City Branding

Government Branding – Boosting Municipality Economic Development

City branding is not a new concept, but it is a new practice. Until recently, city brands happened organically or even by happenstance. The most recognizable city with a brand that developed organically is Las Vegas.

City Branding

Las Vegas is known as Sin City because two city blocks allowed all vices. This was over 100 years ago in 1906. Since then the name has become synonymous with Las Vegas.

What Is City Branding

City branding is the act of defining the uniqueness of a city and then marketing that uniqueness to elevate the standing of the city on a local, national, or global scale. It is also known as:

  • Location Branding
  • Place Branding
  • Geo Branding

Benefits of City Branding

Why do you need city branding? Simple. The benefits of city branding can have a profound effect on the area, the businesses, and the local residents. Let’s review a few of the most important benefits.

1- Increased Recognition

First, when you elevate a city with the proper city branding that city will become more recognizable. At first, the city may only be able to elevate their status locally or regionally. But this will lead to the possibility that this city will be selected for some major state and regional events.

This may not seem like much but if the event goes well it will lead to the second benefit.

2- Increased Tourism

Second, every city wants more tourists. Tourism brings in money from outside of your city and injects it directly into your local economy. Then the tourists leave town after a few days. This is the best-case scenario. Your city will have people come in and spend money and then leave. So, your city economy grows but you do not have to deal with the added hassle of additional resident clogging roadways.

3- Attractiveness for Businesses

Third, as the city’s status rises so too will the interest of businesses. From regional and nation brick and mortar retail stores to international corporations looking to establish a US-based headquarters; there will be interest from a variety of businesses. Please note that it is important to consider businesses that would directly compete or potentially shut down local businesses.

4- Attractiveness For Investors And Developers

Forth, raising the status of a city will lead to an increased interest from investors and developers. These two parties will work together to find areas in the city that could result in a profit for them if they either remodeled some buildings and homes or built new properties.

Whatever they decide to do will, undoubtedly, result in a major benefit for the city.

How Does City Branding Help Residents And Local Businesses?

government branding

Check out the City of Canton Case Study

Growth of City Economy

As mentioned previously, tourists will come to the city and use their money that came from a different market and inject it into your local economy. The benefit of this cannot be overstated, as this is the number one cause for growth for any city.

Since the local businesses will see an increase in traffic from tourists, they will have additional money to spend. So where do you think they will spend this newfound wealth? You guessed it. In the same city where their business is. This will keep the money that comes into the economy from out of town, in the same city.

City Job Market Growth

Since you have so many tourists coming into town, you will see more businesses start popping up all over the area. Most of these will be locally owned small businesses. Again, this will only help the local economy more. The city will begin to see a drop in unemployment and a rise in average household income.

More Activities and Attractions

Your city will continue to bring in people from all over and it won’t be long before entrepreneurs recognize this and find a brilliant way to capitalize on the new influx of visitors. After some time passes and there is some data available on the types of people visiting your city the more business-savvy people will start businesses that appeal to the visitors so they can get some of the tourism money.

These attractions can range from driving a monster truck to industrial paintball. But we guarantee, whatever it is, it will be a direct reflection of the types of tourists your city attracts. As a bonus, these attractions also give your local resident more to do which is never a bad thing.

Increased Property Values

One great way to keep your citizens happy and draw in investors is to show an increase in property values. When tourists come and spend money in the downtown area of your city, that area of town will become more in-demand. This will result in there being a premium placed on the properties in those areas.

Additionally, the same is true for the residential areas of the city. When the commerce of the city increases there will be a ripple effect that will be seen in the residential areas of the city. This will start with the properties located closest to the areas of commerce and then ripple outward as more people begin moving into the area to take advantage of the new jobs that have become available.

How To: A City Branding Checklist

If you think city branding may be something your town needs, then here is some additional information to help you get started.

Step 1 – Establish The City’s Value Proposition

The essential element of any city branding campaign is the value proposition. The value proposition is a succinct statement that establishes the Why and the benefit.

