There are many definitions of “brand”. We all know the term, and yet we find it difficult to pinpoint its specific meaning. Put in the simplest of terms, brand is “a name which has a certain power”.
City brands are among the most complex ones due to the variety of elements they incorporate and the range of impact they have. Based on the experiences of city and place branding companies, the following four levels of customer expectations from the brand process can be distinguished:
1. brand = logo
2. brand = logo + visual identification system (VIS)
3. brand = logo + VIS + specific behaviours
4. brand = the city’s philosophy stemming from the identity of the place + specific behaviours + VIS + logo.
It is only at the fourth level that a brand can be truly discovered, defined and managed.
In 2007 the City decided to devise a long-term brand management strategy. Partly underlying this decision were the changes that Polish local governments were undergoing at the time as they set out to develop and establish their brands, and promote their regions to stand out against others. By embarking on this challenge, Szczecin became one of the trail-blazing cities which made it their point to build a new brand in a professional and carefully thought-out fashion.
The central idea was to look at the overall picture of the City by exploring and identifying its greatest assets. This helped to get a “bird's eye view” of Szczecin, offering insights otherwise not readily available, if not entirely elusive, for large groups of people. As a result, enormous natural potential was identified (greenery, water, space), and these assets laid the groundwork for the newly built brand of Szczecin. This led to a decision to take advantage of the natural wealth of the region to create the concept of a floating garden of the future, as encapsulated in the name Szczecin Floating Garden 2050.
A logo is a message addressed largely to a specific audience. It serves a number of image-building purposes, as described in the strategy.
The colours represent the mentioned natural assets (blue – water, green – greenery, white – space). This colour-based code also perfectly captures the goals of the Floating Garden strategy – to respect nature and foster Szczecin's perception through the lens of water and greenery.
The graphic symbol at the bottom of the logo signifies the expansive water and green spaces, entangled with each other to form a large space in one of the largest cities of Poland, one not to be found elsewhere on such a scale.
With Szczecin's name written as phonetic transcription, the City wants to highlight its open-mindedness and a welcoming attitude to all nationalities, as well as the embrace of creative pursuits within Szczecin, the unique presentation of its name being an example thereof.
“Floating Garden” is the City’s slogan, as well as its vision.
“Project 2050” refers to the objective, stretching the horizon of thought and action such that the projects and activities contribute to long-term goals.
“Floating Garden” is used as Szczecin's lead slogan because of the objectives set out in the brand’s strategy. One of the key reasons is that the City wants to reach out particularly to areas within the range of its impact, and these extend beyond Poland. In addition, our aim is to drive the City's perception across Poland through the lens of its unique location at transnational borders. Also, English is now the global language of choice, and the Floating Garden strategy is designed to deliver impacts not only on Polish, but also on international audiences. It is only natural, then, to use the English version.
Szczecin's brand has been implemented consistently from the very start. One of the outcomes, for instance, is the use of the Visual Identification System, including in public transport and the visually, architecturally and structurally consistent City Information System. The vision is also pursued through numerous investment projects, each year making Szczecin a more and more vibrant and robust city – most notably, the construction of the City Stadium, the Sports & Entertainment Arena and the Floating Arena Olympic pool facility. Also, parks and squares were regenerated to become leisure venues (e.g. Jakuba Wujka Sq., Janiny Szczerskiej Sq.) and old fire ponds were rebuilt into fountains (Zwycięstwa Sq., Janiny Szczerskiej Sq.). Moreover, Szczecin continues to carry out projects to make the City more environmentally friendly (for instance, the construction of the waste incineration plant Eco Generator and arrangements to export waste), accessible (large road projects, alteration of thoroughfares) and water-oriented (the regeneration of the Oder River boulevards and the construction of the East Marina, an up-to-date docking facility for yachts). It should be noted that one of the key points of the brand manifesto, stating that the City must boast a piece of architecture stylish and innovative enough to draw the attention of whole Europe, became a reality already at the very beginning of phase 3 of the City of Szczecin brand strategy ("touch the vision"). We are talking here about the building that is home to the Mieczysław Karłowicz Philharmonic Orchestra. In 2015 it was pronounced the best piece of European architecture.