Saturday, March 10, 2012

urban storytelling continues elsewhere

I have decided to continue my blog activities on a new Wordpress blog. As from now, all new blogposts will be posted on

Hope to see you there,


Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Citybrands: the Power of the suppressed archetype

In hard times, look for the archetype that is suppressed. It fulfills needs people crave for, but that are not being addressed by other brands. When a brand is able to address these needs, it will unleash an incredible power. The same holds good for cities and their citybranding. In these complex times of crisis and uncertainty it is the archetype of the Innocent that is having a really hard time. The Dutch neighboring cities of Deventer and Zwolle have a strong case for the Innocent. Here's why.

Last month, the mayors of the picturesque former Hanseatic towns of Deventer and Zwolle, situated in the eastern part of the Netherlands, signed a covenant to cooperate on the theme of Modern Devotion. In the late Middle Ages, Modern Devotion was a reformist religious movement that started in The Netherlands in these two towns.

The cooperation speaks of lectures, exhibitions and reviving the movement. But the complete scope of its possibilities could be far greater. Zwolle has many resident artists that have a devotional streak in their work. Deventer boasts a highly successful nostalgic Dickens  Festival ( each year in december. It drew 100,000 vistors last year and 120,000 in 2011.

The Innocent city
Goodness, morality, mysticism, nostalgia, faith and optimism are qualities attributed to the archetype of the Innocent. The Innocent as a brandarchetype is visible in Christmas, Disney or movies like E.T. or Forrest Gump. But could it be visible in cities? Why not?

Both Deventer and Zwolle have a strong case to brand their city as the Innocent city. The authenticity of the experience people have, goes deeper than modern devotion. It touches upon a level of the soul that goes beyond the nostalgic morality of A Christmas Carol. It is about the yearning for paradise. It is about the promise that paradise can be here and now. It is also about the promise that if you fall from grace, you can be redeemed.

When mayors realize what potential they have in the urban story that lies below the stories they tell, they will strike gold. And the world as it is now, needs an innocent city.

(the picture of the Dickens Festijn is used by courtesy of, the Deventer Tourist Board)

Monday, December 5, 2011

Chrysler's Eminem Superbowl commercial uses archetypal power

Chrysler's Superbowl commercial 'Imported From Detroit' featuring Eminem is much talked about. Rightly so. It's also as much about branding Detroit as it is about the new Chrysler 200. What makes the commercial powerful and spinechilling is the use of archetypes. It's the story of the Hero standing up after countless blows and persevering, despite a sea of troubles.

Some compare the Imported from Detroit commercial to Batman - the black avenger driving in to save Gotham City. Others say it reminds them of Rocky. All acknowledge its power. A voice over recounts the many blows that Detroit has had to suffer and the pride the city has in its mastery of carmaking. Then, Eminem drives the new Chrysler into the city centre and ends up with a gospel choir in a theatre, expressing pride, faith and hope for the future.

Observe the use of the colour red (the Hero colour) in the commercial, which is originally called Born of Fire. Listen tot the staccato beats (Hero music). The commercial also uses the 4 levels of the Hero story.

The Call: a challenge beckons. Detroit needs you to help defend the city.

Level One: the development of competence and mastery, expressed through achievement. The voice over claims the mastery of Detroit in making great cars.

Level Two: doing your duty for your community. Eminem drives into the city, ready to fight for it.

Level Three: using your strength and courage for something that makes a difference to the world. Eminem joins powers with hope and faith, expressed in the gospel choir. He points his finger at you: "This is the motor city. And this is what we do." Make no mistake, we know what we stand for and will fight for it.

The Chrysler commercial makes use of the Hero archetype, powerfully and consciously. The Hero and also the Explorer archetypes have been used for cars for a long time, but Chrysler makes a difference in addressing all 4 levels. If they want to go on making this difference, Chrysler should stick to the archetype - which they appear to do, judging from their Imported from Detroit merchandise. If you want to order an Imported from Detroit T-shirt, the site says: Can you prove it? Do you have the guts to wear it? Very powerfukl stuff indeed

Friday, December 2, 2011

Branding cities by archetypes

How do you define the identity of a city? Is there a workable method to say something essential about something so complex as a city? Maybe there is. Over the past few months brandstrategists Brandfriend and I have been testing a method based on Jungian archetypes. This is not a novel approach in the field of brandmanagement. Check the groundbreaking work done by Margaret Mark en Carol Pearson in their book The Hero and the Outlaw. What's new is applying their archetypal branding theory to cities.

