3.6 City as Brand

“By manipulating the perceptions, developments can be set in motion which will ultimately bring about the desired image. By building a seductive image, a mental framework is created within which the city can blossom.” (Vermeulen 2002; p.16)

The city’s symbolic value may also be seen in terms of the way a city is marketed or ‘branded’ in order to promote it. The image that a city produces and portrays to us is what attracts us to visit or even live in that city. Through written and visual texts sculpted specifically to promote and reveal a certain aspect or interpretation of the city, that city is transformed into a ‘brand’ that is marketable; a commodity that is targeted to groups of people to attract them. Marco Vermeulen introduces these concepts of branding and also looks at how developments are aimed at influencing the brand (Vermeulen 2002). The ‘City Brand’ may be formed across a number of different interest groups, not always in agreement; government, planners, tourism boards, designers and architects will all have different concepts of how to contribute to the image of the city without a clear or cohesive idea of what that image should be. Often works may be undertaken to enhance this image without realising that it is often smaller, seemingly inconsequential details like a Sydney Ferry or the Paris Metro signs that make a more significant impact on the city’s image and brand. 

According to Berci Florian, city branding is important in a globalised world where, particularly in Europe, borders have disappeared; physically and culturally (Florian 2002). Each individual city is required to stand out and offer a unique experience that distinguishes it from other cities, a particular identity to attract people. The city has to also still contain a degree of the global culture, the city’s identity then becomes one of balance between conforming to the universal standards whilst retaining some unusual or particular features that ensure its survival as a unique city that people would be interested in.

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