A City Branding Approach to the Queen of Cities, Istanbul. (Final Approach Blink#12) Market Attractiveness of Istanbul

Galata Bridge, Bosphorus Turkey Istanbul aerial photography.

Market Attractiveness of Istanbul:

Once we make a profound market attractiveness analysis for Istanbul, we will see all the before mentioned (Blink #1 to 11) – even more – differentiated aspects of Istanbul, unveiling absolute attractive points in order to make Istanbul a great City Brand.

Istanbul is where Europe and Asia meet with each other, not only geographically, but also culturally. Everyone can find easily the outstanding character of this confrontation. It’s a historical reality that East and West lived in Istanbul together. As far as I know, Istanbul is the only city which has two globally known different names as Istanbul (the current one) and Constantinople (the historical one). Turks and Eastern Romans established this character together. More than 550 years ago, The City had fallen into Turks’ hands but not the soul itself. Even the conqueror of the city, Mehmet II, did not want to ruin this soul. Because he knew that, a dual city would have been best suited to his ruler character and he permitted for that. When Europe and Asia were the only two-continents of power; by time, the city gained more and more to its’ dual character.

Additionally, to the above fact, Istanbul definitely surprises its’ visitors with a hospitable atmosphere. It’s hot, friendly and agile. From my point of view, Istanbul is most probably the most hospitable city in the world. Having said that, Turkish hospitality is very well known by its’ visitors and despite it’s a big and cosmopolitan city, one can easily distinguish the difference between Istanbul and its counterparts in terms of hospitality.

Consequently, with its’ unique dual and hospitable character combined with East and West, Istanbul is the only city which enables people from all around the world who want to live new experiences. This is a unique differentiation of Istanbul where you can’t find anywhere.

Brand Personality of Istanbul:

– Istanbul is Dual: The merged East and West in the body of Istanbul standing on the continents of Asian and European cultures.
– Istanbul is Hospitable: This is a reflection of Turkish culture to a great city.
– Istanbul is Agile: There is an endless energy that people feel seven days and twenty-four hours a day in Istanbul.

Brand Essence of Istanbul:

Being in Europe and Asia, is the core essence of Istanbul. I believe nothing would clearly describe Istanbul more than this essence does. This simply summarizes Istanbul. Istanbul is East and West at the same time. Should East and West present two powerful continents, two most populated continents, two different life philosophies, surely, Istanbul is two of them in the same body.

Istanbul’s standing on two continents was used in communication before, but still has potential to be sustainably managed in the future as well, yet it is the biggest differentiator of Istanbul. It can be used in all brand communication of Istanbul as the core essence, not being only a humble slogan or motto. The experiential side of Istanbul in terms of this duality, from inspiration to genius, from taste to continuity, from hospitality to coffee, from sea to cats or sound of the city, can work very well around this core essence.

Istanbul. Welcome to “The Queen of the Cities”.

Istanbul needs a sustainable “Brand Concept” that will inspire every discipline around its’ brand strategy management. Although I believe abstract concepts sometimes can be better suited for brand awareness; however, for Istanbul we need something else, something more genuine. Istanbul has not been made in the factory, but in a continuous history. So that, any concept that promises to increase its brand awareness, perceived quality, brand loyalty and brand associations, should convey the fact of why Istanbul, once upon a time, was called “The Queen of The Cities”. This is surely because Istanbul was the centre of attraction, since the Eastern Roman Empire was established in the historical peninsula by the Golden Horne and Bosphorus in 330 AD and later on it became nearly the most powerful city of its time, once the Ottoman Turks began to rule the world from this city as the capital of the Ottoman Empire. We do not exaggerate should we say it was a real “Queen of The Cities” for more than one and a half thousand years.

Brand Story of Istanbul:

The brand story of Istanbul should be aligned with its’ dual, hospitable and agile essence. Hospitality and agility of The City have to be maintained, while its’ duality goes to its’ deep roots to the history and geography in terms of The East and The West cultures that are completely the opposite of each other. This close encounter happened not only in the confrontation of continents of Europe and Asia in this city, but also on a cultural basis. The story is the story of merging enemies, merging different types of music, merging cuisines, merging languages, and so on. And yet, better to say, the best form of merging East and West in the body of a global city.

Brand Identity of Istanbul:

Istanbul has to be designed according to its’ Core Essence and the visual identity of The City has to be strengthen with the Brand Associations of Istanbul which are definitely Bosphorus, Topkapı Palace, Bridges over the Bosphorus, Saint Sofia, Suleymaniye Mosque, Galata Tower, Maiden’s Tower, The Golden Horne, Seagulls, Cats, Turkish Coffee, Turkish Delight, Turkish Cuisine, etc. It’s strange that it’s not very easy to find souvenirs of Istanbul that are the brand associations of The City. But this tool has to be strengthened in terms of quality, range of product and design. The brand associations must be more visible all around the city. One could be able to see Galata Tower when s/he is on the Prince Islands or the other way round. Brand associations of The City should be marketable every touristic point of Istanbul as well as the core essence does.