To be specific.

A city value proposition is:

A statement that clearly communicates the benefits customers receive by giving you their business.

Do not makeup something that you want to be, or that you expect to be in the future. This will create unrealistic expectations for your visitors.

Step 2 – Be Authentic

The only way to be truly accepted is to be who you are. (That is what my Mom always said) Don’t try to promote who you want to be or even the one aspect of the city that you like best. Be honest and open about who you are. Failure to be authentic in your advertisements will result in a poor client experience and will ruin your reputation you are trying to build.

Step 3 – Focus On A Single Reason To Visit

To build a city brand that resonates with customers, you need to focus on one single reason to visit. What aspect of the visit will provide the most benefit for your audience? Additionally, you could frame it in such a way that the benefit you provide can leave with them.

A couple of examples to explain these concepts are:

Benefit while in the city:
While you are here you will feel like you are home. Come enjoy the hometown feel of…

Benefit after leaving the city:
Come enjoy the peaceful natural views of our mountain town. Breathe the fresh air and reconnect with nature. We promise you’ll leave feeling relaxed and ready to tackle the next challenge in your real life. And remember, when you need some clarity, we are here for you.

Step 4 – Redefine Public Spaces

Take advantage of the brand you are building for your city and create public spaces that reinforce why they are visiting your city. Use these areas to promote the culture, increase economic connections, or interact with a natural part of the town.

A great example of this would be, if your city brand is built around experiencing the outdoors, you could create an interactive and fun public space where tourists can do something outdoorsy. To be clear, build a rock-climbing wall or a zip line in town.

This will keep the tourists engaged and leave a positive impact on their experience.

Step 5 – Deliver The Experience From Your Brand Promise

A city brand is like every other brand. Consumers trust you because your brand represents a promise. As long as you stay true to your brand and always deliver on your brand promise, customers and clients will remain loyal. In fact, most of these people will become advocates and promote your city for you by telling everyone in their network.

As I mentioned in Step 4, when you are redesigning public spaces, take the opportunity to ensure you deliver on your brand promise.

Step 6 – Include The City’s Residents

Building a brand requires a “buy-in” from everyone involved. This includes all residents and business owners of the city. Hold meetings and release flyers to keep everyone up to date on what is going on with the new city brand. During the meeting make sure everyone has a chance to be heard and ask questions.

These people will be face to face with all of the tourists coming into town to spend their money. So, if your residents and business owners are not part of the branding process, they will have an adverse effect on the experience of people visiting the town.

Step 7 – Support Your City Brand With A Cross-Channel Strategy

The last step in the city branding process is so important. To organically increase the reach and impact of your city’s brand you will need to offer physical products and interactive attractions. Setup cutouts around the town for photo opportunities that can be shared on social media. And, every store visitors go into should have city merchandise. You will want to offer physical products like T-shirts, coffee mugs, and hoodies.

If these seem like trivial aspects of a city brand, we challenge you to scroll through your social media feed and look for either one of these. We bet you that you don’t get more than 20 posts before you see one of them!

How To Build Long Term City Branding Effectiveness

To ensure your city branding survives for years to come, you will need to do some additional work on the front end of the project. This may be the most important part so pay close attention. If you think your city needs a new brand identity, make sure they are able to commit the necessary resources for the foreseeable future.

Define KPIs

KPIs are Key Performance Indicators. You need to know what your goals are for undertaking this city branding project and establish what metrics you want to use to judge the performance of your branding efforts.

This will show you how well you are doing, and it will also show you where you may need to improve or adjust your strategy.

The City Brand Is Separate And Independent

This is usually the most difficult part of branding a city. The members of the council that is leading the charge will have to agree on 3 key parts.

Future-Proofing Your City Brand

Your city does not need to go through this every few years. You should have a brand that reflects the city as it is now and it should be able to do the same in 5, 10, or 20 years. Flexibility is essential to the long-term success of any brand.

