This is the fourth and final part of this series reviewing how your city can avoid being a bland imitation of other places.
Firstly, there is no one action or magic bullet that can save places from the Anytown, USA sameness trap. However, one thing is certain, and that is that it will take leadership and a holistic approach involving many local organizations, along with the support of residents. Among the considerations are:
- A clear vision that crystallizes the city’s competitive advantage and distinctive strengths.
- A brand strategy that embraces competitive positioning and is aligned with the vision. It should provide the guidance for compelling communications and delivering the city’s distinctive identity.
- A focus on what’s authentic and organic about the city.
- Develop a long-term tourism strategy that embraces Geotourism principles to focus on what sustains or enhances the character of the place – its environment, culture, aesthetics, heritage, and the well-being of its residents.
- Don’t settle for cookie-cutter designs and every development that is offered to the city.
- Identify, preserve and present the city’s heritage and stories. Tell the story in engaging ways for locals, as well as visitors.
- Invest in the city’s aesthetics and gathering places because these are focal points for both locals and visitors.
- Introduce development guidelines for buildings and signage that enhance heritage, streetscapes and viewing corridors.
- Urge hoteliers, restaurateurs and retailers to enhance the appeal of the community by developing sites that are sensitive to local heritage, materials and style.
- Protect and enhance community gateways and viewing corridors to provide a distinctive sense of welcome.
- Restrict or eliminate billboards because they can strip away scenic beauty and a community’s distinctive character faster than other factors.
- Encourage the development of experiences that provide opportunities to encounter the city’s authentic cultural and natural environment.
- Encourage residents, business, developers, and all relevant government departments to respect the city’s heritage and environmental context when considering new developments and restoration.
- Build community pride and ownership in what is distinctive and special about the city.
If a city is not clearly differentiated or remains in the shadow of its competitors, it will always be seen as a pale alternative, and proving that it is different, relevant and adds value will become increasingly difficult. The rewards for small cities that break out of the Anytown Syndrome are considerable. There are great opportunities for leaders to offer citizens a vision and policies that will retain and develop their city’s distinctive character and take the road away from being another Anytown.
Those that take the route away from Anytown status are rewarded with increased income, investment, talented new residents and a great place to live.
Recommended Book: Destination Branding for Small Cities