To this day, I had several opportunities to develop intimate relationships with many cities. First came cities of my country: Ankara and Istanbul, then London which had influenced and inspired me a lot, followed by the city that I left everything behind for to build a new life, New York and lastly the place where I’ve been living more than 12 years, Los Angeles...
It is not only the nature what differentiates cities from each other and makes them irrevocable for us. Cities create their identities with the people who produce, consume and make decisions; thus creating a perception in our minds.
Dirty Arabs, barbarian Turks, thieving Italians, arrogant French, stingy Jews, loud Americans...
These are the stereotypes that result from our experiences or from our upbringing but we do not talk about it to avoid discrimination. Although it is not true for each individual, we agree on these general biases most of the time.
Countries and cities create an identity and brand value with their people, geography, administration and economy. The experiences in the city form a single identity.
Let’s take a look at Anholt-Gfk Roper’s list on ‘City Brands’ of this year...
4. New York
5. Los Angeles
7. Washington D.C.
In fact, cities are like protagonists in the movies. No matter how great the performance of the main actor is, the acting will not be valuable if the film itself is no good. At the same time, a good movie gives the main actor a chance to perform at his best. At this point, we can consider cities as the protagonists and countries as the movies.
The top 10 countries based on Future Brand’s Country Branding Index is as follows:
3. New Zealand
4. United States
The listings of the country brands show how individuals perceive them.
The attendees answer a total of 72 questions in different fields as varied as “Which country is better for investment?” or “Which country has the best night life?”
A country’s or a city’s brand value does not indicate how they really are. It shows how they are perceived from the outside.
EXAMPLE OF TURKEY
I would like to refer to Turkey at this point, as the country I have been handling the official tourism campaign of for the last 4 years.
Although Turkey is ranked 7th as the best destination, it is positioned 55th in country branding, appearing even below Trinidad Tobago and Namibia. Turkey has a very dynamic population, 50% of which is below 30 years old. It hosted 13 big civilizations, has a unique history and an exquisite natural beauty. So, ho did Turkey end up here?
FACTORS OF COUNTRY AND CITY BRANDING
There are 6 main factors that cannot be thought as separate in terms of country and city branding. Let’s analyze these one by one.
The well-known good and bad features of the people composing a country or a city.
Perceiving a French waiter’s impolite behavior as French hall mark or attributing Agca’s assassination attempt on the Pope at the Vatican as Turk’s barbaric attitude, whilst tourists gush on Turkish hospitality after a visit to Turkey are few of the many examples of how people affect perception.
These unique, personal experiences are what create a country’s or a city’s brand identity in such fast pace, and even with more cruel measures.
National and city administrations; the actions on human rights, democracy, environment, education, justice and the perceptions in the international arena.
Human rights in Turkey being the core query during Turkey’s EU process, foreign press’ 2nd paragraph references to imprisoned journalist with regard to Erdogan’s 3rd time election as the Prime Minister of Turkey, remembering Gaddafi and Castro when Libya and Cuba are mentioned, antipathy towards the US under Bush administration or attributing Berlusconi’s lifestyle to Italians…
Perceptional information on a country’s exported goods and its services.
For instance, assuming a Swedish businessman would never be late to a meeting on account of impeccable Swiss watches or holding different views towards a Jordan and an American scientist’s research results...
Think about the value BMW, Volkswagen or Mercedes add to German identity...
Once again, when we glance at Turkish brands among international circulation, we can easily realize the importance of this particular factor. It is not possible to talk about strong and stable positioning of any other Turkish brand around the world apart from Turkish Airlines’ breakthrough in the last decade and Beko’s recognition in Russia, Eastern Europe and Northern Africa.
On the top of it, think about Italy’s identification with Ferrari or France’s with the fashion house, Louis Vuitton. At this point, we can clearly say that Turkey has a very long way to go.
Both natural and man-made composition of intact elements; in other words whether a city or a country is worth visiting or not.
Turkey, listed as the 7th best destination and the 9th with respect to income through tourism according to World Tourism Organization, has a magnetic field grounded with its own values. But in order to create a strong country brand, more has yet to be done.
When we think of artificially created giant brands such as Las Vegas, Universal Studios and Disneyland, it is sad to observe that Istanbul does not have a recently built architectural piece bearing monumental value apart from its inherited mosque silhouettes.
Let’s take a look at an epitome of visitor attraction: London. Legislative Assembly Building, red phone booths, Tower Bridge and Big Ben are few of the many highlights of the city not to mention many more that were added through the last 10 years such as Ricard Roger’s Bulet building, Giant Wheel, Millennium Bridge, Millennium Tent and Tate Modern. These are the new significant tourist destinations in attempt to increment the brand value of the city.
CULTURE AND HERITAGE
A country’s history and cultural heritage, familiarity of modern cultural values… How the acquired culture is ruled with politics and the attitude towards that.
I would like to talk about this subject in two sections with examples: Historic cultural heritage and modern culture.
We can mention a variety of names from Nasreddin Hoca to Mevlana, Sari Saltuk to Karagoz & Hacivat accompanied by philosophy and tradition when talking about Turkey’s historic cultural heritage.
