Changes in the market – demand shifts or internal corporate transformations such as the introduction of new products and services – often lead to a revamp of the corporate image. The process of shedding the old image and emphasizing the new one is not easy.
Stakeholders must know what they’re trying to accomplish and identify the steps that need to be taken. Rebranding begins by asking the following questions:
Who am I?
Who do I want to be?
Why do I want to change?
What is my new target market?
What steps do I need to take to achieve this?
The same questions can be taken into account when planning an “urban rebrand” strategy. As we begin rebranding Palestine due to political changes as a go-to investment hub in the region, we must first identify what its current image is. Due to misrepresentation by the media, the West Bank is seen as a volatile warzone, void of resources, security and means of transportation. Income flowing into the economy has always been in the form of financial support and other charity initiatives.
The objective of the rebrand is to attract regional investors and property developers, in order to revive the economy by creating job opportunities and also to enhance the overall living conditions. With this strategy, we are targeting GCC investors and property developers based mainly in Dubai. Taking this into account, we began by identifying the communication approach, the steps needed and the issues to be addressed.
When it comes to a country such as Palestine, we must address the elephant in the room: the lack of security, resources and transportation. All three are associated with the Palestinian image and, hence, we must start moving away from it. Unlike a corporate rebrand, urban rebranding cannot be enforced using marketing material and logos, motifs and such. The new image is portrayed through architecture and master planning.
One of the most important steps of a rebrand is the internal communication to the stakeholders – in this case, the residents of Palestine. By changing the architectural language around them from the traditional style that has been duplicated for generations to a more contemporary and luxurious one, we begin to shed the image that has been associated with the previous political situation. The residents will then be able to accept that the country is open to new ideas, developments and a diverse community.
The same images of an architecturally diverse urban setting can be displayed externally using channels such as industry publications. The architectural developments serve more than one purpose: in addition to presenting a more contemporary Palestinian image, they also demonstrate the availability of materials and resources, as well as ease of construction.
Dubai faced a similar issue 15 years ago. As the city began to rebrand itself as a tourism hub, it realized that its urban image wasn’t tourist-friendly. The expanded layout and the lack of a grid system – such as the ones seen in cities such as New York and London – provided difficulty for visitors to explore it. To resolve the issue, the government connected the city by introducing the metro and the tram.
Once the new urban image has been emphasized internally and externally, internal political changes must take place. In its efforts to rebrand itself as a hospitable city, Dubai undertook several measures in order to appeal to the international community, in addition to easing the visa-acquiring process for visitors. On the other hand, Qatar hasn’t been very successful in its attempt to become more internationally friendly. Despite its success in winning the World Cup, it has done little to attract visitors.
The Palestinian government, in conjunction with the local Investment Promotion Agency, has eased the investment in the country by providing simple processes for acquiring permits, business registration and financing.
Looking at our target audience, it can be deduced that an inbound communication approach would work best. We are targeting decisive, savvy and logical businessmen looking for the next market to capitalize on. They are thought leaders, trendsetters and result-oriented professionals who are bombarded with daily proposals and investment opportunities.
By utilizing inbound communication initiatives, we can supply them with the information they need to make an informed decision about developing property in Palestine. Through channels such as whitepapers, newsletters and branded content, we will be able to provide them with statistics and case studies showcasing the benefits of investing in the country.
Branded content can be utilized in two different forms: industry-targeted advertorials and industry events. Both forms would need the support of brand ambassadors. As with corporate rebrands, our urban rebrand strategy will also employ individuals to act as representatives of the country. We are utilizing Palestinian businessmen based in Dubai who have previously developed property in the country and can share their success stories through industry advertorials or by speaking at industry events such as CityScape.
The brand ambassadors’ communication should highlight the statistical benefits of investing in the country and also assure prospective investors of the political stability. As with a corporate rebrand, consistency must be maintained. What many tend to do is refer to old brand values in the new communication, which in turn undermines the rebranding efforts. In this case, the concepts of charity, support and corporate social responsibility must be left out of the communication.
Digitally speaking, the introduction of an online information center will prove beneficial. A user-friendly website is needed, containing investment data, process outlines and infographics to provide prospective investors with the information needed to make a decision.
Dubai’s introduction of visitdubai.com and the Definitely Dubai app allowed tourists to plan their trips before arrival. Being able to get information from these sources about the city, such as the must-sees and the attractions, tourists were able to experience Dubai before ever setting foot in it. They could decide where to go and what to do, without being bombarded with activity-specific communication.
As with any corporate rebrand, the key to a successful urban rebranding strategy is consistency and clarity. All channels must communicate the same message and values in order to sustain the newly crafted image.