Place branding has become a vital city marketing strategy focused on soft selling factors of the cities. Place branding can foster the economic development of the city as well as to improve the well-being of its residents and visitors. According to Sebastian Zenker, Associate Professor at Copenhagen Business School, “it is the planned management of strengthening, changing, or creating the place brand in the mind of the place consumers”. Therefore, the branding depends on the intangible values created by the quality of places, the government’s approach in enhancing the infrastructure of the city, and the diversity of the citizens along with their culture, history, and lifestyle. Also, for the cities that have lost their fame over time or suffer from negative histories, the implementation of rebranding strategies with a strong brand management system can shape the perceptions to evolve with identifiable characteristics and a unique sense of place.

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Place Branding-Source: ©
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The elements of places to be considered for developing a place brand Source: ©

Placemaking is an effective Place Branding tool and this can be strategic, creative, tactical, or a combination of all these according to the context. Here are Five Place Branding strategies to turn a city from a location to a destination and selling it as a focal point to live, visit, or invest in real estate.

Sustaining a sense of place | Place Branding

Place branding “refers to the development of brands for geographical locations such as regions, cities or communities, usually to trigger positive associations and distinguish the place from others” – (Eshuis et al., 2014, pp. 154-155)

Cities are multidimensional and they evolve constantly. Therefore, to create a sense of place in a city, three factors are equally important and they are, creating a positive image of the city, establishing a place identity, and enhancing the wellbeing of the communities. These factors are interdependent in strengthening the branding effort and Strategic Placemaking as well as preserving the local memory can be the key elements to achieve that. 

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Place Branding©

By following strategic placemaking in Campus Martius, Detroit, the square has been redesigned which attracted more than $2 billion of investment within a two-block radius and another $2 billion attracted by next year.

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Place Branding©

Development of flagship projects

The major spatial implications through the flagship projects are proved to be a powerful tool for urban regeneration. The flagship projects “transform the area in two ways: first, by their presence, and second, as catalysts of additional capital investment by attracting consumption”. Not only through iconic architectural projects, but also through large scale urban projects in unused urban areas, the spatial qualities of a city can be successfully re-developed.

As an example, the Guggenheim museum in Bilbao is a transformational project developed with a vision to create a catalyst for redeveloping a declining industrial city which is also afflicted by Basque separatist terrorism. The project has proved to be a driver of economic renewal by creating a positive image of the city and originated the name “Bilbao effect”, which is a phenomenon of creating iconic architecture and cultural investment to uplift an economically declining city. A few more examples of transformative landmark projects are the Sydney opera house, Pompidou Centre in Paris, Oslo Opera House in Norway, etc. Although the key to the success of the flagship projects is the celebrity architects and internationally recognized developers, adding a ‘local’ dimension to these global projects can bring recognition of these projects to the surrounding neighborhood, minimize the socio-spatial segregation and avoid ‘sameness’ among all the global cities. 

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Guggenheim Museum, Bilbao Source: ©

Organization of hallmark events | Place Branding

This is a tool of ‘Experience City Strategy’, where the cities get benefited from the experiences they offer and the consumption of that experience becomes the driver of growth. The smaller cities gain exposure and boost their image by hosting international events and attracting tourists as well as new residents. Although this is a triggering process of destination branding, a dynamic interaction between that place’s core assets and the intended perception of the visitors needs to be maintained. The city can remain authentic or can reinvent itself through its associations with these events, but to achieve a long-term benefit through these temporal phenomena, a strategic event portfolio needs to be maintained.

There are many small cities like Herning in Denmark that have successfully invested in cultural and sporting events and managed to become a business capital and another Danish city, Horse rebranded itself from a rough neighborhood with a large prison by hosting rock music concerts. 

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Sports events in Herning, Denmark Source: ©
Music Concert in Herning, Denmark Source: ©

Fostering Creative Economy

The notion of ‘Creative City’ is highly associated with urban development. Therefore, many cities target educated and skillful people to live, work, and contribute to the economic progress of the city. The high concentration of qualified workers is not only a driving force of economic growth, but also triggers to develop the cities as ‘creative centers’ to provide employment opportunities, qualitative and affordable lifestyle opportunities, and quality city spaces and urban environments. Many cities like New York, Paris, London, etc. have successfully branded themselves to attract the ‘creative class’ with diverse lifestyle options. 

Place Branding-New York City Creative Sector Employment 2017 Source: ©

Media-generated imagery | Place Branding

Besides developing the spatial components of the urban environment, the non-spatial components also need to be improved as a promotional communication of the new city image. Besides the media reinforcements a tertiary communication that is ‘a word of mouth’ also needs to be encouraged to minimize the image-reality gap of the physical quality of the cities.

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Place Branding-City Destination Brand Identities Source:©

Developing a strong purpose is the first step towards the holistic development of the cities followed by exploiting all the available resources to ensure socio-economic success. Creating a resonance between the place, people, and the business, the true essence of the place can be grounded in reality. Moreover, to establish a sustainable brand strategy, necessary government policies, and a cooperation mechanism between the residents and municipal government need to be established from initiating growth to move forward to the success of the city.




Sudeshna is a practicing architect and urban designer who believes in collaborative approach for designing successful spaces. She is passionate about finding innovative and sustainable solutions to urban issues. Her avidity to design and enormous interest in research work has motivated her in voicing architecture and design through writing as well.