PLACE BRANDING

Romans used to believe that every place had a spirit. They called it “genius loci: the spirit of the place.” When Frank Sinatra said, “If I can make it there, I’m gonna make it anywhere,” he was referring to New York’s spirit. There is a reason why “What happens in Las Vegas stays in Las Vegas.” Likewise, it is not a coincidence that the “Velvet” Revolution took place in Czechoslovakia and that the two countries got separated peacefully.

To better illustrate genius loci, let us tell a famous tale, in which an anthropologist interviews a fish. He removes it from the water, then asks the following question: “When did you first notice that you were swimming in the water?” The fish mulls over and then says, “Right now!”

Locals of a place are not unlike the fish. When you live in a place you internalize its values and narrative. Those things become part of the collective unconscious. And that’s why the main difficulty of discovering genius loci is taking the stakeholders’ opinions at face value. When listening you must hear the literal, the metaphorical, and the archetypal voices.

The consultant should read between the lines, connect the dots, and look for patterns of repeated behavior. This can be best done by studying the place’s history, learning about its celebrities and heroes, and analyzing its proudest moments. These are all helpful ways to discover its genius loci as well as sacred values. Günter Soydanbay / Brand Strategist / I Mean It Creative

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