Around the world, Mevlana is known as one of the pioneers of Sufi philosophy and is an important literary figure, not to mention he is the best-seller poet in the US. This is one of the most important values that a country should hold on to. But, does Mevlana evoke Turkey as a brand? No. That’s because Mevlana is known as Rumi in the US and is thought as a value from Persia.
Does Turkey do anything to make this value pertain to itself? How many books have been published on Mevlana in international field by Turkish authors either in English or in another language? Are there any film productions on this subject?
Even though Mevlana was born in Iran, he portioned a considerable cultural heritage in Konya, Anatolia with his masterpieces and philosophies left unclaimed by Turkey. Indeed, we can find many more examples.
On the other hand, we are talking about modern values. Beyond advocating the past, we are also explicating today.
In 2006, a Turkish novelist was deemed worthy of a Nobel Literature Prize. This type of talent is what adds huge value to country branding concerning the cities that these brains write their masterpieces on. Orhan Pamuk and Nobel Prize influenced the world media and intellectual community drastically.
Let me sum up in note the news as a person who has been living outside of Turkey for the last 17 years, and observing the world press:
‘Turkish novelist Orhan Pamuk has been deemed to deserve Nobel Prize. 15 years ago, another Turkish writer Yasar Kemal was also nominated for the same prize.’
There is nothing wrong until this point. Let’s look at the latter part…
‘Pamuk was prosecuted last year due to his comments on Kurdish and Armenian problems, that are considered sensitive issues in Turkish community.’
Suddenly, you take your owned against yourself. You might not like his personal comments, but such values have more immunity and aura compared to the members of the parliament.
You can be political and highlight different values instead of these.
INVESTMENT AND IMMIGRATION
A country’s or a city’s charm for working and educational purposes, in other words economical and social invitation...
The Green Card Lottery, a life changing opportunity that has come upon for many years, is one of the best examples regarding this issue. We are talking about the added value of living the American dream. Similar examples can be mentioned referring Canada’s attitude towards accepting PhD degreed individuals for citizenship and approaching this as a government policy or Turkish universities’ charm on Turkic Republics, but going to England to learn English as a foreign language.
Together with my team, we are officially carrying out tourism advertisement campaign of Turkey for the last 4 years. In addition to Russia and CIS countries, this year we started expanding to the US, hoping to perform this fundamental task. Consequently, an increase of 25% in Russia and 30% in the US in terms of tourist arrivals were obtained.
However, as I mentioned before, tourism is only one of the factors that creates a country’s or a city’s brand value. Therefore, solution is to build a strong branding strategy that includes all 6 factors that we talked about before as well as ensuring a common language among the government, the private sector and the citizens; thus carrying the international perception into the right path.
WHO IS EMRAH YUCEL?
Emrah Yucel was born in Turkey, in 1968, as the son of a screenwriter mother and a film director father. While his father was working for the BBC at the time, he began elementary school in London. Those years influenced him to follow the path of a designer. After returning to Turkey, he continued his education and graduated from Hacettepe University. He subsequently received a master's degree in Art, Design and Architecture from Bilkent University. He also began his professional career during those formative years, representing his country in international exhibitions, poster biennials, following with two "Designer of the Year" awards in the field of graphic design.
In 1996, he moved to New York where he quickly established himself as a talented designer of corporate brands, posters for Broadway plays, and especially website designs during the infancy of the internet.
Through a headhunter, he joined one of Hollywood's powerhouse entertainment advertising agencies and moved to Los Angeles in 1999. As a senior art director, he created campaigns for several top feature films for Hollywood's major studios as well as designed other, highly visible domestic and international projects. He worked on many big box-office projects such as "What Women Want, Enemy at the Gates, Big Daddy, The Numbers, Shaft, 28 Days, etc..."
In 2001, he launched 'Iconisus Visual Communication Design' with his partner, an agency providing visual design, advertising, and branding services across a full spectrum of print, motion, interactive and other media. Under the umbrella of four different companies, he and his team promote a culture of creative exchange across different platforms.
Emrah Yucel is also the founder of the Turkish Film Council (TFC), an organization bridging between the Turkish film industry and Hollywood. TFC lobbies to promote the Turkish film industry in the US. Council's bill preparation efforts led the Turkish parliament to pass incentives, attracting foreign filmmakers to use Turkey as a location (The International, starring Clive Owen and Naomi Watts, shot by Sony Pictures in Istanbul, Turkey being one of them). With the new incentive law, Turkey joined the list of preferred countries.
Concurrently, Yucel is developing several film projects. ‘40’ is the first film of his career as producer.
He was a member of the jury at the 2007 Antalya International Film Festival, and the 2008 Lucie Awards (awarded in the field of international photography). Among the awards he has are Key-Art Awards, BDA Promax Awards, Webby Award, Sunset Billboard Award. In 2009, he and his team have been awarded the "Designer of the Year " title by International Design Awards. Most recently, the United Nations' World Tourism Organization has deemed his campaign for Turkish Tourism as the best 'country advertising' in Europe.
Yucel currently resides in Los Angeles with his wife and his two children.