Does City Branding interfere in governmental decision-making?

In recent years, many cities have been getting involved in City Branding. A clearly-defined, well-developed image of the city does not only make a city more attractive but also allows for better business opportunities (tourism, students, investors, cultural and sporting events, etc.) and creates better self-esteem among citizens. This means that the government plans, communicates and promotes the city as though it were a commercial product or brand. City Branding is often confused with promotional or institutional communication but is much more complex as it involves many interested parties, different sectors and perspectives,” explained Mihalis Kavaratzis, who holds a doctorate in City Marketing from the Universidad de Groningen in the Netherlands and is an internationally-renowned expert in City Branding.

Kavaratzis has published many articles in research journals and has been a consultant in place branding and tourism development in many cities and countries. He delivered a masterclass to students on the Master in Political and Institutional Communication. “A good brand reputation can help the government of the city and political parties often try to appropriate the brand value and claim that they are responsible for success, which is never the case. It is correct that governmental decision-making can encourage and orient participation of stakeholders. However, many factors are involved which are intrinsic to the city and its citizens.” Kavaratzis claims that a strategy lacking citizen support will never succeed: “City Branding is only possible if we involve citizens, using it to make their lives better. What I suggest to governments is that they take the lead in communicating everything that happens in the city, adding brand value.”

Barcelona has positioned itself as a leading city with brand value, holding an admirable reputation envied by many other cities. The problem is to find out how this was achieved because it is not down to one campaign or one single event such as the Olympic Games. It is the result of various factors; people, circumstances, different sectors, investment, and other factors that have led to the current position.