Istanbul on Marketing:

From my point of view, the Three Musketeers of a successful business are Branding, Marketing and Reputation Management. So far in this article, I have gone thru the branding site of this management. So now, I’d better go for the second one which is marketing, and I strongly believe that Istanbul is an easily marketable city. However, despite a consumer-oriented marketing understanding for Istanbul has been experienced so far; I can hardly say it was supported by a strong brand strategy. That’s why, marketing of Istanbul has always been affected by political issues that created reputation problems. And political bottlenecks made Istanbul very much vulnerable by time. Politics is an out of hand issue for branding and marketing professionals; however, a strong brand, which reasonably owns a clear brand essence and brand story, is better suited to the target audience. Branding is always a life saver.

For a better branding and marketing for Istanbul, in the above lines, I tried to underline an analysis period. This is so crucial that, there are many obstacles in front of a better marketing. Let me give you an example for why a strong strategy has to be written for Istanbul in terms of how to market it. We are sure of Istanbul is a Coffee City. But are we sure that all stakeholders and potential visitors are aware of it? If so and had this experience in Istanbul, do they desire to keep on living a Turkish coffee experience when they turn back to their homeland or they remember Turkish Coffee a sweet remembrance.

Let’s think Turkish delight and Turkish coffee together. Particularly, the awareness of Turkish delight all around the world is mighty, but even so, it’s not very much consumed in daily life of Turkey’s visitors. Likewise, Turkish coffee has the same destiny. On the contrary, it’s not very difficult to guess whether visitors of Tokyo consume sushi in their daily routine or not. In that regard, pasta for visitors of Rome or paella for visitors of Madrid, have the same meaning. Istanbul does not have a continuity in its visitors’ eyes not only product basis but brand basis as well. I haven’t seen so far, such a mighty shop where Turkish coffee machine is sold in the airports of Istanbul by incentivizing the visitors live a Turkish coffee experience in their homeland.  Yet, of course, it’s impossible to find any Turkish coffee in any super or hypermarket all around the world.

Is it that much hard? It’s surely not. But what deficient is a sound marketing effort. A question may appear asking how the end user would find Turkish coffee in retail, should they want to buy a Turkish coffee machine. But I guess, it shouldn’t be a big deal in this on-line world. I vigorously believe that there is great market attractiveness for Turkish coffee machine and Turkish coffee products in such countries and regions like Middle East & North Africa, Russia, Ukraine and Germany.

Istanbul has a great heritage for Turkish coffee. Historically, the story of Turkish coffee goes to the sixteenth century which is a splendid sovereignty time of Suleiman The Magnificent. For me, it is overwhelming not being able to make Turkish coffee a brand association of Istanbul. It’s not easy but it’s possible with a profound and experiential marketing effort.

When this objective will have been achieved, it will be working for Turkish delight as well. Since Turkish coffee goes very well with Turkish delight and this overall experience can be very much marketable.

“Turkish coffee and Turkish delight” experience is a great opportunity that Istanbul must not miss to possess as a strong brand association that has a potential to carry Istanbul to out of The City and create a brand continuity. Since it’s not only the visitors who want to buy the products of some cities they visited, but also strong associations can call the potential tourists to the city where they can live the original experience. Visiting Porto makes people seek forward a Porto vine, or the other way round, a Porto vine they had bought from a hypermarket can make them feel desire to go to Porto.

Brand associations are important for geographical branding both for a city and a country. Istanbul has to increase its assets whereupon. We did not get much benefit out of brand associations of the brand Turkey so far. For instance, camel is a brand association for Turkey where perhaps you can’t find ten camels throughout the whole country of nearly eight hundred thousand kilometer square. With special thanks to tobacco industry!

Turkish delight and Turkish coffee are just examples. Istanbul needs more marketable associations and products that attract the potential visitors with effective marketing activities particularly with more digitalised.


I believe, in fact, people do not visit the countries but the cities…

Istanbul is The City…

It’s the Queen of the Cities…

It’s obvious that Istanbul deserves more than it did so far in terms of having a tourism advantage not only by the numbers of visitors but the branding, marketing and reputation…

Strategy wins and winner takes it all…

Istanbul needs a profound city branding strategy…

It has everything a great city needs but strategy…

However, back in the day, we have a great city by the Bosphorus.

Published by HAKAN SENBİR

Brand Strategist.

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