Recently, I have experienced how branding is no longer only for private companies, as local authorities are well on their way in the process of creating their own authentic brands. This realization came after a debate at the Danish ‘People Meeting’ (“Folkemødet”) on last Thursday. We organized the debate in cooperation with the newspaper Kommunen, which was simultaneously a prelude to a municipalitybranding conference,which is held at, and in collaboration with, the Danish Chamber of Commerce on October 30th.
We at Stagis, were thus keen on debating how one as a public municipality can create an authentic municipal brand build on inner strengths, and a unique story, which can both attract new residents, tourists and businesses.
To answer the question Stagis invited the Clerk of Billund municipality, Ole Bladt-Hansen, and the mayors (pictured above, far rigth), from respectively Odsherred and Ikast-Brande, Thomas Adelskov (pictured above far left) and Carsten Kissmeyer (pictured above, centre right). Each of them represents the three radical different approaches to authentic municipality branding: The tourism and experience municipality, the green Geo-municipality and the blue Business Mecca.
Ikast-Brande municipality is clearly a business friendly municipality with low-taxes, high investment levels and has consistently been at the top of the Confederation of Danish Industry’s list of business-friendly municipalities.
– “Our focus is that we want to be Denmark’s factory. Companies must find a municipality that is fighting their case and knows their professional stuff. And then we tell the world that we have good jobs”, says the mayor.
– “Odsherred has beautiful scenery, great food and a unique cultural history. We have always had, but we are starting to create a unified narrative of our region”, said Mayor Thomas Adelskov during the debate.
In Billund they are working towards being known as the Capital of Children. The global toy manufacturer Lego has already sponsored new laboratories in the city schools, and was a co-founder of the Capital of Children Company.
– “When Grindsted municipality and Billund municipality were merged together into one municipality, it was named the municipality of Billund, although Grindsted had twice as many inhabitants. Billund has been incredibly good to build on already existing strengths”, says Ole Bladt-Hansen (pictured below, right side), explaining that a powerful authentic brand can also make employees proud of their work and increase citizen service levels.
But although the three debaters and their organizations focus on radically different authentic strengths, they did however, fully agree that the authentic brand must come from within.
– “I do not believe in handing out toffees or letting smart advertising people decide. It has to feel right in the stomach, I cannot tell fibs about Odsherred”, says Thomas Adelskov.
This approach is something we enthusiastically agree with at Stagis. Authentic branding of companies and organizations as explained in The authentic company (2012) is also about building the brand on inner strengths such as the vision and history of the municipality. At Stagis we feel confident that our past work with municipalities such as Kolding, will only be an omen for the second wave of authentic municipality branding. Namely, branding of municipalities grounded in inner strengths and citizen engagement. I for one, am surely looking forward to working with authentic branding of municipalities whether they focus on Lego, low-taxes or some other authentic strenght of theirs.