An international brand resource for neighbourhoods, towns, cities, regions and economic clusters.

Loving where you live. Whether it's hip to or not.

Posted by Claire Matthews
I live in a great neighbourhood. Everybody knows each other and helps each other out, whether it's by lending out gardening tools or watching each other's kids. There's a rec centre, an arena, a library, a grocery store and two ocean-side parks within walking distance of my house. All the people who live here agree that it's awesome.

But if you asked someone in another area of this city what they think of my neighbourhood, they would likely curl their lip in disgust. They'd tell tales of gangs, crime, plaid shirts and mullets (OK, I admit that mullets are somewhat criminal).

It's hard living in a place that is perceived from the outside to be undesirable. Our neighbourhood is part of our personal brand, and most of us want that brand to be admired and understood. But people tend to be pretty cut and dried about their perceptions of places: Paris is cool. Zurich is not.

Canada is full of places that outsiders love to mock: Ottawa, Winnipeg, Saskatoon, Calgary (for some reason the Prairies really take the brunt of it – I think it's the cold weather). The Maritimes used to be uncool, but all the great music and TV shows coming out of Halifax have changed that. The biggest winner in the placebrand sweepstakes has been St. John's, and Newfoundland as a whole, which has gone from being the butt of juvenile jokes to being the coolest place ever to host the Junos.

So how do you change other people's perceptions? By believing in the place where you live, and never apologizing for it. By bringing people to see it and showing them how great it is. And – this can be the hard part – by electing politicians who have the will to promote and brand it properly. Not all municipal and regional leaders have the vision to do this, and not all voters see it as a priority. In my neighbourhood, more than 50% of residents are renters, and they don't always have the buy-in that home owners do.

As individuals, the best thing we can do is just keep working to make our "place" – be it a neighbourhood, a town, a city or a region – the best that it can be. Eventually, whether assisted by formal branding and marketing or not, outsiders will begin to figure it out. And when that happens, be prepared not to complain about the line-up at your favourite local coffee shop!

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