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Fajar Eko Antono | April 04, 2013 From The Jakarta Globe
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Fajar Eko Antono | April 04, 2013 From The Jakarta Globe
The development and management of the city of Jakarta is among Indonesia’s hottest national issues. Serving as the country’s capital as well as its economic and industrial center, Jakarta has always been a central focus for both policymakers and the public at large.
What happens in Jakarta indicates the progress of Indonesia as a whole to a certain extent; accordingly, its problems enormously impact on the nation’s psyche. This was certainly the case when many parts of the city flooded earlier this year and both national and international media outlets covered the events extensively.
However, one of Jakarta’s actual challenges nowadays is creating a strong brand of its own. In theory, city branding can be described as a deliberate process of creating, developing and demonstrating a unique set of values to make a particular city distinguishable from others.
Much like in the corporate and commercial sectors, a city’s brand represents its values as a marketable asset and its “promise” to its stakeholders. Furthermore, it serves as a tool for communicating its image to the rest of the world, which in turn will support its development objectives and agenda.
Now more than ever, cities are in fierce competition to seek attention from potential investors, visitors and citizens. Jakarta is a major metropolis in terms of its economy and population, and there is constant pressure to maintain its competitive edge against other cities competing for the same scarce resources.
It is crucial for Jakarta’s administration to manage the city’s brand and work hand-in-hand with other development agents. As highlighted by Van Gelder and Allan’s “City Branding: How Cities Compete in the 21st Century,” for a city’s brand to be successful, it is necessary for its key stakeholders to come together in a partnership.
In this sense, a city’s brand is produced by synergic and synchronized actions by all related actors, from government institutions, private companies, even down to individual citizens. There are cases where a city’s image is highly elevated due to its association to a particular city actor.
For instance, Barcelona enjoys the benefit of being the home base of the mighty and popular Barcelona Football Club; Rotterdam strengthens its historical roots by paying tribute to Desiderius Erasmus, a respected Dutch philosopher from the 16th century who was born in the city.
Considering the cooperative nature of city brand management, a city’s government must assume the leadership of a city’s brand. Creating such a formal (or informal) cooperation of brand management is far from easy, especially in the case of a huge metropolis like Jakarta, with its diverse and complex socioeconomical and cultural settings.
Developing a brand for Jakarta requires a thorough understanding of its present image — a distinct impression that instantly comes to mind when one thinks of the city.
In reality, this could be contrary to the current official brand that Jakarta presently portrays, represented by the slogan “Enjoy Jakarta.”
A simple way to get fresh insights into Jakarta’s image is by reading independent reviews, which nowadays can be accessed easily from a variety of sources. For example, from Wikitravel, Wikipedia’s open-source travel-guide platform, we can find information as well as recommendations about cities and places.
Unfortunately, many foreigners and visitors view Jakarta in a negative light. According to Wikitravel, a lot of people take great issue with the city and perpetuate negative impressions.
The following quotations taken from the site exemplify this: “Getting around Jakarta is a problem. The city layout is chaotic and totally bewildering.”; “Don’t expect a seat on the train. Most people stand — and those sitting, are mostly sitting on the roof.”; “As a rule, walking around the center of Jakarta is neither fun nor practical.”
On the other side, however, there are also promising write-ups about the city: “Jakarta may initially seem a bit overwhelming, but if you can overlook the pollution and indulge in her charms, you can discover what is also one of Asia’s most exciting, most lively cities.”; “If you’re stopping in Jakarta, consider buying an extra suitcase, because there’s lots of good shopping to be done.”
Recognizing Jakarta’s current image is important, since it can serve as a basis from which we can design its future perceptions, which will hopefully bring benefits to all of the city’s stakeholders.
This takes place in the form of loyal institutions, businesses and talented residents willing to remain in the city and contribute to its development.
Once established through a participative process, the intended brand must be implemented by all possible means: capital investments, physical and economic plans, promotion programs, mass events, public communications and so on. Effective implementation should also be combined with enough flexibility to adapt to new circumstances or the presence of new city actors, as brand management is basically a dynamic process.
Consistency is thus a critical success factor. This has been a problem, as most Indonesian local authorities now tend to govern in more pragmatic ways.
Looking forward, with Indonesia’s stable economic momentum over the past several years, it has paved the way for Indonesian cities, especially Jakarta, to seize opportunities and to cultivate benefits from government projects, as well as incoming private investments. With greater autonomy and more balanced fiscal decentralization, city governments are in need of new instruments to utilize all resources at hand to develop their cities to their full potential.
In the case of Jakarta, city branding provides guidance in which a city government’s policy, program and strategy are magnified by and combined with the enormous energy, creativity and resources of the private sector and communities at all levels.
Furthermore, by creating an excellent brand, Jakarta would position itself with more character and dignity on the global stage.
If the capital is to serve Indonesia’s national interests, it must work to achieve this goal.
Fajar Eko Antono is an urban development specialist at the Public Works Ministry.