What Brand is Your City?
Planning Commissioners Journal, March 23, 2010

Milton Glaser's famous logo for New York

Milton Glaser's famous logo for New York

Our friend Shilpa Sankaran, VP of Business Operations at ZETA Communities, pointed us to this relevant posting on PlannersWeb. While some cities’ efforts to re-brand seem forced or hollow, we think that a thoughtful and honest articulation of place identity can have far reaching positive effects. After all, any good brand is much more than a logo or slogan. It represents a whole mood, way of being, and gestalt that is inherent to a business, organization, or in this case, a place.

In our work at L Studio, we’ve seen how an effective ‘umbrella’ brand can actually help stakeholders, whose interests are sometimes in opposition to each other, work together toward common goals. Here’s to hometown pride.

Some interesting observations on branding come from Otis White of Civic Strategies:

… It’s infinitely harder to create a credible brand for a city than for, say, household detergent. … For one thing, cities aren’t discrete products. You can’t reformulate them, relaunch them or shut them down if they’re underperforming. Also, ‘place marketing’ almost always involves a lot of interests, some of which do not see eye to eye.

So is all this branding stuff hopeless? No, experts say, but cities need to proceed realistically. …  First, they shouldn’t aim to be too specific with their images; the goal should be to create an “umbrella brand” that nearly everyone can live with. … Second, branding efforts should proceed with a lot of public outreach. ‘To deliver,’ one expert said, ‘everyone must believe in the brand.’ “