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Kryvyi Rih, Ukraine is looking for ways to boost its economy. (Federation of Canadian Municipalities)
Kryvyi Rih, Ukraine is looking for ways to boost its economy. (Federation of Canadian Municipalities)

Ukrainian city turns to Regina for help remaking its image Add to ...

There is no direct translation for the word “branding” in Ukrainian.

When representatives for Kryvyi Rih, Ukraine, speak through a translator about branding their city, they simply say “brand,” with a slightly rolled R.

“One of the reasons is nobody has been doing it until recently,” said Andriy Nahornyi, director of Kryvyi Rih’s City Development Institute. When the city of roughly 660,000 needed help with their approach to branding, they turned to an unlikely partner: Regina.

Last week, the city’s economic development team met with representatives from Regina and its Winnipeg-based ad agency, McKim Cringan George, for feedback on the new brand being unveiled. Regina rebranded with McKim’s help in 2008. Like Saskatchewan’s capital, Kryvyi Rih is looking to boost its economy by encouraging investment.

Managers from the two cities were brought together by the Ukraine Municipal Local Economic Development Program, a partnership program funded by Canada’s federal government and carried out by the Federation of Canadian Municipalities. The five-year, $19-million program began in 2010, encourages efforts at economic development through trade in 12 cities in the former Soviet Bloc nation. The program has also helped the city of Zhydachiv repair some of its historic and cultural sites in order to attract tourism, and Nikopol to create a business centre to provide support for small and medium-sized businesses.

“[The officials in Kryvyi Rih] understood that you have a brand regardless of whether you’re actively promoting it or not,” said Nathan Morrison, brand manager at the City of Regina, who has travelled to Ukraine three times since last spring to counsel city officials on the process.

“It’s an industrial city, with over 90 big industrial enterprises located within the city boundaries. And there is a perception that it’s a city with very poor ecology,” Tatiana Pidpalko, head of economic development for Kryvyi Rih, said through a translator.

The marketing campaign will highlight the city’s 16,000 hectares of green space, three theatres, 46 public libraries, museum of local history, and circus, among other attractions.

The rebranding approach developed by the agency is heavily research-driven. It starts by finding out what people say about the city, then narrows down perceptions that need to be addressed and finally captures feedback from focus groups. This method drove Regina’s branding and helped McKim develop a “brand book” with guidelines for future marketing and communications.

“Branding has a pretty big target on it, and it’s really open to a lot of criticism by the public, because people interpret it as you’ve spent all this money on a pretty design,” said Audra Lesosky, director of strategic services at the agency. “But it’s much more than that.”

Regina’s new brand and slogan – “infinite horizons” – was built for a city struggling with population decline and in need of a message that would help to reverse that. According to Census data, Regina’s population grew 8 per cent from 2006 to 2011, slightly ahead of the average 7.4-per-cent growth for all census metropolitan areas. While it’s impossible to say how much of that can be attributed to marketing, Mr. Morrison says the right message can have a positive impact on attracting residents and businesses to a municipality.

Kryvyi Rih’s new logo is based on the Cossack gunpowder horn already in the city crest, redrawn with layers of colour to represent the layers of red earth exposed during the mining process. Part of the branding strategy includes operational goals to improve the city – especially environmental goals, given its industrial footprint. Those include bringing in a regulatory framework for environmental protection, modernizing its recycling programs, and replacing outdoor lighting with LED bulbs. To modernize its industry, the city plans to establish a research centre in metallurgy, and create more research and development centres through public-private partnerships.

The new slogan, “Life Long City,” is a play on Kryvyi Rih’s long and narrow shape and, on a figurative level, a suggestion that the city has something for residents at every stage of life. The city has made its own brand book, based on the one that guided Regina’s branding effort.

Ms. Lesosky calls the new brand “dynamic” and “multi-layered.”

“In Ukraine, no one does this professionally. It’s a very new skill. That’s why the Canadian help was so valuable,” Mr. Nahornyi said.

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