We can see that lately companies, people, cities, and organizations are looking for new senses. Brands and mottos change, but often the essence stays the same. Dmytro MELNYK, member of the WIKICITYNOMIKA city branding initiative group, is convinced that this situation is caused by the fact that the senses are not reviewed, there is no profoundness in the study of the matter. Three years ago Melnyk delivered a report on the development of any organism, be it a city or a corporation, at the TEDxDonetsk conference. After that, his team and he visited a lot of cities where they had large meetings with representatives of various social groups. Melnyk thinks that it is necessary to discuss the brand of a city with the city dwellers themselves. The Day wrote down Melnyk’s reflections on what format 2.0 city was and how Ukrainian cities created their brands.
“The notion of ‘brand’ starts and often ends in the minds if consumers as a business concept. They know how to treat it there, how to convert and manage it, and so on. That is why it has become so stable.
“There are brand people and brand trademarks, but if you look deeper, the very concept of a brand means a structure of senses. And as any other structure, it has a pivot. A brand is that very pivot. They say, all the Coca-Cola’s plants can be sold, but the company’s value will remain almost unchanged. This is so because there is a structure that contains the essence in it. Why did Apple’s stock go down when Steve Jobs died? Because his personality contained a huge amount of senses that related to the company. He was a part of this brand. That is why a brand is a system of senses which is contained within a certain essence: a company, a product, or a living creature. A company is alive as long as it has an idea, which is supported by its workers and creator of this product or company.
“20 years ago, B. Brown offered her model of Chicago’s image. And for 20 years, books were written and brand models of other cities were created based on her project “Chicago City Brand.” Brown offered to ask: what do the old folk and the young kids have that can be of a use to the city? When a system of economic measurement was implemented, tens of thousands of different resources were revealed. Brown offered a formula on how to use these resources.
“A mature person in a society is that third sector which is still ‘at war,’ perhaps. Such person looks for ways of improving the society they live in. Such people know how to get inspiration, they are constantly looking for something new, they are the driver of changes.
“All the cities were created at some point of time. But they were created for a reason, therefore, there was a structure of senses on what people had to be busy with there, what kind of lifestyle they should lead, etc. I loved when one Kharkiv philosopher said once: ‘The sense of Odesa, which is visible to a naked eye, is the port.’ But we understand that it does not mean anything to 90 percent of city residents now. For example, they created the following message themselves: Odesa youth is the smartest. It was strange for us to hear something like that. We came to Odesa right after visiting Mykolaiv, and students from this city always win first prizes at Olympiads and other contests.
“And what about Mykolaiv? More than 20 admirals lived there during the times of the Russian Empire. The city started with the Admiral and the Admiralty, and the year ended with the Admiral’s report. Admiral was the key person in the city, and this is a military position. This is the representation of intellectual of the highest rank. This is what formed the city and represented its brand. It was not workers and factories, but the Admiral and the Admiralty. And the city style reflected that also. Mykolaiv is very weak now. This is the city that steals and sells what it stole. Mykolaiv has a tragic fate. All the senses that were present during its creation are almost gone now.
Kharkiv was created in different conditions, at the intersection of trade routes. Kharkiv always had to live and survive based on personalities that brought some senses along. City leaders decided what would be built there, how it would be build, and how it would exist. Kharkiv has been like that for all its life, and it is not going to change. Because the only chance for the city’s existence is provided by responsible, strong-willed personalities who make decisions in the scale of the city. Now Kharkiv is depopulated. This city is dying out. 400 thousand people moved out of it. This is equal to population of Kherson. Anthropologists say that if nothing changes, in 70 to 100 years Kharkiv will become an anthropological desert. That is, it will turn into a dead city. This is an example of what happens when the city brand is lost or becomes unknown. The very reason why two million people should live in that place is lost.
Donetskis a very busy city. It does not need a brand yet. It is too busy with itself. It has plenty of kinds of life activities that require constant attention, and its people take care of that. Donetsk does not feel that, it seems like it does not care. And what is even worse, it is used to that. There is stability in Donetsk. It is not development, it is stability. There are some very interesting senses in Donetsk, the spirit of the city does not want to die. We should find out which way the city directs people’s attention and start looking there.
“Cities polarize people a lot. If you have any will power in you, you will like living in Kharkiv, and on the other hand, Odessa will have nothing for you. You need to be soft, flexible, multifunctional in the latter city. You need to accept that lifestyle, that sense, or look for something different.
“What is happening to our cities today? Disbelief, imperceptions, loss of these senses. Commitment to the old style does not fully take care of the sense of the cities. Who implements these senses? Only people. A thousand, half a million, one million people. They either join in and live there, carry this sense in them, they are like cells of one huge organism. But if a cell does not see all this sense, it becomes cancerous. These phrases are not new: ‘cancerous cells in the body of society’ is a well-established concept. These are the people who do not believe, do not trust, do not know, and do not even want to know that everything they did, the lifestyle they lead did not have that sense that should have been implemented.
“A brand unites. Take that part of it that suits you, and you will join something big. This can be expressed with the following words: ‘I do not know what this will give me, but I feel the world within myself.’ People understand that it is not the location and bright sign that will win, but something bigger, something that unites many more people.
“The power of authorities in small towns is strong, but it is different for big cities. What is the power of authorities in Kyiv? It is close to zero. Because this is Kyiv.
“If you really want the changes for the better to take place, if you want to live in a City 2.0 [society 2.0 – a concept that appeared by analogy with the Web 2.0 standard, which lets every user create and distribute their information and participate in the creation of common information resources. Information becomes a part of mass production. Society gains an open information model. – Ed.], you have to create it. And in order to create, you need to stop developing. Development is implementation of an old idea in new ways.
“Today the authorities conveniently rule over the immature society, because it is profitable. However, there are always mature people, there is a large number of them. If the voice of society is given to them, and the value of this voice is recognized, many things can be changed. And interim steps can be taken for that: events, places of meetings, anything, where representatives of youth, children, older generation address the mature people, then these people will let the world know about them. These people are humble and simple, and they create this world. They will be the one who create society 2.0. Youth can talk about this, but only mature people will be able to carry it out and fill it with strength. One of the most important and complicated tasks today is to return these people faith in future, which is quite vague now, return them faith in themselves.
“What saves our society? The inability of our state to take proper care of it. On one hand, it suffers, and it has developed a permanent state of pain already. A state of mental, spiritual, material pain. And the bigger the basis, the more care there is, the deeper the development concept penetrates, and therefore, there are less chances to create a new future. It cannot die, and it requires some attention, this is true. But those capable of creating a new society, even if they have not literally starved, they certainly were not cherished in their lives. There are two ways of solving the problem: these people either go to a place where the senses are defined and they are more relevant than ours. Or they stay and say: well, what are we going to do? And this critical mass grows. They say: ‘I know why I am not leaving and I already start understanding why I live here.’ The rest of people are the ones who live against something. There are very few of those who live for the sake of something.”