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Cities get a new look – case one, Paris

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Cities get a new look – case one, Paris

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My first blog post got a very good comment. In an interesting brainstorming on citymarketing, a reader pointed out:

“The problem with marketing a city is that your target market literally couldnt be bigger, and the ability to deliver on a brand promise at each customer touch point is impossible.”

I’ve got the answer to that concern. It’s a theoretical one and not mine; it comes from the experts on the matter. I will get to those concepts in a future post. Today I have a practical answer: Paris.

As many of you may know, the French government recently launched a call for projects and commissioned ten multidisciplinary teams of sociologists, landscapers, engineers, architects and town planners to develop a new plan for the improvement of Greater Paris. The resulting concept (by the Atelier Castro Denissof Casi and adopted as a project to be carried out between 2012 and 2030) is the so-called Métropole douce, a “post-Kyoto”, sustainable and pleasant city that is meant to boost knowledge-based economy in an urban “eco-atmosphere”. No more, no less.

Why did President Sarkozy launch such a large-scale renewal process for the Paris brand? Things keep going well for the “Paris – Île de France” region. It’s more than a consolidated international location for business. Dwelling on the figures indicating such good health would now be pointless. You can find them in the Paris Region Economic Development Agency (PREDA) website: 208 foreign businesses either established themselves in or extended their activity to Paris Region in 2008, all industries combined; 15% of its working population originate overseas; 450 trade shows are organised in Paris each year…

Is it then, as his opponents pointed out, just one more symptom of the French President’s delusions of grandeur? Or maybe an attempt to solve the problems (and uprisings) in the banlieue? There might as well be some of that, but I think that Paris has simply come to understand that on the 21st century international stage, one must take citybranding seriously and consider it an integrated tool to compete with other metropoleis and attract talent and investment.

Why do I say integrated? Here’s the practical answer to the aforementioned reader. Citybranding is not just image. It also implies that my company will benefit from all the values that one can breathe in a city when it comes to culture, talent, professionalism, tradition, quality of life…

The project drawn for Paris is fascinating, but its touchstone will not only be accomplishing the figures announced by PREDA (130 new kilometers of metro, many new research and training centers, 18 million m2 of business park due for 2030). This will indeed turn Paris into “a veritable research laboratory for creative, innovative ideas and experimentation”, but true success will be ultimately measured by the existence of an atmosphere filled with values that penetrate and benefit businesses, hence making them more valuable and competitive.

My following post will deal with the example of Barcelona. I will be able to speak about it more in-depth, being more familiar with its realities and projects, and because it fascinates me even more. I’ll have to make an effort to be objective though. Promise.

Speak soon.
Pau

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