How to build a top tech city brand

Quick, name two top tech cities. San Francisco, and, ummm…


Being a top tech city and being known as a top tech city are two quite different things. It’s an important difference, too. In a world where tech workers are in high demand, and cities are falling over themselves to secure tenants like Amazon and Facebook, being recognized as a tech city can have a very big bottom line impact, indeed.

The difference maker, I believe, is brand.

Here in Victoria BC, my hometown, we’re blessed with an exploding tech sector. Even better, we have an amazing tech city brand. At least part of that is due to the hard work and creativity of people like Dan Gunn, CEO of VIATEC.

I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Dan and unpack the elements of the Victoria tech city brand. Among other things, we dug into…

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  • What’s in a name – and why Tectoria (the name created as an umbrella for everything from conferences to VIATEC’s building) is a great one,
  • The complexities of creating a tech brand in a city where virtually none of the stakeholders – tech companies – sell their products,
  • The brand power in Fort Tectoria – an HQ that is open to the public as well as VIATEC staffers and stakeholders
  • The connection between tech, spilled wine bottles, and inflatable killer whales,
  • Creating a consistent brand code, and ensuring that code is based on the true personalities that live it,
  • Why orange is cool, especially as light bulbs in windows of tech companies,
  • The power of metaphors in describing an industry that is often criticized for hyper-complex, unintelligible communication,
  • Origin stories, and why they work for VIATEC like they worked for Superman,
  • Why evangelists are so much better than ad campaigns, and
  • Why tech industry leaders are coming to Victoria to study how Dan and VIATEC pulled this off.

I hope you enjoy the conversation. As you might guess, it’s jam-packed with brand information anyone can use – and there’s nary a tech term in the entire 30 minutes!

Practical lessons

Alright, alright, I hear you…you’ll listen to the podcast on your drive home, but you want some takeaways right now. Here are a few:

  • Know thyself – Victoria isn’t Silicon Valley North. In fact, copying a name doesn’t leave the impression that you’re in any way as good as the original. It just makes you look unoriginal. Check out this story on effective naming for more.
  • Your brand lives in everything you do – Orange, irreverence, location, great graphic design, events, personalities… VIATEC made sure their brand message was reinforced at every consumer touchpoint. This story offers up an embarrassment of riches on that subject.
  • Use simple storytelling – 90% of my business comes from sectors that have problems expressing what they do in simple english. The solution, more often than not, is to use simple parables, metaphors or stories to convey difficult concepts. Here’s how.
  • People are the best ads – There is nothing more powerful than hearing a heartfelt testimonial. That’s because an outsider telling your story is doing so ostensibly to add value to the listener’s life… as opposed to an ad, which is simply trying to extract money from the listener’s wallet. Here’s how to turn outsiders into powerful brand advocates.

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