The slogan “Barcelona inspires” calls for a proactive approach linked to creativity, which entails not so much passive reception as the creative impulse and the ability to move others to action.
There is no better way into a city than through its name. The word Barcelona has four syllables. This euphonic vocable gracefully slides across five consonants and four vowels. Bar-ce-lo-na.
From a purely marketing and advertising standpoint, the names of cities are brands that define them and encompass their values and culture, their identity. In our globalised economy, increasingly detached from state borders and organised in a network of megapolises, a city’s reputation has become a strategic asset. The image of these brands has to be managed with a multi-sector vision, taking into account a multiplicity of audiences to promote their international competitiveness.
Barcelona is one of the cities with the best reputation on a global scale, as shown by the main international indices and rankings of city brands. To give just two examples, in the 2009 Anholt-GfK Roper City Brands Index, Barcelona ranked sixth in terms of global brand image, behind Paris, Sydney, London, Rome and New York, yet ahead of cities like San Francisco, Los Angeles, Vienna and Madrid; meanwhile, the Saffron European City Brand Barometer assessed Barcelona as the third-strongest European city brand, just behind Paris and London.
In spite of its success, the Barcelona brand runs the risk of becoming trapped in a stereotype based more on recreation than on business; more focused on the genius of Gaudí and Picasso than on the ability to inspire and generate new enterprises. “The motto ‘Barcelona inspires’ – which has become the leitmotif of all the City Council’s communications – is not a mere celebratory slogan, but rather an expression of the need to articulate and envisage a ‘new city and brand story’,” says Marc Puig, Director of Communications for the Barcelona City Council. “A story that means it is recognised and appreciated not just as a tourist destination, but also as a place that generates and attracts talent and new investment.”
The slogan “Barcelona inspires” is polysemous, inasmuch as it is a simple sentence, comprised of a subject and a predicate, and also conveys an invitation with something of a command about it. Unlike the imperative slogan “Barcelona, make yourself beautiful”, which urged the city’s residents to spruce themselves up for visitors, “Barcelona inspires” calls for a different proactive approach, more closely linked to creativity, which entails not so much passive reception as the creative impulse and the ability to move others to action.
Unlike campaigns such as “Barcelona, the best shop in the world”, which were intended for local audiences and fostered an idea of domestic consumer spending, “Barcelona inspires” is a much more open maxim that requires no translation from Catalan to Spanish and is easily understandable to speakers of many other languages. Hence, it is a slogan that is much vaguer but nonetheless has greater suggestiveness.
Above all, the slogan “Barcelona inspires” encapsulates in two words a whole new vision of the city. What is that vision? “The brand vision is ‘Barcelona, the city that puts people first’,” asserts Puig. “The city’s attributes should be welfare and economic progress, whilst never forgetting equality and the spirit of partnership. All of these values should support a social commitment based on a culture of happiness and a culture of innovation.”
Barcelona has always been characterised by its restless, nonconformist, open and entrepreneurial character; a character that has led it to become a global leader in fields such as architecture and city planning, culture, design and creativity, sport, tourism, food, medicine and social innovation. It is a restless city where people take centre stage. The slogan “Barcelona inspires” is designed to bring together under the Barcelona brand umbrella a number of strategic sectors that need to mutually reinforce one another. Thus, Barcelona has to position itself in the field of sustainability and compete in the smart cities league. The mobile world capital should take advantage of its status in order to become a hub for technological innovation. This laboratory needs to open up to the cultivation of talent intrinsic to possessing one of the largest and most diverse campuses in Europe, with thousands of students from all over the world. Barcelona is also an international benchmark in design, fashion and cuisine. Furthermore, it should be the epicentre of the Mediterranean and the logistics centre of southern Europe. Last but not least, Barcelona must consolidate tourism that is focused more on culture and sport as an essential part of its leisure activities.
Barcelona is, in short, the sum of many Barcelonas. Now the time has come to take advantage of the wealth it harbours in order to bolster its positioning, without losing its identity.