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Brand London: The importance of attracting investment and talent

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Brand London has been experiencing something of a renaissance recently – thanks in no small part to the Olympics and Paralympics. London 2012 created an image of the city that all Londoners could be proud of – a brave, diverse, open and confident place full of creative attitude.

It was arguably the first time the international community got a glimpse of the real face of modern London and not just the ?ye olde associations we ve become used to. The boost all this gave to business and tourism in the capital was huge. But if there’s one thing previous Games taught us, it’s that Olympic legacies don’t always last. And one year on, as that brilliant halo starts to slip, are we doing enough to build on the positive profile created by the games and cement those positive perceptions?

This was the premise for a panel debate Landor held at the V&A as part of the London Design Festival. We brought together creative leaders from fields such as property development, transport design, architecture and advertising to get their thoughts on London’s post-Olympics image. The argument I put to the panel was thus: a year on from the Games, very little has been done to capture and consistently project the image of modern London. What the city needs is a coherent brand image – one that can communicate associations that represent all its diverse elements.

Moreover, London should have one body with consistent oversight and planning for the brand. It is time the city’s image was managed properly and by people who know how. And why not finally give London an official logo” In 2009, the Greater London Authority launched the Brand for London competition, which aimed to create an identity for the city. But, nothing came of it. Is now not the perfect time to resurrect that plan?
After all, there is compelling business logic for properly managing London’s image. It could give us the edge in competing for visitors, business investment and help us to export our goods and services abroad.

The panelists at our V&A debate approached the topic in different ways but we all agreed that the image London projects to the world is incredibly important and yet the message that’s communicated is not always a positive one. Take the immigration issue. London thrives on its openness and ability to attract talent from all over the world. Therefore, any message that indicates Britain is closing its gates is bound to do massive damage to London’s economy. And, likewise, the ongoing debate over the UK’s membership of the EU – is this sending off the right message to our nearest neighbours?

To investigate the question of London’s image further, Landor commissioned a YouGov poll of Londoners. The survey found  that 51 per cent think it’s time London was represented by a single logo similar to those of other global cities such as New York, Berlin, Prague, Melbourne, Madrid, Stockholm and Dublin. Just 31 per cent disagreed. 

We also wanted to get a sense of the city’s values and qualities. So, we asked Londoners to pick three words that best describe London as a brand. The top three that emerged were: diverse (61 per cent), creative (31 per cent) and proud (26 per cent).

Other words included:

  • Resilient; 
  • Tolerant; 
  • Aggressive; 
  • Ambitious; and
  • Freedom. 

The findings suggests Londoners have a clear view of what the city represents. The challenge is showing off these qualities to the rest of the world. The GLA’s Brand for London competition could have laid the foundations for an effective plan for managing the capital’s image and assets. The fact nothing came of it was disappointing but the opportunity is still there. Let’s grab it while the incredible buzz of London 2012 is still fresh in our minds.

Peter Knapp is global creative officer at Landor Associates.

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