AuthorMagor, Kadar
  1. Introduction

    Settlement or city branding means to find an unparalleled position for the city in question which arises from its endowments that make it unique, recognizable and distinguishable compared to other municipalities. To accomplish this we need to identify certain specific values, brand pillars which characterize the settlement, and the community embraces them and identifies with them. Quite often these are identity elements through which people consciously distinguish themselves from the inhabitants of other cities, regions and countries. Sometimes, these elements, although not consciously, become characteristic to the community in question. Thus, city branding becomes self-expression, promoting a community through its own values. The local community is always the primary target group while external target groups towards which these community values are presented become of secondary importance.

    Taking into account the general arguments and the specific situation of Transylvania, we can highlight the following aspects related to city-branding:

  2. Regional positioning: ensures a unique position among the towns of a given region.

  3. It highlights the city in comparison with other cities: visitors may recognize the city due to this, and these factors of attraction are quite visible for investors.

  4. The home-feeling: the inhabitants feel the difference; they are able to formulate why they are proud of their unique city; their well-being is enhanced; it promotes indirectly the returning of those who had left the city and improves the entrepreneurship.

  5. Booking the value: it formulates and embraces values, sometimes considering them exclusive; it can identify and rationalize them (it becomes a factor in the creation of an identity).

    In order to achieve all the above we first need to formulate the branding values and position them. By positioning, the city acquires a special place in the eyes of the target group and will stand out from the rest of the cities. There may be a competitive situation when compared to other similar cities, but it also may be the very first position in an entirely new category, allocating a value to the detriment of other cities. In an evolving area the branding of the settlements happens in a similar way. Right at the beginning we have to state that city branding is more than creating a visual presence or visual identity. It is a process of strategic planning, taking into consideration many social, cultural and economic elements in order to reduce the existing situation to a logical brand essence. The essence is represented by a few easily understood, remembered and recallable topics, symbols, slogans and even feelings.

    Even if the settlement or place branding is a relatively new research field it has been adapted and used to promote image development for places, cities or even nations (Kavarateis and Ashworth, 2005). The cornerstone was in the 1980s when the collapse of the industry forced new development fields to be exploited or brought to life. The changed possibilities and reset opportunities of settlement branding and the development aptitude of cities become the traction engine of their development. According to this, the settlement branding and promotion got a highlighted importance and became a core part of settlement development plans and strategies.

    In the following sections, we would like to provide a quick overview of the process of value establishment, branding, positioning, as well as of the possible directions for further improvement of the branding of regions and settlements in Transylvania.

  6. The process of settlement branding

    Positioning and association of values go beyond the possibilities of marketing, thus in the scholarly literature there is a slow shift from marketing--both product and settlement marketing--to branding. This shift is mainly justified by the need for more complex and more organized processes which cannot be covered by extending the traditional '4P' classification to '7P'. The branding process, regardless of whether it refers to a certain product, organization, person, trademark, event or even settlement or region branding, features the same set of stages in creating and consolidating the brand. As Local Public Administration (LPA) decides that there is a need for a brand and a branding process, a complex planning and execution set of phases will be carried out. There are a number of approaches which will be presented in the following, and then our own set of phases created based on our personal settlement branding experience will be presented.

    The Project Cycle Management (PCM), a cycle of operations for managing the European Commission's external assistance, features five phases (European Commission, 2004). In practice, the duration and importance of each phase of the cycle vary from project to project, depending on their scale and scope, and on the specific operating modalities under which they are set up.

  7. Programming: focuses on identifying development priorities and the integration in higher level strategies; decides upon priorities, sector focus, type of assistance and financing modalities.

  8. Identification: focuses on having a concept project relevant to main local needs and being consistent with higher level policies; decides upon acceptation, modification or rejection of the project idea(s).

  9. Formulation: focuses on the sustainability of the project and its ability to deliver sustainable benefits; decides upon accepting, modifying or rejecting the project proposal.

  10. Implementation: focuses on achieving the results by using resources efficiently and effectively; decides upon continuing to finance, on the modification of the scope or the termination of the support.

  11. Evaluation: focuses on the results, the achievement of planned benefits, sustainability, and the lessons learned. Decides upon the change of the policies, on the scope of the future program or operating modalities.

  12. Audit: focuses on compliance with applicable laws and rules, on meeting the efficiency, economic and effectiveness criteria; decides upon the continuation, modification or termination of the projects, the recovery of project funds, modification of the design of the future projects, and the change of policies.

    The key element of PCM in local or regional branding is programming, forcing the LPA to develop projects integrated in higher national or international level strategies. As a public policy issue it gives the opportunity to redefine local public policies in order to have an integrated development. The experience of Romania shows that constant development of visions, objectives or long term aims barely exists, so it is common to have well-programmed regional development plans that meet the national standards and development priorities in the moment of design, and which become overrated during implementation since the national standards are modified.

    The PCM indicates that a general 4-phase structure is suitable for most of the projects, events, development or branding processes. The planning, formulation, implementation and evaluation phases can be considered a complete cycle, the final evaluating phase repeating the primary evaluation in order to highlight the differences due to the project. The final phase can be considered the starting planning phase to a forthcoming repetitive project.

    A specific branding process can also be built upon this four-stage structure in which outlining the future during planning has a particular importance as well as the presentation of the creative elements during the planning of the strategy (Healey, 2008).

  13. Surveying the existing situation. Its role is to know the target group, the previous processes and their evaluation.

  14. Outlining the view over the ideal future: harmonizing the results of the survey and the ideas, and creating the main concepts in developing the brand.

  15. Combining strategy and creativity: creating a connection between the areas that have a specific role in creating and developing the brand, outlining a strategy, shaping and displaying a visual identity, and ensuring visibility.

  16. Monitoring and then repeating the first stage: following-up the results, planning, testing, re-planning, and re-testing.

    Creativity has an outstanding role in the patterns of city and regional planning; image and spirit have an even more powerful presence, and so do internal bonds and insights. Branding is considered to be a one-time, closed process, which is not cyclical by nature (Olins, 2008).

  17. Research, analysis and strategic recommendations. Surveys regarding the target group, the market, communication and design, the results of which determine the particular action plan.

  18. Creating identity and formulating the particular idea. The areas in which identity is visible are the behavior of the target group, the brand-building process as well as its designation and the visual representation.

  19. Presentation and display. Presentation to the internal target group is in fact a pretest before the entry on the market. It takes shape of a PR or image campaign; it is visible, perceptible, while the reactions help in re-planning.

  20. Implementation. The final branding plan for the promotion of the determined visual identity is followed by the application of tools which make the brand public.

    The models presented in the Anglo-Saxon scholarly literature approximate the models applicable in the Eastern European city and region branding (McEachern, 2006). The creative process...

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