Place branding

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Place branding (including place marketing and place promotion) is a new umbrella term encompassing nation branding, region branding and city branding.[1] Place branding is the process of image communication to a target market. It is invariably related to the notion that places compete with other places for people, resources, and business; the global competition of cities is estimated to host 2.7 million small cities/towns, 3,000 large cities, and 455 metropolises[2][3][4][5] Place branding can be defined as the process employed by public administrations to intend to create place brands. “A place brand is a network of associations in the place consumers’ mind based on the visual, verbal, and behavioral expression of a place and its’ stakeholders. These associations differ in their influence within the network and in importance for the place consumers’ attitude and behavior” (Zenker & Braun, 2017, p. 275).[6] It therefore aims to affect the perceptions of a place and position it favourably in the minds of the target groups. Place branding can even be considered as a “governance strategy for projecting images and managing perceptions about places” (Braun, Eshuis, & Klijn, 2014, p. 64).[7] Place branding thus suggests that places, cities, regions or countries could be considered as brands, as long as perceived so. In this regard, many public administrations are implementing place branding strategies.


Place branding practices started in the nineteenth century (around 1850 in the United States to attract population in rural areas, and later on for tourism purpose, especially in Europe, with famous posters of places). Only from 2010 there is a general trend to consider place branding as an emerging scientific field of study (see the comprehensive literature review of Vuignier 2016).[8]

The concept has been explored by different thinkers such as Wally Olins, Robert Govers, José Filipe Torres, Simon Anholt,[9] Philip Kotler,[10] Gold and Ward,[11] Avraham and Ketter [12] Seppo Rainisto,[13] Nikolaj Stagis and others.

Competition of a globalizing world[edit]

One of the tenets of place branding posits that the struggle for attention and preference is not limited to commercial goods and services; it applies equally to geo-political entities. Countries and cities compete for tourist income, business, and often tax bases; even within cities, there is a fierce competition between city centers vs. neighborhoods, big box retailers vs. main streets, shopping malls vs. traditional downtowns. Proponents of place branding argue that this heightened competitive environment makes it important for places, no matter their size or composition, to clearly differentiate themselves and to convey why they are relevant and valued options.

This view is supported and defended by Joao Freire among others.[14] He states that successful destination-brand management can be seen as an exercise of coordination where relevant variables; such as tourism infrastructures, quality of local services, and other destination-brand users need to be managed in order to achieve a coherent and desired destination-brand identity. Therefore, contrary to the popular perception that destination-brand building is solely an exercise in communication, destination branding is, in reality, an exercise of identification, organisation and coordination of all the variables that affect the destination image.[15]

Strategic vs. Organic Place Branding[edit]

The strategic application of place branding is growing with nations, regions, cities, and institutions as they realize they compete with other places for people, resources, and business. The phenomenon of place branding, as an organic process of image communication without strategy, has been occurring throughout history. Examples of strategic place brands are diverse and include Amsterdam's "Iamsterdam", Las Vegas's "Sin City", and Abu Ghosh's "world capital of hummus". Examples of organic place brands include Jerusalem's "holy city", Paris' "Illuminated City", and Silicon Valley's "tech capital."

City Branding[edit]

City branding refers to all the activities that are undergone with the purpose of turning a City from a location into a destination. "Successful branding", says Robert Jones, consultant director at international brand consultancy Wolff Olins, "can turn a city into a place where people want to live, work and visit".[16] City branding is often confused with City marketing. The difference comes from the fact that marketing uses consumer wishes and needs as its guiding principle for the operations of an organization, whereas in the case of branding a chosen vision, mission and identity play that role. City branding refers to the application of branding techniques to geographical locations in the widest sense of the word.[17]

City branding creates a single brand for the city and extends it to all its offerings and interactions. From a customer point of view, this creates a unique picture of the city at every level of interactions. This also helps in removing the need to present a case by case picture of the city for each of its offerings to the customers.

A city brand is its promise of value, a promise that needs to be kept. Good branding can assist in making cities desirable, just as bad branding can assist in making cities undesirable. Some examples of well-branded cities are New York City, San Francisco and Paris. It is seen that the successful city brands marketed their history, quality of place, lifestyle, culture, diversity, and proactively formed cooperative partnerships between city municipalities and government in order to enhance their infrastructure.[18] Equally important is the role of positioning in the branding process, i.e. creating a distinct place in the market for the city to occupy.


Place branding is a process made up of several sub-processes. Unlike branding simpler entities like a product, service, company, person or classical subjects of branding, place branding, and in particular nation and city branding, is a complex process. The complexity comes from the great diversity of stakeholders in the process.

In general, a place brand is derived from existing assets of the place such as its value offering or public perception. Otherwise, the place brand is derived from created assets, such as events, policies, abstract concepts of tolerance, and so on.

