Cape Town journeys towards a city brand

Following on from the success of the World Cup, Cape Town’s tourism authority and key city stakeholders are committed to moving swiftly towards a single-minded destination identity that positions Cape Town as a leading global competitor for businesses, investors, visitors, students and entrepreneurs.

Unlike traditional city brands such as London, New York and Paris, Cape Town is considered to be a challenger brand. Speaking at a recent Cape Town Tourism brand workshop, Cape Town Tourism CEO Mariëtte du Toit-Helmbold said, “We are an emerging player in a league with Melbourne, Rio de Janeiro and Barcelona. We represent possibility, inspiration, freedom, freshness, transformation and a vision for the future routed in an interesting and imperfect past. We speak to the heart.”

The Cape Town brand workshop was chaired by Guy Lundy, CEO of Accelerate Cape Town, who said: “Today’s world is an extremely competitive place. Differentiation is key; Cape Town cannot just be the same as everyone else. Therefore we need to create a brand positioning that is recognisable and understandable, and, very importantly, believable. We must also ensure that we can deliver on the promise of the brand. Perhaps most importantly, the Cape Town brand must be able to encompass business and study, amongst other things, in addition to simply leisure and beauty, on which we are currently overly reliant (which adds to our significant seasonality problem). It must also avoid raising the position of one sector and inadvertently killing off another.”

Du Toit-Helmbold added: “When we say brand, we do not refer to a new logo or a clever strap line, we are talking about a stand-out position and values that will resonate strongly with our own citizens and the world. Cape Town is iconic, complex and multifaceted. Her incredibly rich offering and diversity is our greatest opportunity as much as it is also our Achilles’ heel. With the World Cup having come and gone, we find ourselves in a brand vacuum. It is a dangerous place to be in the light of tough competition, a world still battling through a recession, and ever-changing consumer trends. We cannot depend upon the next big event to give direction to what Cape Town’s brand position should be. Although Cape Town is considered as one of the new cities to watch for 2020, I believe we find ourselves at a tipping point where we can either sink into insignificance or take our place as Africa’s top city and one of the top city destinations in the world to live, work, visit, study and invest in.”

The journey to a new brand for Cape Town started in 2008 with a series of workshops between tourism and business stakeholders and the City of Cape Town. At the end of 2009, the City of Cape Town mandated Cape Town Tourism to co-ordinate the development of a destination brand positioning, working closely with the Cape Town Partnership, Accelerate Cape Town and business leaders.

In October 2010, a brand workshop facilitated by leading brand strategists Rob Hill of Ogilvy and Mathew Weiss of Coley Porter Bell was held with a variety of Cape Town stakeholders from the tourism and creative industries, business, local government, academic and sport sectors. Over the past three months the outcome of the workshop, and research conducted prior to it, was shared with key partners to test the proposed brand positioning of Cape Town as a place of inspiration, and its relevance to all sectors.

While Cape Town is South Africa’s top international leisure destination, the new destination brand seeks to counter the perception that Cape Town is only this, by highlighting Cape Town’s strengths as a leading academic, medical, knowledge economy, business and events city.

The International Congress and Convention Association (ICCA), who recently ranked South Africa 34th globally and first in Africa for the number of meetings hosted, rated Cape Town as the leading meetings city in Africa, with a total of 49 international meetings held in the destination.

Cape Town’s academic offering is another key brand attribute. The University of Cape Town (UCT) is the highest-ranked African university in the Times Higher Education rankings and UCT’s Graduate School of Business was recently lauded as having the best value-for-money MBA by the Financial Times in their Global MBA Top 100 Rankings. 

Cape Town is also an increasingly fertile ground for the creative and design industries. Festivals like Infecting the City change the way citizens utilise public space, the annual Design Indaba Conference is praised as the top annual international design event, and the World Design Capital 2014 bid is testimony to the city’s use of design in transforming its social and physical landscape.

Concludes Du Toit-Helmbold, “The Communication Group in the UK defines a destination as ‘A place where people want to be. It is a special place, it is more than just bricks and mortar; it is a place whose greatest assets and experiences occupy people’s minds and hearts.’ It is time to redefine Cape Town beyond the well-known stereotypes. It is time to involve all the people of Cape Town to tell our full story, warts and all.”

Watch the unfolding story and join in on the conversation about Brand Cape Town by visiting


For further information, please contact Cape Town Tourism’s PR and Communications Manager Skye Grove at or +27 (0)21 487 6800, or see

Released for Cape Town Tourism by
Rabbit in a Hat Communications

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