Why One Size Fits All City Brands Are Doomed to Fail: And How to Do It Better

One-size-fits all city brands are common, but not always useful, argue Sebastian Zenker and Erik Braun in a recent research article. We asked Sebastian Zenker, Associate Professor at Copenhagen Business School, why this is a problem, and how cities can do better.

Sebastian, you recently had an article published in the academic journal Place Management and Development, in which you question the usefulness of "one size fits all" city branding strategies. What motivated you to address this topic?

There is still a lot of confusion about place branding – and especially what a place brand is. We are very proud that our original place brand definition is widely used, but it is “only” from a conference paper and we wanted to update this definition and make it accessible to a wider audience.

Foremost, during our studies and meetings with practitioners we often had the feeling that the power of a place brand was over-estimated. It was supposed to help in so many different areas, should address so many different target groups, and influenced by so many different actors. How can only one brand manage all this? Only if it is very vague and generic – so that all actors included can interpret it in the way they want. And in this case the brand has no power at all.

Thus, we want to help the brand managers of places – especially those that already work with branding and are in a more mature phase of their marketing activities.

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The Editorial Team

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