If a city is competing with other destinations for tourists and business, it will need a distinctive identity. From the standpoint of cities and architectural assets, identity encompasses a broad vocabulary that incorporates natural, geographical, and cultural products, as well as social life norms. Urban identity, architectural identity, and urban images are formed by very different components, usually over a long period of time. However, striking new buildings, such as The Shard in London and the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, can quickly change the perception of a place.
Architecture such as this helps a city brand itself, which has become increasingly important in the 21st century. Branding, though, is not a magic wand that can hide a city's flaws. The brand must be built on what is already present in a city; otherwise, it is akin to giving someone a cut and blow: it may look good for a while, but it does not result in a new personality. So, what makes a city well-branded, and where are the most successful examples?
Most great cities have an organically created brand, such as Paris and Venice, which are known for romance, or Vienna, which is known for music and culture. It's tough to sum up the brand of many cities in a single phrase because they're multi-dimensional and always evolving. Attempting to synthetically develop city brands is thus a risky and, at times, rash business.
Liverpool is a well-branded city that has undergone a remarkable transformation. There's something for everyone, with clubs and pubs, a financial center, and retail. Any tourist or business visitor wants to feel a city's pulse, and that's exactly what you get in Liverpool, along with a sense of pride and eye-catching architecture.
But how do you achieve such a transformation? The answer is deceptively simple. Start with reality, not image – undertake the regeneration, investment, and transformation first, and only after that should you begin to ‘brand’ it.