The idea of "branding" Hong Kong first emerged in 1997. At that time, much attention was focused on the return of Hong Kong to China, and there was concern in some quarters that Hong Kong might vanish from the international stage after reunification. Various strategies were considered, and the decision to develop Brand Hong Kong (BrandHK) was finally taken in 2000.
To prepare for the launch of the BrandHK programme, the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government commissioned a team of international communications experts to conduct research to ascertain the city's core values and attributes, and to develop a strategy to position the city. A year of extensive research and consultation was undertaken among opinion leaders in Hong Kong and overseas. The findings demonstrated that "Asia's world city" was considered to be the brandline that best reflected the city's unique features - that Hong Kong is a natural, vital and multicultural gateway not only to and from China, but also to the rest of Asia and beyond.
Research also showed that the top five core values associated with Hong Kong were progressive, free, stable, opportunity and high quality, while the most commonly perceived attributes were cosmopolitan, connected, enterprising, innovative and leader.
The challenge of designing a unique visual identity reflecting Hong Kong's values and attributes involved various international and Hong Kong-based design studios. Numerous designs were considered, and those shortlisted were subjected to rigorous tests in Hong Kong and abroad. The survey demonstrated that the visual identity finally selected – a dragon image incorporating the letters "H" "K" and the Chinese characters for Hong Kong – "香港" was well received and easily understood by both local and international groups.
The dragon also represented – and still does today – Hong Kong's continuing link with a historical and cultural icon. A combination of modernity and antiquity, the dragon also symbolizes the meeting of East and West that makes Hong Kong so special, while its smooth, fluid shape imparts a sense of movement and speed, recognising that Hong Kong is ever-changing.
Brand Hong Kong was launched in May 2001 before an international audience at the FORTUNE Global Forum in Hong Kong. Since then, using a well orchestrated communications strategy, Brand Hong Kong's visual identity and brandline have become familiar to people at home and around the world.