City branding & social innovation

The city of Nijmegen had a lot to celebrate in 2016: the 100th edition of the world’s largest walking event, hosting the start of the Giro D’Italia and the opening of a new waterway parallel to the river Waal. For this newly dubbed ‘Crown Year’, we were asked to translate the identity of the city into a campaign to help connect a year's worth of celebrations. 


Where to start? A city like Nijmegen isn’t a singular thing, it is many things to many people. And even though it is widely known as the oldest city in the Netherlands and a vibrant student town, taking those starting points felt too thin.


There is another thing Nijmegen is known for: being a social town due to its ‘left wing’ political tendencies. People even mockingly call it ‘Havanna on the river Waal’. Where Amsterdam had positioned itself as the ultimate city for individuality by promoting ‘IAmsterdam’, we chose to go in the opposite direction by declaring proudly: ‘We Are Nijmegen.’ We added the & symbol as the visual expression of this statement of collectivism.


But a slogan and visual identity have no meaning in and of itself. We therefore set out to link this brand concept to various citizens’ initiatives containing strong social characteristics. We helped identify, and fund, these initiatives and through this process built a bridge between traditional city marketing and social innovation. The role of the municipality was to facilitate and stimulate these initiatives. This way, the citizens themselves were in the lead to give meaning to the new brand, which in turn fed the brand with authentic stories.


After the crown year, the city decided to take a new approach in their city marketing strategy, but Wij Zijn Nijmegen is still active in supporting social innovation in the city.