Opinion: The rebranding of London

How can we turn London from location into a destination? By branding and also changing its name.

Our city is a corporation and it’s about time it acts like one. That means having a clear value proposition, a strong identity, unique characteristics that can differentiate us from other cities around the world.

Ultimately it means that we need strong place-branding strategies to attract investment, people and capital to our city.New London

And yes, we need to be thinking big. We are in a global marketplace and if we don’t offer anything unique then we will become a sinking ship.

What comes to mind when you think of a city like Paris? Romance? How about Las Vegas? Sin City? Stratford, Ontario? Shakespeare Festival?

When I travel around the world, I’m often asked what city I’m from. When I tell people that I’m from London, they immediately ask “London, England?” Believe it or not, I even get that from those who are from our country. But, I smile thereafter and explain to them that there is another London situated in Canada.

If we want to compete with a city like London, England, it’s a losing battle. Therefore we need to be more innovative so that we are an international destination for business, tourism, and immigration.

I propose that we start a regeneration campaign to crowdsource ideas to brand our city and change the city’s name and slogan.

My initial thought was to change it to “New London.” The name speaks for itself but think of it like New York (which used to be called New Amsterdam).

If you think changing the city’s name is unrealistic, think again because Kitchener, Ontario used to be called Berlin and Mumbai, India used to be called Bombay. Beijing China, used to be called Peking and our very own Western University used to be called University of Western Ontario.

We need to sell London as a 21st century global hub where anyone can test and implement new ideas, new discoveries and new technologies.

Indeed, our slogan should be changed to “Tester City” or “Living Lab”. If it works here, sells here, and succeeds here it’s bound to be that way anywhere.

London has had a rich history and many success stories of creative individuals and companies who have changed the world and we must build our brand around that.

The federal government recently gave Fanshawe College $16.2-million to build the Canadian Centre for Product Validation. It is a national first and one of only a few such industrial product test centres in the world.

The Wind Engineering, Energy and Environment (WindEEE) Dome is another London asset designed to simulate localized, high-intensity wind patterns such as downbursts and tornadoes that have never been studied before. This facility has tested scaled structures as the World Trade Center, Sears Tower and Jakarta Tower, and even the Emirates Towers located in Dubai.

These are two facilities that already shape our city as a living lab.

Place branding is about how a community sees itself in relation to the rest of the world. It gives a distinctive, memorable voice to become noticed, build a reputation and sustain loyalty.

Understanding the value proposition of a community attracts the right types of businesses and allows existing businesses to cater to proper internal markets.

A strong identity is vital if you are competing with other places for attention in tourism, business or talent.

Branding our city on a global scale, changing its name and slogan may be a good start.

Amir Farahi
Amir Farahi
Amir Farahi is the Co-Founder & Executive Director of the London Institute. He is an entrepreneur, columnist, public speaker, and is currently specializing in Economics and Political Science at Western University.
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