What’s in a brand? Why do we need a brand? Is “brand” even the right word? In the coming months, I’ll be working with the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce to lead a conversation around my region’s identity on the global stage.
Thanks to the hyper-competitive impact of globalization (and sometimes, “no thanks” to it), we find ourselves in an age of extreme sports “Hunger Games”-style, with cities pitted against each other in death match economic one-upmanship.
Forget about China against the United States, it’s Seattle vs. Charlotte. That’s why the Emerald City (Rain City? Cloud City?) has signed on to Brookings’ Global Cities Initiative. One of its three priorities? To establish a global brand for a city that has spawned so many global brands — Amazon, Starbucks, Microsoft, Costco, Boeing — but doesn’t seem to have a recognizable identity of its own.
Except for rain. It’s indicative of the challenge ahead of us that the relatively successful TV series The Killing is set in Seattle, but it’s not even filmed here (Vancouver B.C. as U.S. city stand-in yet again) and the monsoon-like rain is more characteristic of southeast Asia than that of the Pacific Northwest’s drizzle. And yet, it also rains in Portland, and they get their very own produced-on-location, Emmy-nominated show: Portlandia.
Maybe we need to own our rain; it’s part of our story after all. We should even own storytelling itself, which is the case I continue to make about Seattle’s unique community-based approach to communication, showcased in the 1st edition of a Seattle City Council coffee table book project. Hence the title to this post.
It’s fitting that a copy of the book arrived in my mailbox at the same time as a “thank you” gift from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation — a “The Only Constant is Change” clock (pictured above) — for hosting a conversation at their Adaptive Learning conference on the disruption coming to higher education. I guess no matter what we do in this transformative time, we must regularly recalibrate our relevance to the rest of the world, and how we are valued.