Immune To Government Changes

Elected officials will come and go in the city. This is a fact of life. But the brand that is built for the city should not be subjected to scrutiny every time a new official enters the office. The brand needs to be insulated from the politics of the local government. This is done by making the brand adaptable to any and all potential government changes.

City Brand Management Team

This will be a new part of the local government that is detached from the political side and runs independently. This team must be given its own resources and a realistic budget to accomplish their goal of city brand management.

This team will be responsible for brand management, executing brand activities, brand interactions, and maintaining the overall brand strategy. This is not just a full-time job; this is a job that will require a team of people to manage all of the moving parts and daily operations.

This leads to the next point in the long-term success of city brands.

Building A Digital Identity

A digital identity is a far-reaching concept these days. Let me explain. You may think of the face of your digital presence as your website or maybe even social media. But the truth is your digital presence is on every platform. You may not use that platform but there are users on there talking about your city.

The big piece is, of course, the website. This will need to be easy to navigate and look appealing. Additionally, the website will need to have links to resources and local attractions. After that, you can set up social media accounts in much the same way.

But what most cities miss is social monitoring and social listening. This is the part where your branding teams will monitor the internet for any mentions of your city. This allows for more personal interaction with your brand. This is the kind of stuff that will help to set your brand apart.

Examples Of City Branding

There are so many examples of city branding from around the world that it is hard to narrow it down and just talk about a few. But, after some time-consuming research, we created a list with some of our favorites.

Coming in at number 1… you guessed it.

New York

What New York was able to do for their city brand is now seen as the benchmark for all others trying to establish their city as a brand. The “I Love NY” branding is known worldwide. You have seen this brand in movies, you have heard it in songs, and you have seen it on all different types of physical products from coffee mugs to t-shirts.

This level of acceptance is only available because of the residents and businesses. They know their city is one of a kind and they love it. The brand actually represents how the city’s people feel about it and this makes the branding genuine, which is why it is so effective.

Next, let’s talk about a southern city that got its brand organically.


Welcome to Music City! Nashville has historically been a center for music, but it wasn’t until 1950 when an announcer called Nashville “Music City” that the brand was born. Since that time musicians from all over the country move to Tennessee every year to be closer to the music scene and potentially get their big break.

When you ask anyone, now, what is the Music City? The answer is always Nashville. This is because they leaned into the name. They actively advertised it and did everything possible to attract as much talent in the recording industry as possible. Nowadays you can’t go out to eat without bumping someone in the music industry. You may not know it because maybe they are a producer or an audio engineer but those are essential elements for every album you hear. Those people would not be there if this was not the music city.

More importantly, the city’s residents and businesses understand why people come to Nashville. So no matter where you go in Nashville you will hear live music.

Marietta Square

Make sure you are paying attention here. The Marietta square branding project was not part of a full city branding. That’s right. You can brand individual parts of a city. This is not common but sometimes it is necessary because of the distinct differences between the city itself and the area you are branding.

For this example, let’s look at a breakdown of the Marietta Square Branding Project.

Marietta Square has a long and rich history, but it also has a progressive culture flowing through it. With historic architecture and brick sidewalks serving as a backdrop for undiscovered art galleries, hot restaurants, gathering spots, and great shopping, you find this is a truly unique area.

But there is no way of promoting the area because every resident and business owner describes it differently. That coupled with other issues like colors and messaging was the issue. The inconsistency all around the square led to confusion for anyone who visited.

To ensure we created a brand that would not only last for years to come but also pay tribute to the history of the square, we took to interviewing. It is not very high tech, we know, but that is why we chose to talk about this project. Sometimes you have to come out from behind the computer and really get a feel for the area and the people. We interviewed visitors, residents, and business owners to hear what they had to say about the square. Then, to ensure we covered the historical element we sat down with local historians to get the full story of the square.

This is an important lesson for any city branding project. Sometimes the best option is to go out and experience it and get some first-hand accounts.

Do you know any cities that have a unique brand? Drop us a line.