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The new face of Cuba

With recent news of Obama’s decision to lift restrictions on Cuba, it’s time to take a closer look at the image of this enigmatic little country.   Cuba has been suffering from US trade sanctions for a long time. The embargo was first introduced in 1960, shortly after Fidel Castro seized power, and has been extended at various times since then. Nevertheless, tourism has developed on the island, but catering...

Japan in da house

Last year, Japan scored its first top spot in a country brand index when it topped the charts in FutureBrand’s annual index. The FutureBrand index measures the strength of countries’ brands based on factors including the number of consumer brands the country is known for (an easy win for Japan with its multitude of famous names in electronics), its expertise across a whole range of consumer categories, plus its...

Revelations and reputations: 2014 in focus

2014 has been a particularly hectic year on the international stage. Notable events have included the rapid and malevolent rise of ISIS, Vladimir Putin’s takeover of Crimea and the resulting conflict in Ukraine, the alarming outbreak of ebola, and a number of tragic aviation accidents – in particular the mysterious disappearance of MH370, which remains unsolved. A number of countries have managed to tarnish their...

Shifting the tide: city branding in today’s urban ...

  A recent tweet from Malcolm Allan, director of Place Matters, said that place branding should ‘infuse town planning with new energy, insight and purpose’. This inspired me to put together some thoughts about major urban trends and the role place branding can play in boosting urban planning practices. Today’s cities have become places of abundance, underpinned by large, and often uncontrolled, amounts of...

Changing the world, one good country at a time

Hot on the heels of the Good Country Index comes another novel idea from Simon Anholt – the Good Country Party. In this in-depth Guardian interview, Anholt outlines his plan to change the world, which he admits is still a work in progress. He talks about his Good Country Party’s ‘natural constituency’, which potentially consists of around 700 million ‘new cosmopolitans’ (global citizens...

City Nation Place – New Place Branding Surve...

PlacesBrands is excited to announce our collaboration with City Nation Place for a new research survey of the place branding industry.  The goal is to benchmark best practice within the industry, and bring together a diverse range of people and organisations involved in place branding, placemaking, tourism marketing, inward investment, and events management.  While there are numerous indices published each year for the...

Rebel county, smart city

The smart city concept has been greatly overused and it’s all getting rather dull. But one Irish city is reinterpreting the whole idea of ‘smart’ to draw on its own set of strengths and assets. Check out my latest piece for CityMetric...

Introducing the Place Brand Observer

100 days in the life of The Place Brand Observer: Lessons learned 100 days are a long time, one should think. Truth is, time flies when building up a web portal and business. So let’s pause for a moment and reflect on place branding – this broad, interdisciplinary, emerging research field and increasingly popular activity.  Here are 4 lessons learned during the first 100 days of PlaceBrandObserver.com, our new info...

Overland to Sofia

Exhausted, I arrived in Sofia after a fraught overnight and overland journey from Istanbul. What used to be part of the fabled Orient Express route was now a motley combination of creaky buses and chilly trains. The Bulgarian morning was cold and I had no local currency to buy even a coffee. But my fellow travellers, surprisingly numerous for such an uncomfortable route, were friendly and a sense of camaraderie quickly...

Turkey and the Kobane question

Istanbul’s protestors are out in force once more. Last night, the streets erupted, with cars blazing, windows smashed, and volleys of the usual tear gas unleashed by Turkish police. But this was not just another anti-government protest. This time, much more is at stake, mainly the lives of hundreds of thousands of people. The world is angry about their impending fate, and wants to make sure the powers that be know about it....

Scandinavian sojourn

Today is my first ever morning in Scandinavia. It’s a completely new part of the world for me.  I’m in Stockholm sitting in a trendy coffee shop on the imposing Kungsgatan street, with a strong Americano making my head buzz. I’m considering my first impressions of Sweden, which, along with the other Nordic nations, is widely considered to be some kind of modern day utopia.  Of course one day is too soon to form anything more...