I had to forgive the author for mistakenly calling Qatar a city, (c’mon I know it’s small but not THAT small…). But I was soon fascinated by Macedonia’s ambitious method of reclaiming the ‘lost history’ of its capital city.
The Macedonian government pulled out all the stops to reconstruct Skopje’s ENTIRE central district in a ‘quasi-baroque’ architectural style. To complete the city-wide makeover, they ordered a fleet of ‘vintage’ London-style red double decker buses, plus building a wax museum, an enormous statue of Alexander the Great, and a whole assortment of fountains.
And this isn’t the first time it’s happened. Skopje first reinvented itself back in 1963, after a huge earthquake devastated the city. Back then, Skopje had been a trend-setter.
The article suggests that Macedonia commissioned the Skopje revamp in a bid to get noticed by the EU membership committee, and eventually join the EU. By carrying out this ‘traditional’ revamp, Macedonia is trying to reclaim its identity and present an image of an overlooked yet genuine European nation, with similar values and aspirations to the other EU states. And to avoid being seen as ‘just another barbaric state lurking outside the EU’s borders’.
I’d love to visit Skopje and see this unique facelift for myself. So I suppose the branding efforts have been successful in that they’ve piqued the interest of a potential tourist: me. It would also be interesting to see if Macedonia’s rebranding attempts actually help it to make the EU membership shortlist.
Of course there’s much more to successful place branding than simply presenting a pretty package. Authenticity is key. There’s a risk that Macedonia’s zealous efforts to recreate Skopje could be seen as overdone, fake, or maybe even as a source of amusement.
After all, being Europe’s unofficial Disneyland isn’t the most desirable place brand to have.
photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/42373177@N07/6936213447/”>Jason Drury</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a> <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/2.0/”>cc</a>