Traditional city branding doesn’t work


I know I said this blog was ending, but I am a novelist in my spare time. That is, a semi-professional liar.

Make Something Edmonton is a thing, and on March 21 it will be an official thing (get your free ticket here).

Some people have, quite rightly, worried aloud that it smells like a traditional city branding campaign. As I have written here, those don’t work. I have heard so many definitions of brand it only confuses me more, every time I hear it. If there is a definition I like, which goes way beyond the word’s historic roots, it’s “whatever I think about a thing.”

Other than that, for most people brand has become “a very expensive way to justify a new logo and tagline every two years, often using clichés and jargon.” City branding is a race to say “world class” in a new way.

This is precisely not what Make Something Edmonton is about. 

What we want is a story Edmontonians can tell, and anecdotes that prove it. We want Edmontonians to make something, to build something, and we want to celebrate it when they do. In my interviews, some people who were proud of PCL and Waiward Steel didn’t know about Bioware or Startup Edmonton. People who thought of the Fringe Festival as the most Edmonton thing there is didn’t know about Jet Label. Few of us understand the origins of this place, a crossing that has been a centre of commerce and culture for 8,000 years.

For now, let’s not think about marketing or branding. That idea you’ve been talking about for years? This spring and summer, take it from pints around a table to reality. You want to make the city more fun, more beautiful, more ridiculous in some small or big way? That’s the most Edmonton thing you can do. Go.

What are you making?

What are you making?





7 thoughts on “Traditional city branding doesn’t work

    • I think back on meetings when we worried if anyone would want to come to this. Then it sold out in 48 hours. We’re going to build ways for people to participate from afar, with the live stream. And local beer.

  1. Note to self: Get tickets immediately next time…if there is a next time. I have WAY too many ideas that I really need to get going on.

  2. Yeah it’s definitely my fault. I am sorry. But we’re looking at ways to include more people in the launch party. Maybe we’ll have a pile of them, all over the city. Then we’re going to take the thing on the road, over the spring and summer. And there will be more parties. The important thing, Curtis… start thinking about your project. Make something, sir. Invite us to your party.

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