Brandfriend and I have tested the citybrand archetype approach on the Dutch twin cities of Nijmegen and Arnhem. Geographically close (a mere 10 miles) and well linked, they are also rivals in anything from soccer and festivals to attracting talent. The brandarchetype test revealed a Jester (Nijmegen) versus a Ruler archetype (Arnhem), exactly pinning the differences down to their specific character.

Archetypes play a vital role in myths and legends. They personalize our hopes, fears and our endeavours to make an imprint on this world, bring order to chaos, be part of a community or explore the unknown. Archetypes have dominated storytelling ever since man could tell stories. Many are familiar with the work Joseph Campbell did in the field of comparative mythology and the hero's journey. All truly great movies explore this journey-theme and make use of archetypes.

Brands are stories What are brands other than stories told? The world's best brands, as Mark and Pearson pointed out, know the archetypal power of their brand. Ben and Jerry's is the Jester brand - making fun and having a good time. Nike is the archetypal Hero brand, honoring the great sportsheroes in their flagshipstores which are none other than temples full of stories on heroism. Or Apple, who started out as the Revolutionary brand challenging the status quo, but who are now the Ruler themselves determining design and standards.

Citybrands are, well .. citystories If brands are about storytelling, citybranding should be about urban storytelling. The test is devised to provide input for the archetypal brand story of a city (or region for that matter). The test that we have developed lets people score on statements, questions, pictures and videoclips. Questions on the perceived character of their city, on the stylepreferences of the people, on the perceived organizational cultural values of their city and on the archetype of the city itself.

As branding is about positioning, we have people compare their city to another they know well. It makes for easier scoring when you take this approach. And it is more fun as well. We tested a live audience of 160 people from the cultural sector to have them determine the personality of Nijmegen as a creative city. Nijmegen comes out of the test as a 'loveable Jester'- a person who likes experiment and fun, caring for others as well. This was exactly the picture that came out of earlier in-depth interviews we held with nine well-known people in the Nijmegen cultural sector. Arnhem, on the contrary, was seen by Nijmegen creatives as a mainly Ruler archetype - structuring and deciding, focusing and acting. This is exactly the opposite of Nijmegen - something that was always felt.

What good is it?

Now you have your brand story, what are you going to do with it? Well, it is a compass for authentic citybranding campaigns. When you know your archetype, you know the motives of your people and brandmovies can tap into that. But it is also a guide for policymaking. The cultural values of a city - cultural in the sense of 'the way we do things around here'- determine which policy approaches would work and which won't.

Arnhem focuses on fashion and design. This is not only economically justified, but going for product leadership in specfic sectors fits the Arnhem archetype. If Nijmegen would go for a specific cultural sector, it wouldn't work. Their focus should be on the experiment and making experiments more successful, regardless of what sector the experiment is in.

Within short we will have an online version of the test as well, but right now we'd love to test more cities and position them on a wheel with the 12 archetypes. This will provide a deeper insight into the truly authentic

stories that cities can tell.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Citybranding: Eminem en Chrysler in Detroit

De speciale Superbowl commercial die Chrysler voor zijn Chrysler 200 maakte is een geweldig stuk citybranding voor Detroit. Geen flashy filmpje op 5th Avenue of een glossy rit langs Sunset Boulevard, maar Detroit wordt hier opgevoerd als decor. In het meest donkere uur van de veelgeplaagde stad, rijdt Eminem binnen als de Dark Knight die trots en geloof terugbrengt naar Gotham City. Gewaagd en veel besproken, maar ook meer dan 6 miljoen keer bekeken op You Tube. Zie hoe de rit eindigt bij een gospelkoor: de ziel van Detroit.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Studenten inzetten voor citybranding onderzoek

Studenten Branding van de Hogeschool van Arnhem en Nijmegen (HAN) kunnen voor uw stad of regio een merkonderzoek doen en merkpaspoort opstellen. Vanuit mijn docentschap Citybranding bij de HAN Faculteit Economie en Management is het mogelijk om een groep van 5 studenten dit als praktijkopdracht in het kader van hun opleiding te laten doen.
Het is gebleken dat een dergelijk onderzoek een uitstekend vertrekpunt vormt voor het denken over de identiteit van een stad of regio. Ook in het kader van beleid voor de creatieve stad zijn merkonderzoeken zinvol. Daarnaast kan een merkonderzoek dienen als onderlegger voor nieuwe citymarketing campagnes.
Zo heeft een groep studenten recentelijk een zeer goed ontvangen merkpaspoort voor de regio De Liemers gemaakt. Een nieuwe groep gaat binnenkort aan de slag met een onderzoek voor de gemeente Doesburg.
Voor meer informatie, bel Roy van Dalm op: 06 53 53 72 87