A City’s Brand – It’s about more than Rob Ford

I take branding really seriously. It matters. And not just for the company in question, but for everyone connected to it. Customers, distributors, partners, suppliers, etc. And what I see happening to the great city of Toronto is one of the most tragic examples of unjustified brand damage in recent memory.

There’s no reason for Toronto’s brand to be going through what it currently is, and I think that this is due partially to the parties involved not truly realizing the long-reaching effects this could have on the city as a whole.

For example, let’s take a quick look at what happens when the CEO of a major corporation goes off and makes an utter mockery of a once-proud brand. Simply look at what’s happened to brands like Lululemon, Abercrombie & Fitch, Kenneth Cole, and the likes simply due to some callous and ignorant comments made by their CEO’s. Their brand value has taken a major hit, and one could argue strongly that their position in the mind of their customers and in the marketplace may never be what it once was. Competitors with stronger, cleaner, more honest brands start looking really good to your customers.

What if that happens to the largest city in Canada? How will this stigma of the hot-headed crack-smoking mayor in a constant state of denial label Toronto to the rest of the world?

What will be the economic impacts? Will investments in business and infrastructure be scrutinized more closely before commitments are made? Will this result in businesses considering alternatives with renewed interest? There are factors at play here that go far beyond just ‘the mayor’. Some might need help with figuring out how to sell your company.

Right now, Toronto is a joke worldwide. It was funny for a while, then it got sad, then funny again, and now it’s truly distressing. And it won’t be something that is forgotten quickly. A city’s leadership matters just the same as a business’ leadership matters. Every brand has a figurehead, for better or worse. They embody the brand. If they aren’t aligned, there are consequences.

He needs to go, if for no other reason than Toronto’s brand can’t afford him. The city needs a leader reflective of the true nature of the city, and Ford is not that leader. He needs help, that much is certain. And at this point, so does Toronto.