Efe Sevin in this interview discusses exurban place branding opportunities, city brand strategies and differences in public diplomacy approaches in the US, Turkey and Sweden. He also shares his thoughts on Brand America and the American Dream.
Efe, your research focus at the moment is on exurban place branding. How can smaller urban centers in close proximity to larger metropolitan areas best brand themselves?
I would recommend cooperation. We are talking about areas that figuratively live in the shadows of the metropolitan areas. It is almost impossible for these places to compete with the urban centers in terms of infrastructure as well as goods and services.
For instance, Chicago has 25 Michelin-starred restaurants, whereas Evanston – the next town over – barely has 25 restaurants. It is possible to reach 80% of the US population with a 2-hour flight from Atlanta. Yet Canton – a city 40 miles to the north – is not even on the main interstate system.
Therefore, a strategy that complements what the metro areas have to offer (focusing on what they cannot) will be the most beneficial for exurban places – such as outdoor sports, specialized business areas, and unique culinary offerings.
Do you have examples of small towns and cities near metropolitan areas which have used innovative approaches to place branding to benefit from the proximity yet perhaps also healthy distance from metropolises?
I appreciate what Woodstock, Georgia has been doing – but then again, I live in Woodstock, so I might be biased. Recently, the city unveiled its new branding project, A City Unexpected. It positions Woodstock as a quasi-urban environment, which pushes itself away from being a bedroom community to Atlanta and towards a livable community. The city has been revitalizing its downtown through small businesses, increasing walkability through trails, and organizing events to create a community spirit.
The innovative part of this approach was to bring together two seemingly contrasting identities: a small yet diverse community, and an exurban environment with a city vibe.
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