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wg city branding City promotion and marketing Warsaw May 2011


City Branding & Social Media

In the early summer days of May, the Eurocities Branding Management and City Attractiveness Working Group met to discuss and to be enlightened on the issue of city branding for the second time of the year. The meeting was hosted by the City of Warsaw, and just as promised by their slogan “Fall in love with Warsaw”, we all enjoyed our stay in the Polish capital. The Chairwoman of the Council of Warsaw Mrs Ewa Malinowska-Grupinska welcomed the group of 14 participants, representing 10 cities, to Warsaw and wished us the best for our conference. The theme was how cities can use social media as a tool in their branding processes, and one could easily tell that there was great interest in the topic. One of the participants asked “how long will it take

before our politicians understand that this is not just a buzz word right now, but a tool we really have to engage in?” and she was certainly not the only one who felt that way. Social media can prove to be an asset for cities in promotional work and campaigns, but it is also important to remember that the use of social media is foremost a grass rot phenomena. Mr Anton César, representing the chair of Gothenburg, pointed out the complexity of the new media. “The spring uprisings of northern Africa”, he argued, “were not a result of steering groups and campaign planning” and tried to show the importance of having a critical perspective when employing social media, and not just use it for the sake of it.


During the first day, we learned about how social media can be used in various ways. As a starting point, it was stated that people are the strongest medium of today. People tend to trust recommendations of their friends to a much larger extent than they trust what an irritating commercial is trying to sell to them. This, it was argued, goes for cities as well. People recommend places for vacation, work and studies to their friends and these words are much more crucial for a city’s reputation than any advertising campaign. We simply have to adapt ourselves to this reality and make sure our city brands are suitable for this new era. Ms Aleksandra Jurkiewicz, Strategy Director at Corporate Profiles DDB Group, gave us the advice to create a city brand that allows citizens to participate, play with and to easily pass it on to their friends. ”Technology”, she added, ”is the glue between people.


The first day of the meeting offered interesting presentations of various kinds. For instance, we learned about Chopin´s year 2010 and how Warsaw used Chopin as a sub-brand was used in a promotional campaign. The campaign was used for international promotion of Poland, but was equally important for the capital, which is usually perceived as a “boring business city”, to put itself forward as a cultural city. One of the stunning promotion tools was the Chopin bench, which we later discovered during a walk through the Old Town. The benches start playing music by Chopin when you press a button. Joanna Erbel, from the Institute of Sociology of Warsaw University, offered the conferences’ critical perspective on the issue of city branding. In the case of Warsaw, she highlighted that the official narrative of the city, which covers the city maps and the other city promotion items, only is one of the city’s many stories. If you visit a city you will always find many, many more narratives, such as the communist, the feminist and the gay and lesbian ones. “And”, she said, “there is a constant rewriting of the urban space.” No doubt, these aspects must also be taken into mind when working with city branding.

After lunch, we started off with a presentation on the campaign ”The mate from the past”, a Facebook campaign set up to honor the memory of the Warsaw uprising in 1944. The purpose was to engage the youngsters of today in how the young people back at the time of the Second World War felt during the tragic events of 1944. Two profile pages were created on Facebook, belonging to a young couple during the time for the uprising. Through the status updates, wall posts and photo albums of these young lovers; a live account of the uprising, just as it would have happened today, was created. The idea behind the campaign was to take a new approach to history and not make it another boring historical lecture.

In 2010 Poland and Warsaw celebrated Chopin’s Year 2010. Mr Waldemar Dabrowski showed us the highlights.


In the venue called the Workshop, we met Grzegorz Piątek and Katharina Arnold, who are working with Warsaw’s candidacy for the European Capital of Culture 2016. The venue was nothing like an ordinary conference hall; it was decorated by particleboards and offered only pillows to sit on. Piątek and Arnold told us about their work and how they addressed the important issue of making everyone feel welcome and at home in the sphere of culture. “Culture is not for me” and “I won’t have anyone to talk to at the opera” are usual attitudes in Warsaw, and the team works actively to engage all the Warsaw residents in the discussions of culture and what the city landscape should look like. The team pays a particular attention to activities in the suburb areas. ”We believe”, Piątek concluded, “with culture, we can give people real reasons to fall in love with Warsaw”.


Mr Grzegorz Piątek explaining Warsaw’s bidding for the European Capital of Culture 2016.


Another approach we learned about was the use of QR codes, which are readable bar codes for smart phones. The bar code, it was suggested, is a free and efficient way for a municipality to communicate with its citizens. With the codes, the citizens can read, play or interact with for example streets, buildings and parks. Or scan the code at the bus stop and find out whether your bus is five minutes or an hour away.


On the second day of the meeting, we focused on the future of the working group itself. The participants deliberated on, among other things, whether we can include strategies for how to win international city awards in the working group, how to integrate cultural diversity in the branding process and potential themes for next meeting in Lyon. Many of the discussions were interesting and one could tell that there is a need for a working group like this one. City branding is not a simple matter, and support from other cities is essential to make sure that the wheel does not have to be reinvented every time. For that exact reason, the Gothenburg chair presented their proposal of creating a knowledge bank. This knowledge bank could help us share our experiences and provide information about the various methods of city branding already used in the group. To create such a bank of knowledge, a survey will be sent to all the members of the group in September.

The chair kindly asked all the members to reply to the survey and contribute to the project. The meeting was then concluded and the words of “See you in Lyon in September� echoed through the room when we parted later in the afternoon. Would you like to know more about the Eurocities Branding Management and City Attractiveness Working Group meeting in Warsaw? Please visit the Eurocities member’s area. Best Regards, Gothenburg Team


This WG City Branding meeting was brought to you by:

WG Chair 2011:

Meeting hosted by:

Koncept & Layout: Flic-en-Flac Productions, Text & photos: Maja Magnusson

Eurocities WG City Branding meeting Warsaw May 2011  

Summary of the Eurocities WG City Branding meeting Warsaw May 2011.

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