faces is building and keeping a strong city identity, most cities leaders find it easy to build new buildings, new museums, new public libraries, and so on; But it’s very hard to restore an old building as the process itself takes a very long time and is governed by a long chain of command, that bureaucratic process is what leads to the distraction of heritage, and erasing the city identity, which are the key elements of the future of any city.
A powerful competitive asset of any city is its identity, and there are three important concepts that must be known to anyone interested in studying cities’ identity, those concepts are city identity, city image, and city positioning.
City Identity concept is related to the core essence of the city, it’s about the values that defines the city, and make it different from other places. Its related to the historical, cultural, and physical characteristics, which are the most important determinants of any place.
City Image concept is related to how the city is seen by its citizens or interested people, the mental image that a person keeps about a certain city, place, or country.
It’s very important to understand those two concepts because not knowing the difference between the reality of the place, its identity, and the perception of the place, its image, might have a negative effect on the place, because the reality might change quickly, while the image of the place takes a longer time to change.
City Positioning concept is related to the value that the city presents to different types of people that make the city attractive to live, study, visit, or work in it. It’s how the city present itself is what make it successful in attracting and keeping citizens, tourists, visitors, investors, events, etc.
Some cities are still living with the frustration of being perceived incorrectly by others, some cities are still associated to clichés and stereotypes of the countries or geographical areas they belong to, or to a struggle that happened in their past. All that can present a barrier in the way of their economic and social development.
The first thing we have to do when building the identity of any place is to know the characteristics of the place in order to improve it and make it more attractive to the target markets including the city’s own citizens.
The second thing that needs to be done is defining the future vision that the people of the city have about their place.
After going through this process, the city’s organizations can place the right strategy to establish the desired image and position of their city, a strategy that will require a long term view to make it real.
For example, when London wanted to strengthen its city brand identity, and positioning the orientation was toward making London the best city in the world, a city where creativity, innovation, and talent can be developed, enhanced and nourished.
Finally, its every one’s responsibility to improve city identity, all citizens not just governments need to work on building a strong city identity, and enhancing the city image perceived by the whole world.
A strong city identity will enhance not only tourism, but lots of other important aspects in our life, like the city’s educational level, cultural level, and definitely the economic prosperity and luxury of the city.