The derived image of the place brand is then communicated through communication channels. These channels vary and range from television advertisements to Internet marketing efforts. These communications are aimed at a specific target market.


Place Brands development (2000-2010), such as promotion in Russian Travel Market.[19]

Jerusalem has a clear city brand as a holy city. The holy city includes numerous significant holy sites such as the Western Wall, Church of the Holy Sepulcher, the Garden Tomb, and the Temple Mount. A study commissioned by the Swedish Research Council suggests that Jerusalem may be one of the oldest city brands, having undergone organic branding campaigns for centuries. Pilgrimage, the religious equivalent of tourism, has been part of Jerusalem's history for millennia.[20]

Las Vegas or simply Vegas is used by the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority as a brand to market the bulk of the Las Vegas Valley, including the Las Vegas Strip, Las Vegas, Nevada, Henderson, Nevada, North Las Vegas, Nevada and parts of Clark County, Nevada.[21]


  1. ^ "City branding: a state-of-the-art review of the research domain", produced by Andrea Lucarelli and Per-Olof Berg, Journal of Place Management and Development, Vol. 4 Iss: 1, pp.9 - 27, 2011
  2. ^ "Understanding Sustainable Cities: Competing Urban Futures", written by Simon Guy & Simon Marvin, University of Newcastle, European Urban and Regional Studies 6(3) 1999
  3. ^ "Global Market of Cities" Archived 3 October 2011 at the Wayback Machine, produced by Metti & Bronner 2011
  4. ^ Competitive Advantage of Nations, written by Michael E. Porter, Harvard University Business School, Free Press 1998
  5. ^ "Competitive Identity", written by Simon Anholt, Palgrave Macmillan 2006
  6. ^ Zenker, S. & Braun, E. (2017): Questioning a “one size fits all” city brand: Developing a branded house strategy for place brand management. Journal of Place Management and Development. 10(3), 270-287. Link:
  7. ^ Braun, Erik, Eshuis, Jasper, & Klijn, Erik-Hans. (2014). The effectiveness of place brand communication. Cities, 41, 64-70.
  8. ^ Vuignier, Renaud (2016), Place marketing and place branding: A systematic (and tentatively exhaustive) literature review. Working Paper IDHEAP, University of Lausanne, Switzerland, PDF available at
  9. ^ Destination Branding: Creating the Unique Destination Proposition, Edited by Nigel Morgan, Annette Pritchard and Roger Pride, Oxford, UK, Butterworth Heinemann 2002
  10. ^ Kotler, P. Haider, D.H. & Rein, I. (1993). Marketing Places, New York: Free Press.
  11. ^ Gold, J.R. and Ward, S. V. (eds) (1994) Place Promotion: The Use of Publicity and Marketing to Sell Towns and Regions. Chichester: John Wiley & Sons.
  12. ^ Avraham, Eli and Ketter, Eran (2008). Media strategies for marketing places in crisis. Oxford: Butterworth-Heinemann
  13. ^ Success Factors of Place Marketing: A Study of Place Marketing Practices in Northern Europe and the United States by Seppo K. Rainisto, 2003
  14. ^ Freire, Joao (2005). "Geo-branding, are we talking nonsense? A theoretical reflection on brands applied to places". Place Branding. 1 (4): 347–362. doi:10.1057/palgrave.pb.5990033.
  15. ^ Caldwell, Niall; Freire, Joao R. (2004). "The differences between branding a country, a region and a city: Applying the Brand Box Model". Journal of Brand Management. 12: 50–61. doi:10.1057/
  16. ^ Salman, Saba (1 October 2008). "Future of cities (Society),Communities (Society),Society". London:
  17. ^ "Brand Management bij EURIB: Van korte opleiding tot geaccrediteerde Master!".
  18. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 11 November 2011. Retrieved 20 February 2012.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  19. ^ Litvinov, Nikolai. Brand strategy of Places (Part 2) // Journal of Brand Management (Russia). — 2010. — №5(54). — P. 306.
  20. ^ Metti, Michael Sebastian (1 June 2011). "Jerusalem - the most powerful brand in history" (PDF). Stockholm University School of Business. Retrieved 1 July 2011.[permanent dead link]
  21. ^ Spillman, Benjamin (15 April 2009). "LVCVA: What works here, stays here". Las Vegas Review-Journal. Retrieved 15 April 2009.


  • Brian Lonsway, "The Experience of a Lifestyle," pp. 225–246 in The Themed Space: Locating Culture, Nation, and Self, ed. Scott A. Lukas (Lanham, MD, Lexington Books, 2007), ISBN 0-7391-2142-1
  • How to Brand Nations, Cities and Destinations, Teemu Moilanen & Seppo Rainisto, Palgrave Macmillan (2008).
  • Nation Branding. Concepts, Issues, Practice. Keith Dinnie, Butterworth Heinemann(2009).