Kathmandu, July 21
Kirtipur recently endorsed its brand slogan “City on the Hill” and shared its new logo in line with its brand. With this, it has become the first city carrying the branding idea in the country.
The branding is expected to help the city establish itself as one of the desired travel destinations among domestic as well as international tourists. A destination’s branding is widely accepted as one of the most effective tools of promotion of the place, as people can catch a glimpse of what the locals has to offer to its visitors. Becoming the first city with a label that speaks volumes about its identity has given unprecedented opportunities for Kirtipur to make way into the wish list of the visitors.
However, there are numerous challenges ahead that may be encountered while enjoying the benefits of the branding.
The phrase “City on the Hill” does not merely signify the geographical position of the city but also implies the unity of different communities residing in the place which is situated away from the chaos of the centre of the capital city.
The brand logo of the city symbolises the cultural aspect of Kirtipur with “K” depicting the eyes of Bagh-Bhairav which honors the protection offered by Lord Bagh Bhairav to the city and the colors Black/Red and Golden used depict the color of Haku Patasi, associated with the Newars of the valley.
Opportunities due to the branding
Place-branding is how a place positions and promotes itself and what values it tries to share with its customers. It gradually becomes an identity of the place which can guide government’s public-diplomacy strategies.
Further, it possesses ability to influence the preferences and behaviors of various actors of the place. These are the opportunities which Kirtipur has with its new brand. Kirtipur has now decided to introduce itself as the city on the hill which can offer a relief of fresh air, historical flashback and a panoramic view of the valley to its visitors.
The location is frequently visited by the people of Kathmandu Valley, however, mostly for the local cuisines since very few are aware of the other aspects of the city on offer. With the brand and the logo, visitors would have questions on why they have to visit Kirtipur. Upon looking forefor answers, they would come to know that merely few minutes of drive from the valley would open doors to a totally different place and experiences.
With the branding, Kirtipur has an unprecedented opportunity of establishing itself among domestic tourists. Above all, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic would add more opportunities as Domestic Tourism has been considered as the only winning tourism-strategy for 2020, globally. With so many restrictions in place for foreign travel and limited means of transportation, Kirtipur has the opportunity like never before to establish itself as one of the best travel hub among people of Kathmandu Valley. It is expected to develop into an automatic locus, with visitors increasing exponentially after the crisis.
The city can also utilise this chance to build a common vision among all the stakeholders of the city including government, policy makers and planners. All the activities and interventions of the city can be oriented with the common values which the brand has offered. The city now has opportunity to build its goods, services and talent in line with its brand.
The brand would imbibe the values and ideas which can be transferred from one generation to another generation. Usually the only means of cultural preservation is inter-generational transfer which the branding of the city would eventually ensure. The generations to come will internalise and promote the brand which reflects cultural values and norms of the city.
The main challenge of establishing any brand is the ownership by its stakeholders. The labeling must be owned by local people, promoters, government, policy makers, tourism entrepreneurs and other major actors of the city.
Here, owning the brand also means common understanding and orientation on the brand by all. Unless and until the brand is owned by all the stakeholders, its existence would be meaningless.
For instance, “Paradise Province 3: Crafted Heaven on Earth” was one brand which was hardly accepted by the stakeholders of Province 3 (now Bagmati Province). That there might have been flaws in the process chosen for the branding of the province, is another topic of discussion.
Another challenge a brand usually encounters is the threat to uniformity in the understanding. If a brand does not give a clear message to its stakeholders, there is a possibility it could fail. All stakeholders must be on the same page regarding understanding and orientation of the brand. Therefore, understanding, engaging and managing the brand by the stakeholders is a must.
Usually, brand itself becomes a promotional tool of the place once it gets established. However, prior to that step, we need to promote the brand in a manner that it would not need further explanation and description.
For brand promotion, we can have different targeted campaigns and activities. Recently in November, “32 hours in Kirtipur” event was organized by the local youths of the city in which visitors stayed in Kirtipur and participated in different cultural rituals like Mha: Puja with the local people. In the upcoming version we can name the same program from a branding perspective like “32 hours in City on the Hill”
Future of the ‘City on the Hill’
“I Love NY”, “Malaysia- Truly Asia”, “Amazing Thailand”, “Kerala-God’s own country” , ” Izmer- City of Frontiers” are some of established brands which do not need much elaboration.
It is because of the values these brands possess and the success these brands have enjoyed for so long. These phrases have proven that brands are more than just catchy straplines. ‘The City on the Hill’ does have opportunity to establish itself as the first preference among the travelers that seek lifetime experiences of scenic beauty, local Newa: culture and cuisine and an amalgamation of ‘smiles’ of different communities within a small place.
Sitaram Dahal is the Branding and Corporate Partnership officer at the Nepal Tourism Board
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