How to create a brand for Langenhagen?
Coping with a difficult history in city marketing:
Langenhagen had to cope with a difficult history in creating a suitable city marketing. Before Langenhagen began to participate in VRA, an approach to install a new brand failed because of the political decision to cancel the process in 2005.
When PFERDEstärken Langenhagen began to work, we had the special challenge, that three parallel approaches were working on the subject, all supported by the municipality.
So the special challenge was to integrate the different strategies and to gain the leadership in creating a brand.
We had to include a motive, politician had agreed on almost ten years ago. Langenhagen was defined as a city of mobility by inventing the slogan "Langenhagen bewegt".
Coping with a basic motive, that people don't see as a positive value:
A brand only functions, if you can convince the population to stand behind it. Mobility in Langenhagen nowadays is mostly transportation of goods, a strong connection to the local airport and a large amount of logistic industries surrounding the airport: Not the best precondition to form a brand, because the people of Langenhagen mostly relate mobility to pollution and noise.
But Langenhagen was a "traffic knot" long before the airport and the highways were built. It's economic success was founded by horse breeding and horse markets 400 years ago. Going back to history to show the context and the continuing story of success our city gained from mobility as an economic factor was our first step into winning the people of Langenhagen for our brand.
Our first success was a series of articles about the history of horsetrading in Langenhagen. People loved reading the interesting stories found in original sources on the internet. If your city has a lack of sources about its history we can recommend a search in Google books.
We found a lot of unknown sources, that weren't available in before.
Coping with personal interest of lobbyists and the lack of ambition for real co-working:
Our first big problem was to form a suiting circle of actors to help us with the realization of events and the dissemination of the brand. Bulding our brand on horsepower, it was decided to form a group of riding-actives such as horse breeders, representatives of riding organizations and entrepreneurs in the riding branch.
It didn't last long to recognize, that the lobbyists weren't interested in helping to create a brand for the whole city. Lobbyists and representatives of organizations always have in mind what's in for their special interests.
So we can't recommend forming a circle of activists, that are interested in the main branding subject but not in marketing as general.
Our hope to create a bundle of measurements to implement riding tourism in Langenhagen by bringing the organizations together for joint efforts failed, because there was a strong atmosphere of rivalry between the organizations. Efforts to promote Langenhagen together wasn't what they were aiming for.
Adapting the brand to changed working conditions:
So our next challenge was to adapt our brand to changed working conditions.
Mobility as the forming image of Langenhagen doesn't only consist of horses and transportation - there is also a wonderful rural landscape with ideal conditions for bikingtours.
Therefore the "FahrKulTour" was created and became the second success of our branding process. This special biking tour gave us the possibility to integrate the diversity of our landsacpe, of traditional places concerning horses and of modern industry around the airport.
By working together with local politicians, farmers and organizations we created four exciting tours and reached the aim, that guests and inhabitants found out more about Langenhagen.
Another difficulty we had to cope with, was the fact, that theoretical work on questions of city marketing was already made twice in Langenhagen and it wasn't popular for marketing specialists to participate in another process. Media had spread the failure of expensive city marketing processes twice up to 2009. Reading about city marketing and branding meant reading about the angryness of stakeholders about the failure of their plans and activities.
So we knew, that only a practical approach could be successful. With the explanation of the brand by historical information and by showing Langenhagen from a new perspective with our bicycle tours, we gained a lot of positive interest.
Winning the population to love your claim and brand:
The interest of the inhabitants is indispensable if you want to implement a brand, because the inhabitants have to be ambassadors of the branding to make it live.
To show the diversity of Langenhagen we created a traditional market on the ground of the eldest grange in privat property. The local organization of huntsmen worked on it together with us and brought in the idea of deerweeks in the restaurants of Langenhagen additionally. These rural elements of our program were another step to make our claim "PFERDEstärken" popular.
The people of Langenhagen always missed elements to be proud of, when thinking about their hometown. An exhibition "Success - made in Langenhagen" that showed a large varitiy of goods produced in Langenhagen in the past and nowadays was another element to make the people aware and proud of Langenhagen.
Finally we reached the basic aim to create a different view on Langenhagen and to make the people aware of the possibilities of their region. We founded a basis for a future city marketing with practical elements. The claim "PFERDEstärken Langenhagen" is well known and popular.
People became aware of a very special history and of the hidden beauty of Langenhagen. An important step - winning the population to be proud of Langenhagen was done. But there was something missing: An outstanding unique event that makes Langenhagen popular outside the region for a large and financially interesting target group.
Our approach to implement riding tourism failed as described before.
Creating a unique event for promotion outside the region:
So with the content of our brand in a narrow sense it wasn't possible to promote Langenhagen outside the region. The idea of a criminal festival brought the solution. We can really consider not to limitate ideas by asking whether they fit in a brand completely. The concept of our "KriminaLa" didn't seem to fit into our brand on the first step. But if you find a way to show sites of your city or points of interests and spread this quite widely, you can stick by your idea of a unique event.
The Langenhagen unique event came out to be our first success to be mentioned in overregional media, on television and radiostations a lot of times. And as we see it now, it fits to our brand in a wonderful way. Read about it here.
Recommendations for a successful work on branding your city:
So after four years of work on our branding process we can draw a résumé that might be helpful for other citys:
- You can't push through a branding without winning the population.
- You can't win the population with a mostly theoretical approach. Practical and theoretical work must be complementary elements.
- Perhaps you can't hold your brand in a very narrow sense because of your practical experiences. Be brave enough to integrate change and new ideas - even if the brand is coming out different in the end.
- Don't let lobbyists get into decision-making too much. Decisions must be made by specialists who focus on the target groups of the branding, not on personal interest.
- Don't fear elements of trial and error. A successful branding process will always have failing elements. That's normal - the only mistake you can make is to stick on your theory, when you find out, that it doesn't work in practice.
Text by Bettina Reimann