Mark Ritson on Branding: Liechtenstein's Five Steps to Superficial Change

Marketing, September 8, 2004 | Go to article overview

Mark Ritson on Branding: Liechtenstein's Five Steps to Superficial Change


Liechtenstein, the tiny principality sandwiched between Austria and Switzerland, has a problem. As the sub-clause in that sentence suggests, nobody knows much about Europe's fourth-smallest state. In response, Liechtenstein has decided to conduct a formal branding campaign. Last November several brand consultants were shortlisted and Wolff Olins won the business. Six months on and the results have been revealed. Wolff Olins identified five themes that best capture the spirit of Liechtenstein. It expressed each theme as a symbol, and each symbol has been integrated into a unifying logo of a 'democratic crown'. Liechtenstein has been rebranded.

While Liechtenstein is unusual in providing a country case study, cities around the world are jumping on the b(r)andwagon. 'As we speak, a group of people are trying to create Atlanta's new branding campaign,' says Sam Williams, president of the Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce. Atlanta's new 'branding message' will be rolled out next year. In Canada, a consortium of advertising and marketing executives recently completed the rebranding of Toronto. The results include a pixellated 'T' mosaic logo for the city and a dollars 4.5m (pounds 1.9m) campaign using the slogan 'Toronto, you belong here'. Meanwhile, In Glasgow, a pounds 2.25m marketing campaign has been launched to rebrand the city as a cool, cosmopolitan metropolis.

Wolff Olins has not restricted itself to country branding. Prior to the Liechtenstein account, it supervised the 2001 rebranding of Hull. In an approach which appears either remarkably consistent or worryingly generic, the consultancy identified five key values for the city, each of which was transformed into a visual brand facet and then into an integrated brand identity mark for the city.

Concepts such as logo redesign are redolent of the lamentable era of the 90s when branding was big business for consultants and a waste of resources for the companies that invested in them. Cities and countries aren't like corporations. While their logos are alterable, their fundamental spirit, operations and constitution are not. Brands are built from the inside out, but when the inside proves too huge and multifarious to alter, the outside becomes the focus. …

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