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A comprehensive approach to French regional branding

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Regional brands are now part and parcel of the French political landscape. But how do they integrate the “France” brand strategy in general and its digital technology in particular

The brand bazaar

The number of regional brands in France has multiplied over the past fifteen years. Ideally the result of consultation between stakeholders and based on an original design model, these communicational objects are now part and parcel of the French digital landscape, such as the OnlyLyon or ImaginAlsace[FR] brands that have attracted the greatest media attention.
As a communicator, for some time I have wondered whether these brands should not be coordinated. While implementing a national brand architecture would require having a France brand proper to begin with (the project is on standby and the website is no longer accessible), an overall approach would help to structure the multiple brand identities and promote their specific features, with a common base of French values such as expertise or creativity that can be capitalized and which are recognized worldwide.

Institutional logos

This coordination exercise has been proposed by Ruedi Baur and Sébastien Thiery, respectively a graphic designer and political scientist and designer, both of whom are members of the Integral Ruedi Baur workshop, which has focused on the issue of how to represent local institutions. Halfway between differentiation and synchronization, they propose to “make the Russian-doll structure of the political institutions of France intelligible.”
Réforme territoriale : repenser le logo - Cap’Com 2014
Their proposal highlights the importance of thinking about speech codes on a global scale, over and above political or administrative issues, the focus being on the benefits for users. Given the current slowdown of the European process, making the largest to the smallest regional brands more intelligible is probably a pipedream, but the idea should not be rejected outright, or risk an increase in the number of proposed values without any real differentiation between them.

A global architecture for governance

Despite the importance of coordination and the individual interest each of the projects, the fact remains that initiatives such as French Tech, Destination Contracts[FR] or Business France [formerly UBI France and the Invest in France agency (IFA)] are still not based on a common structure. We therefore need to have a national brand initiative that includes a thorough analysis of the various French regional brands already in use.
Like the ring invented by JRR Tolkien, an architecture of regional brands of this kind could be seen by the most refractory as a means if limiting their ambitions. Personally, I prefer to believe that consultation and coordination are the best way forward when a common good is concerned.
As far as their digital counterparts are concerned, the limited number of TLDs for the French Republic or its component parts (e.g. the .fr, .paris, .bzh, .re, .alsace, and .yt domains) provides their managers with a proximity that facilitates trade. The current situation, however, may be jeopardized in the coming years by the increase in the number of projects and stakeholders without any genuine collegiate will to coordinate them – like regional brands in France today, each of which could claim to be the sole representative in digital terms of French-style authenticity or innovation.