From Competing Urban Imaginaries to Cohesive City Brands - New Challenges for Local Governments

Bogdana NEAMŢU, Cristina Ramona LEUCA


The paper focuses on the issue of city branding and endeavors to highlight several of the challenges that municipalities face in the process of creating a marketable brand for their cities. While there is only one “real” built city there is a variety of urban imaginaries that coexist and often compete against each other for dominance. Besides city agencies, the traditional actors involved in the process of city marketing, there are other entities like urban lifestyle magazines, businesses, services industry etc, which are interested in marketing their own representation or imaginary of the city. The paper has a threefold structure. In the first section, it critically analyzes the concept of city branding and tries to highlight how it differs from traditional, product and corporate branding strategies. The second section discusses specific steps and strategies that a city can undertake in order to create a successful brand and positions such efforts in the broader category of local economic development tools. The authors conclude that city branding is more effective when integrated into the strategic planning process undertaken by municipalities. The last section tries to raise some concerns and challenges regarding the concept of city branding. The analysis highlights the fact that it is more and more difficult to talk about a single brand or representation of a city. As long as different groups separated along the lines of race, ethnicity, education, income produce competing urban imaginaries, city branding is merely about one group imposing its representation over the others.

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