How do you integrate an old donkey, an unwanted dog, a grumbling cat, and a screeching rooster into the modern marketing of a city? Not just with a pinch of Bremen self-irony, but also by adding a bit of serenity and wisdom. The Town Musicians of Bremen is one of the most widely read and best known fairytales published by the Brothers Grimm. It’s also a perfect fit with the city of Bremen, the epitome of courage, fearlessness, euphoric optimism, vision, and teamwork – values strongly associated with the city in the north of Germany. This was the starting point for a project given to the i/i/d, the Steinbeis Transfer Center Institute of Integrated Design. Its brief: update the branding of Bremen.
Bremen is a city, Germany’s smallest state (Free Hanseatic City of Bremen), and an important port and trading point for the automotive industry, shipbuilding, the steel industry, electronics, the food and beverages industry, logistics, and aerospace. It is currently home to 550,000 people, making it the 10th biggest city in Germany. It is an outstanding university and research city and it is popular among tourists. But what only few people know about the state of Bremen is that it is one of the strongest and most productive economic regions in Germany. In fact it even tops the export table.
In the battle to attract (new) taxpayers, qualified workers, investors, and tourists with money to spend, 76 of Germany’s largest cities compete for the number one spot as a great place to live. To hold its own against the competition (or even gain the edge), these days a city needs a clear image and an unmistakable identity. In short: a brand. Strong brands make it easier for cities to communicate and identify themselves. They also build an image from the inside out. The branding of Bremen was recently updated by the i/i/d Institute of Integrated Design, a Steinbeis Transfer Center, to provide the city with a visual toolkit that not only builds on its memorable trademark (the Bremen Town Musicians) but also gives it distinctive lettering and slogans. The Steinbeis experts also helped lay down a unique color scheme for use in different media, a new tone of voice for texts and pictures, and elaborate communication templates for print and online media. These all provide the city with a practical branding system. The experts know from experience that brand success is not dictated by creativity, but also continuity, avoiding arbitrary signals, continual repetition, and zero deviation. In essence, it depends on coherence through uniformity.
Bremen’s key visual signal is its trademark, a symbol which is instantly recognizable. By inventing the Town Musicians, the Brothers Grimm gave Bremen a likeable, internationally famous, and distinctive identifier. So the Steinbeis experts made good use of the four friends in the city trademark. They also used the Bremen state flag (nicknamed the bacon flag) as the basis for a structural template to divide the city’s brand label into two. This consists of a square and a triangle because the “two-city state of Bremen” also includes Bremerhaven, a port with a rich shipping heritage. To signal this, the brand device uses marine blue plus a new brand symbol consisting of a tall ship. This ship stands for change, a sense of adventure, and discovery. It also provides Bremen with an effective counterpart to stand alongside its Town Musicians.
The main slogans used by Bremen for the purposes of tourism will remain: Bremen erleben! (Discover Bremen!) and Meer erleben! (a wordplay me aning “discover the sea” that sounds like “discover more”). If Bremen and Bremerhaven need to be shown together, the two squares can be placed alongside the rectangle with the slogan Zwei Städte. Ein Land. (Two Cities. One State). To add to the main slogans used for tourism purposes, the project team came up with its own collection of slogans to be used when promoting different areas or activities. These make it possible to use slogans to refer to local parts of Bremen and Bremerhaven, or highlight different events or promotions.
Conveying the brand to the outside world will require the involvement of all key players in Bremen, as well as its establishments and companies. This will necessitate close collaboration, or coordination on a broader scale involving the city’s marketing department. A unique aspect of the marketing strategy used by Bremen is its co-branding. This can be particularly useful – if not wise – when budgets are being earmarked for bigger projects. This is because it allows the city’s bodies and departments to maintain control over content and design by ensuring that whenever the Bremen label is used, it also conveys messages about Bremen or Bremenhaven. Of course, this is in fact the original idea behind branding.
The new brand architecture also includes communication guidelines on the fundamentals of corporate designs for print media. The idea is to establish communication templates to emphasize recognition. In the future, clear user guidelines will be given to printers in the area to lay down permitted layouts and designs. These will help keep everything uniform and maintain central control without limiting the creativity of users.
Last but not least, Bremen will soon be launching a completely new city website to match the image of its new brand. This will pull together different content and information about the city, much of which was previously shared through different websites. This site will mark the first time Bremen has used the same channel to communicate with all target groups, whether they are at home in Germany or abroad, whether the content is targeted at potential students or day tourists, vacationers, art lovers, investors, or employees working for the many companies and scientific institutes in Bremen.
These days, pulling together a project of this magnitude and complexity – involving so many individual constituents, each carefully matched to one another, not just in terms of the detail but also the broader picture – would be impossible without transparency and the involvement of key players. It also takes multiple rounds of consultation and presentations to local politicians and industrialists, not to mention interaction with local citizens and any other parties, plus of course the people who will use the branding in the future. Apart from the satisfaction of coming up with strong branding, the fact that such a process works was probably the most valuable experience for the Steinbeis experts. The project carried out by the i/i/d Institute of Integrated Design once again underscored its expertise in managing such complex projects, even with so many different players involved – not just on behalf of clients at public bodies, such as city authorities and local government, but also research associations, networks, private enterprises, and corporations.