1% for the City’s Marketing

It’s not a rhetorical question: do cities need marketing or not? What about branding? Communication, lobby, PR!? The vast majority, if not all cities in Romania, avoid approaching this subject. They do not have a marketing department, they do not have quantitative and qualitative research (it is based on the usually 2-year-old data of the official statistical directorate), they do not brand, they only communicate with their own citizens on “city days”. The most frequently invoked reason is “we have to pave streets, how could we invest money in this useless marketing nonsense?”.

In my opinion, there are two main obstacles to the development of marketing and branding services of any city hall in Romania: lack of knowledge on the methods and effects needed (and it is only natural, I am yet to see a mayor or a local councillor who is even somewhat close to the field) and the frenzy about infrastructure projects developed with European funds (“this is almost free money, why bother investing our own money for the sake of the future”).

What the mayors and local councillors in Romania do not know is that cities like Vienna or Cologne have extremely well-developed marketing departments and the results are there. They have a visual identity. They have a brand strategy. A communication strategy. A development strategy. Everything is well-organised, documented and followed step by step. Their efforts bear fruit, both in terms of tourism and attracting investment. The cities and administrations in Cologne or Vienna – these are just two examples out of many more – have realised that they are in fierce competition for resources, not only with cities in other countries, but even with cities in their own country.

If I were mayor for a day, I would put a monthly benchmark – KPI if you will – to analyse the activity of the mayor’s office: how many businesses have relocated to my city and what is the potential volume of money invested, taxes collected and employment rate. With equal focus on significant Romanian and foreign companies. Maybe even more on the relocation of Romanians from rural areas or small towns where they do not find educated labour or are far from important communication nodes. They pay taxes that are just as steep as those of multinationals. But that’s just one aspect of city marketing. Knowing your city and your city’s worth are equally important, because these generate the necessary basis for positive attitudes and projects, both among tourists and investors.

For example, the expenditure budget of the city of Cluj for 2013 is 960,919,000 million Romanian lei. How complicated would it be to allocate 0.5 million euros in marketing, in the first year of investment, and gradually move to 1% of the budget in 3 years-time? By marketing budget, I mean the amount of staff costs, research and actual marketing activities. It’s complicated, perhaps, given all the circumstances involved. But it would be useful, for sure.