Marketing the mCity: How a City Based ICT-Project Can Make Sense

Marketing the mCity: How a City Based ICT-Project Can Make Sense

Anette Hallin (Royal Institute of Technology, Sweden)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-134-6.ch014
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Information and communication technologies (ICTs) cannot only be used practically in marketing efforts, but also as symbols, due to the images and associations they provoke of for example modernity and speed. The marketing of a city through the use of ICT-images however, also involve risks, as ICTs among certain people also bring about negative associations. Therefore, marketers need to be aware of what happens with the marketing material after it has been developed and sent out. The main argument of this chapter is that sense making emerges through a dialogic process. By analyzing semiotically a marketing leaflet for the Stockholm-based ICT-project mCity, and two ads for Nokia phones that appeared in Europe at about the same time as mCity, this chapter challenges the traditional cybernetic sender-receiver model of communication, and proposes that when the sender has sent the message, the message becomes a speaker on its own, interacting with the listener through a dialogic process set in the mind of the lis ener. When understanding this, marketers should benchmark the use of ICTs in other contemporary media in order to ensure the success aimed for with the city marketing material using ICT-imager.
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Throughout history, images of places have been of interest to different actors. As early as in the Middle Ages, places like Jerusalem, Santiago de Compostela and Nidaros attracted pilgrims due to their images of holiness, and in the early 20th century, cities like Paris and Trieste attracted poets and artists due to their images of modernity and cultural creativity (T. Hall, 1997). Since the mid-1970’s, though, it can be argued that the development of strategic “place-selling” has been affected by the process of globalization, and in order to compete on a global market, there is a clear attempt to build an imagery suited for that competitive purpose (Harvey, 1989).

A more positive attitude among official policy-makers towards the market-forces can also be traced (Ward, 1998), perhaps because the upgrading of the image of a city can cast a “seemingly beneficial shadow” over the whole metropolitan region (Harvey, 1989, p. 8). At the same time, the responsibility of place marketing has moved from the national to the local or regional levels (Ward, 1998), and therefore, the branding, marketing and selling of the city have become important issues to city managers (Jessop, 1998). This is not the place of discussing the differences between these three concepts, but to only briefly say that they all deal with connecting positive images with the city. As “marketing” most often is used as the term denoting the practical work, this is the term that will be used in this chapter.

Different cities use different marketing-strategies depending on institutional, political and cultural factors (Chevrant-Breton, 1997), and so far, more research needs to be done concerning how cities work practically with these issues; which tools are used, how they work and their result. Due to the growing awareness of cities’—and the regions’—roles in innovation and regional growth, a renewed interest in how cities create attractive urban spaces can be traced, though, and this interest is directed, not only towards urban redevelopment through the building up of hard infrastructure, or the supporting of new firms entering the area, but also towards how cities work with tangible measurements and focus on constructing advantages. (Jansson & Power, 2007)

Traditionally, the cities of the world evolved as places of commerce and trade, and as centers of religious, military, cultural and political power. But today, cities—especially if they do not possess this historical heritage—need to construct their own images. In this process, one would expect cities to distinguish themselves from their competitors, but so far, many cities seem to have chosen similar strategies: they have built their story around promotional events such as the Olympics, the World Cup or other sports events; or exhibits and fairs, like the Cultural Capital, thus relating themselves to other cities which have adopted the same strategy. (Fainstein & Judd, 1999; Porsander, 2000)

To yet other modern cities, information and communication technologies (ICTs) have played a central role, making ICTs not only important in a material way, building the infrastructure of eGovernment, providing citizens and city-based companies with the means to communicate and carry out their business, but through their image qualities, lending to the cities all the notions associated with them. This is nothing new though, technology has always been connected to the idea of modernity, through its associations with energy and speed (Löfgren, 2001). Place marketing is full of metaphors of movement, speed and tempo, because to have a high level of energy has become quite important in a globalized world, where cities compete for investors, entrepreneurs and visitors. A place of ”energy” is also a ”modern” place i.e. a place of the future, and of future promises—associations which have been used in the marketing not only of cities, but of regions, where ICTs sometimes has been used since the area has a lot of ICT-related activities, such as Silicon Valley, and sometimes as the result of a strategic governmental intervention, as in the case of the Multimedia Super Corridor in Malaysia (Bunnell, 2003), and there are obviously many more examples.

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