Branding Cities – Rémi Babinet (BETC)
Chairman and founder of BETC
The Brand and The Territory. This topic may seem surprising: the brand being a very commercial sphere ; the territory, a citizen sphere. However, one cannot imagine a brand without a rooting ground. A brand cannot exist if it does not build a territory of its own, even though this territory is fictitious, it still is framed by signs and rituals. A brand needs a territory. Both concepts are profoundly linked.
French are seen as the number one champions of “the local”, in times when everyone praises “the global”. If we take a closer look, that is plainly false. Beneath the power of globalisation, a very strong local trend lingers, with its differences, its origins, which must be told and staged. That is called “the brand”. And when a peculiar feature is sharpened, it raises great interest. It is the best way to become “global”.
The image of a city is founded by its narratives: stories of the past, the present, projections. It is the set of narratives produced by a large spectrum of spokesmen that help embedding the image and idea of the city among people.
Today we are facing a paradox. Brand storytelling means telling the story of trademarks. But global cities are more and more standardised, partly because of global brands. They replicate identical trends everywhere, around the world. It has eventually aligned them and scratched the valued picturesque image of cities. One of the main issues today is the coexistence between the commercial sphere that standardises cities, and the cities’ desire to exist by their own means and to promote their own features.
“And when a peculiar feature is sharpened, it raises great interest. It is the best way to become ‘global’.”
Chairman and founder of BETC
BETC supported the 2024 Paris application for the Olympic and Paralympic Games, against Los Angeles. Paris brand platform emphasized on its sharing values. The image of Paris is the most shared on social media. The city’s assets guided our brand strategic position and the “Made for Sharing” strapline. Territories can be encapsulated in a simple sentence, a unique trademark. Words are the city’s best promoter. They must be accurate and combative.
The Magasins Généraux is a brand that was at its very start rooted in a territory (Pantin, North of Paris). Its aim is to design new cultural concepts and to link city players who usually do not interact. The challenge of this project was to engage local people and Parisians in the territory. As soon as we settled, we managed to prove our interest in the neighbourhood life: our buildings were designed to be open and welcoming and we initiated partnerships with local communities, city councils and local economic players. Our attitude as we settled became a project.
We often hear about smart cities. This aspect of cities is quite trendy. But this concept refers to the city as a result. Whereas, it is through the work in progress, the collective building process of a city that it can make a lasting impression and mark a catchy image in people’s minds.