Barcelona’s positioning journey
This is the story of Barcelona City Council’s journey of repositioning its city’s brand to reflect the vibrant character of the city and its people.
Project: Repositioning Barcelona
Organisation: Barcelona City Council
Barcelona is a city exceeding 1.6 million inhabitants and, as capital of Catalonia (Spain), it is the centre of a metropolitan area with a total population of about five million.
Barcelona is one of the main economic engines of the Mediterranean, establishing itself as a centre for attracting foreign investment (€4 billion). This has led to the creation of a favourable environment for the proliferation of companies and start-ups, resulting in a city cluster of more than 7000 businesses, as well as a local population entrepreneurial activity rate (EAR) of 6.7 percent, ranking above figures in Germany, France and Finland.
Several marketing studies of the city were commissioned in collaboration with businesses and institutions. These identified a gap in the perception of the city’s image between its own citizens and the outside public, as well as a gap in the international perception of the city as a business and investment centre.
During this process, the need to develop a new brand management strategy and present the world with the image that reflects the city of Barcelona’s true identity became clear.
The main objective was to project not only the vibrant and festive aspects of Barcelona, but also its creative and entrepreneurial potential.
The Barcelona brand management model
In order to meet these goals, the Barcelona City Council chose a singular public management model for the city brand in coordination with city agents. This model reduces the risk of leaving the brand under the control of private lobbies.
In 2012, the Communications Department of the City of Barcelona began developing a new storytelling and positioning for the city. Thus, the City Council identified the following as main objectives:
- Create a new brand management model for Barcelona in response to the current competitive situation and the new challenges of attracting international investment and talent, in collaboration with organisations, companies and other entities the city,
- define, build and manage a new story that can add value to the Barcelona brand, which is aligned with the image perceived and understood by the citizens, and
- position Barcelona as an open, creative and vibrant city, that is capable of reaching top positions in the various areas of activity, and
- generate pride of belonging among citizens and strengthen their involvement in the construction and consolidation of the brand.
The definition of Barcelona’s new brand positioning parted from the existence of historical and cultural assets that have brought the city allure and recognition. But the new challenges of the international market demanded other assets to be part of the new positioning. The new comprehensive positioning had to project the vibrant character of the city and its people.
New strategic sectors
Barcelona’s new positioning responds to the city’s main strategic sectors:
- Innovation: Barcelona is the world’s mobile phone capital and an international leader in the use of technology as a means for developing intelligent city management,
- business: thanks to a long tradition of business and trade, Barcelona is one of the most important cities for business in Europe today,
- creativity: with a history of over 2000 years and a unique identity, Barcelona is known worldwide as a city that exudes culture and creativity, in constant flux in all disciplines,
- research and knowledge: as a leading city in clinical research and human health, Barcelona is home to 90 research centres, in areas such as oncology, bio-nano-medicine and cardiovascular disease,
- quality of life and sports: Barcelona is one of the European cities with best life expectancy in the world and the first European city with the best quality of life for its employees, according to the European Cities Monitor 2011, and
- responsible and sustainable tourism: Barcelona promotes a model based on respect for citizens and city resources in economic, social, environmental and cultural terms.
New graphic identity
Creating a graphic image of the new positioning of Barcelona was needed in order to synthesise it visually.
The new graphic represents a container that collects everything that happens in the city: an ambitious city in motion and, at the same time, a city that serves the people living in it.
New brand assets
The brand assets are the human resources and the tangible and intangible assets we rely on to build and communicate the city’s new positioning.
The new ambassadors of the city are human resources that help reinforce the messages and brand values through their own work.
Among others, this is the case of chef Ferran Adrià in creativity and innovation sectors through his work in cuisine. His restaurant El Bulli has placed the city as a benchmark for creativity and innovation in the world. Another example is Anna Veiga in the field of biomedicine; she is known for being a pioneer in the study of embryonic stem cells.
Creation of a new storytelling framework
With the aim of explaining the new positioning and brand values of the Barcelona city brand, a new city narrative was developed aimed at an international audience, visitors and external public as well as local citizens. The main tools are:
- Communication campaigns: creation of a communications campaign to explain to citizens, visitors and the international public the city’s new storytelling,
- branded content: the creation of a city storytelling associated with the new ‘Barcelona Inspires’ values (culture of innovation and quality of life) in major magazines and in daily and financial press (Financial Times, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Economist etc),
- new website: the creation of a virtual space to present the city’s allure and character, as well as the strategic sectors that make it an ideal city for investment, education or travel,
- social media: defining a new narrative associated with the new values and positioning of Barcelona on social networks linked to the city,
- new story audiovisual narrative: explanation of the new Barcelona brand storytelling by means of audiovisuals aimed at the city’s different strategic targets,
- new tools available for visitors: the creation of the Barcelovers magazine, with the aim providing a brief overview of the new strategic brand positioning and story for all visitors to the city. It is published in Catalan, Spanish and English.
Collaboration with third-party projects
City associations, companies and strategic partners are involved in the new positioning of the Barcelona brand, in collaboration with the Barcelona City Council. These partners, associated with the values and the ‘Barcelona Inspires’ positioning, support the construction of the city’s storytelling with tangibles.
The work for Barcelona’s brand management in the last two years has resulted in an improved positioning of the city in major international ranking, and it has also been recognised worldwide with several awards.
Barcelona ranks as top sixth brand image in the study compiled by the Guardian-Saffron, 34th smartest city in the world according to IESE Cities in Motion (ICIM2015), best project of the Mayor’s Challenge by Bloomberg Philanthropies in 2014, seventh best European city in the globe, first and fifth best city in southern Europe, and best European city infrastructure according to European Cities Monitor 2014 and regions of the future, 11th most popular city according to the Global Destination City Index 2014, fourth city in the world for the organisation of international meetings according to the World Country and City Rankings 2013, and fourth smart city in Europe in 2013 according to Europe’s 10 Smartest Cities in 2013.
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