06.04.2023Brand Melbourne: beginning the discussion

Melbourne is known for its vibrant culture, liveability, and diverse population, with residents from around 200 countries that speak more than 230 languages. This cultural mix has helped to create a city with a rich tapestry of arts, music, cuisine, and cultural events, and of course an excellent coffee culture. And with record crowds recently attending events like the Australian Open tennis tournament and the Formula One Grand Prix, there is no doubt that Melbourne is a passionate sporting city. It is no wonder therefore, we are rated 4th out of 20 global peer cities for our experience economy and 2nd for our inclusivity and wellbeing.

However, with the population of Greater Melbourne set to reach 6 million by 2031, it is time to reflect and take stock about what we value about Melbourne and how to maintain it. As the city continues to evolve and grow, we need to consider how to maintain its unique character as the greatest city in which to live, work, invest and play.

That’s why the Benchmarking Melbourne 2023 report released in March this year, is so important. It provides a data driven assessment of how Melbourne is performing across areas like infrastructure, sustainability, economy and urban planning. The report produced by The Business of Cities, and commissioned by JLL and Committee for Melbourne, compares Melbourne’s performance against 20 global peer cities. It highlights Melbourne’s significant strengths in experience economy, and inclusivity and wellbeing, whilst highlighting that there are opportunities to improve.

We are rated 13th out of 20 for our whole city connectivity and technology, and 15th for leading edge innovation. These are areas that underpin our future success and therefore warrant attention. Those ratings are warning signs.

Melbourne’s growth has been historically underpinned by expanding suburbs and a strong CBD, and the report brings to light that this growth model might be under stress. Benchmarking Melbourne 2023 highlights that this growth model has led to a ‘Tale of two cities’, with an unequal distribution of green spaces, access to public transport, walkable restaurants and amenities – with those living or working in outer Melbourne potentially missing out. This risks Melbourne’s long-term reputation as Melbourne’s performance delivery fails to live up to its reputation.

Indeed, the report shows that there is a significant gap between Melbourne’s measures of objective performance and perceptions. Leading cities around the world strive to achieve a strong balance between them, but this report shows that Melbourne’s perceptions outrate performance. Indeed, the performance gap is so significant that it is only exceeded by two peer cities.

Whilst temporary visitors on the one hand tend to have a very positive experience of Melbourne,  realities of living in the city as a permanent resident expose this performance gap. Failing to live up to what people expect of Melbourne, may erode confidence among businesses and investors and cause us to miss out on attracting investment, skills and talent to the city.

It is therefore important that we are able to understand the components of the city that make up its brand, to ensure we are better able to articulate and deliver upon this proposition. If we don’t have a vision and understanding of our brand, how can we nurture and maintain it?

Melbourne’s brand is made up of the elements and characteristics that create a unique identity, and establishes trust with ‘customers’. A brand is not just a logo or a slogan; it is the sum total of all the performance, experiences, perceptions and interactions that a ‘customer’ has with the attributes of the city.

Whilst the sporting and cultural aspects of Melbourne are well known, how well are other attributes of Melbourne’s DNA appreciated? We have one of the largest, most successful biomedical precincts in the World. Australia’s Synchrotron radiation facility is located in Clayton and played a significant role in helping to map the molecular structure of the COVID-19 virus.

Melbourne is gaining momentum in its innovation and the start-up economy. Melbourne has achieved 4th in the world for the success of energy and environment start-ups at achieving real scale. From 2018 to 2022, the cumulative value of Melbourne’s start-up ecosystem doubled. It is now worth more than that of Barcelona. Ensuring that these achievements and skills are well recognised and embedded, will allow our innovation, research and commercialisation opportunities to further thrive and grow.

Other cities have grappled with how to develop a unified brand voice for their city and to articulate that on a world stage. Benchmarking Melbourne 2023 highlights that cities such as Tel Aviv, Maimi, Manchester and Stockholm have had success in creating collaborative networks to develop a brand proposition and support their future success. This has enabled Miami for example, to embrace and promote its trade, cultural, innovation and entrepreneurial skills alongside its ‘sun and fun’ reputation.

Understanding and supporting Melbourne’s brand, will require developing and articulating an agreed vision for the city. This requires collaboration and a unifying voice.

Developing and implementing Melbourne’s brand can unify urban planners, policymakers, and developers around the unique qualities of the city to ensure that our reputation as a place to live and invest can be sustained and promoted. The Committee looks forward to working with our members, government, community and stakeholders, towards a unified brand vision and strategy for our city.

For more information, contact Leanne Edwards, Director Policy & Advocacy, ledwards@melbourne.org.au

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