Inside Superunion’s overhaul of Nantou City’s branding
Nantou City, at the center of Nanshan District in Shenzhen, China, has unveiled a refreshed brand identity as it looks to position itself as a melting pot of design, culture and creative industries.
Rebranding a destination is a much more nuanced task than rebranding a soap or a cola. And when the destination has 1,700 years of history and dates back to Jin Dynasty, it makes for an even more interesting journey.
Such was the case with Nantou City, which is also known as the ancient city of Xin’an, as the capital of Eastern Guangdong and as being at the center of population shifts and geographical revolutions of the major city of Shenzhen. It has since become an urban village and witnessed rapid development and urbanization, with the city’s brand management partner Josie Zheng explaining that these multiple identities “have caused an ambiguity of self-positioning“.
Zheng says that the repositioning of Nantou City needed to comprehensively take history, culture, urban renewal, social benefits and creative ecology into consideration.
Town developer and city service provider Vanke had taken over the renovation of Nantou several years ago and, alongside its large-scale city revamp, it appointed WPP agency Superunion to oversee and execute a complete brand overhaul. This rebrand includes “brand strategy, experience and communications planning, as well as a total revamp of visual identity,“ says Maggie Chien, business director of Superunion China.
Nantou City is a complex place with diverse groups, businesses and cultures, explains Chien, and a key element was “to extract the complexity and diversity into characteristics and strengths, and to find the uniqueness of Nantou City while keeping them easy to understand”.
Behind the city rebranding journey
The rebranding exercise helped clarify the positioning of Nantou City and the core characteristic to form a brand model including four key defining characteristics: live life, versatile, candid and sustainable, says Zheng.
The Superunion team conducted focus groups with the Nanshan government and with residents, as well as with the Vanke team, in order to understand different perspectives and expectations of the branding.
Chien explains: “We spent a significant amount of time crafting the core idea with the client team and making sure the new branding transitioned smoothly and could also tell a good story to attract more people to visit.”
Thus arrived the core idea of the brand refresh, ‘Collide to Create’, which strives to position Nantou as a place of contrasts and a meeting point for people and ideas to come together.
The city has been divided into four major parts – cultural and creative retails, trendy art experiences, high-quality and innovative F&B, and cultural residencies.
Going forward, plans are to build the city into a sustainable cultural center and integrate it with the local lifestyle while retaining the uniqueness of Nantou City.