city branding

As evident in Sao Paulo, London, Singapore, and New York, the diplomatic role of global cities is increasing.

We sometimes feel like L.A. gets no respect. This megalopolis of billionaire media moguls, extraordinary global food and influential SoCal culture is still often treated by New York media as a backwater of undiscovered delights. But at least the U.K.'s Guardian newspaper gets us. 

Cities can spend a fortune on branding and promotional slogans – but they don't always go to plan. Edinburgh's attempts to rebrand as "Incredinburgh", at a reported cost of £300,000, were scrapped. The city of Leeds got some stick a while back when it was noticed that "Leeds. Live it. Love it" bore a startling resemblance to "Hong Kong. Live it. Love it!" (The advertising agency insisted it had come up with the slogan independently.)

The inaugural Guardian Cities brand barometer ranks world cities on everything from transport and weather to crime and social ‘buzz’ – and they won't all be pleased with the results.

When my guide picked me up at the airport, she told me Bogota is a business city, not a tourist city. While she was an enthusiastic host and seemed to know everything else about her hometown, I had to disagree with her on this one.

The southern French port city of Marseille has taken a bad rap for years. It’s known for thefts, violence and organized crime. But the city had a chance in 2013 to clean up its act, by being Europe’s rotating Capital of Culture for the year. The title means money from Europe to spiff up and boost local arts. Apparently it helped bring in more tourists. But the jury is out on whether Marseille is safer now, and whether local artists benefited from all the hoopla.

The ACT Government will launch a $2.6 million campaign to promote Canberra in the wake of this year's centenary celebrations. The campaign includes a new Canberra logo to represent the capital city, with the letters 'CBR' standing for 'Confident, Bold and Ready'. The brand development is the product of a 15-month process, with the full brand set to be revealed in March 2014.

The bumpy ride in the rickety van heads up the steep hill into Morro da Providência, this city’s oldest favela. Last stop: a small, silent square with a hardware shop, bar and pair of young policemen in armored gear toting machine guns, patrolling the still-unopened cable-car station that the city has recently built. The port spreads out below. Spurred by two looming mega-events — the World Cup next year and the Summer Olympics in 2016 — local officials are struggling to reinvent this onetime third-world city with a first-world economy.