The latest issue of Cities is a special one focused on 'City marketing and branding as urban policy'. Edited by Institute Senior Fellow Sebastian Zenker, it contains a wide range of contributions on the topic from leading researchers, including other Institute Members and Fellows.

In his editorial, Sebastian Zenker states that

"The marketing and branding of cities have become important parts of urban governance. In the worldwide competition for tourists, inhabitants and investments, cities apply place branding to develop an attractive image and positive reputation. City marketing, meanwhile, is used widely to influence place-making elements such as a place's representations and policies. Almost all major cities now apply these strategies to improve their image.

In general, city marketing can be understood as the “coordinated use of marketing tools supported by a shared customer-oriented philosophy, for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging urban offerings that have value for the city's customers and the city's community at large” (Braun, 2008, p. 43). It refers to the application of marketing instruments to promote – and importantly, develop – districts, towns, cities, and metropolitan regions. To this end, practitioners leverage not only routine communication tools such as advertisements, but also social media (to create brand-communities and enhance positive place word-of-mouth) or the city branding itself (to trigger positive associations and position the city in a particular way). However, place marketing encompasses more than just place promotion: It also involves designing policies to improve places and their public management, such as attractive fiscal policies for businesses. This entails that policymakers accommodate the needs and wants of various target groups (ranging from tourists to residents to foreign direct investments (FDI)). In this sense, city marketing constitutes a strategic planning tool that places can use to envision their future and support structural changes in that direction.

For the last decade, urban researchers and marketers alike have grappled with the expansion of city branding, seeking to define it properly in order to harness its potential. Drawing on the branding literature, scholars have arrived at a widely adopted definition of the city brand: namely, “a network of associations in the place consumers' mind based on the visual, verbal, and behavioral expression of a place and its' stakeholders. These associations differ in their influence within the network and in importance for the place consumers' attitude and behavior” (Zenker & Braun, 2017, p. 275). This is not the only view of this concept, as this special issue will affirm, but all (useful) definitions agree that city brands comprise more than simply promotion through marketing communication; they also involve developing urban policies that imbue the brand with authenticity (e.g., spatial policies to become a ‘green city’). Because of its relation to urban policy-making, city branding always involves a high number of stakeholders, which necessitates discussions on who is producing and implementing place branding. Thus, city branding often leads to conflicts regarding brand content, which makes it difficult to encourage brand adoption among stakeholders. This special issue specifically addresses these kinds of conflicts, hoping to spur greater academic debate and empirical investigation regarding stakeholder management in city marketing."

Members of the Institute of Place Management studying on one of our postgraduate programmes can access the Special Issue, free of charge, as part of their library membership at Manchester Metropolitan University.