A brand is a name, graphic, or sound that distinguishes a company’s products from those of the competitors. Branding has traditionally been applied to commodities. However, research by Hankinson (2001) concludes that “the branding of places and locations is not impossible” (p.1). A successful brand is readily recognized by many people, irrespective of whether they consume the products or not. Cayla and Arnould (2008) state that “brands have become ubiquitous in global popular culture. The Coca-Cola logo and Nike swoosh are brand symbols that trigger myriad responses; their cognitive salience and ability to arouse passion are undeniable” (p.86). Branding a city means promoting the city to associate it with certain carefully selected attributes. A city’s reputation is the estimation in which people hold it. Glückler (2007) observed that as “reputation is itself uncertain information, its reliability and credibility vary with the communication channel through which it circulates” (p.953). Fombrun (2008) adds that “reputations are useful earmarks not only for individuals and products but even for the largest companies” (p.4).
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Paris in France is a superb example of a successfully branded city. Many people positively associate it with romance. Baker (2007) states that “the thoughts and associations that come to mind with a city’s name are likely to have huge financial, political and social value” (p.28). The aim of branding a city is to improve its perception in the international community, and in so doing, bring in more business. A branded city is positively idealized. El-Amir et al. (2010) have observed that “in the desire to dominate markets, brands play a key role” (p.70). The branding city determines this view. In trying to brand a city, it is vital to project those values which are truly intrinsic to the city and which the residents can identify with. According to Kavaratzis (2004), “city branding is the appropriate way to describe and implement city marketing” (p.1). Any attempts at city branding would be seen as hollow and lacking in authenticity if a strong self-image and identity within her citizens is first cultivated. Indeed not all branding exercises are formalized strategic plans. Holt (2007) observes that “it is surprising that cultural-brand campaigns developed in this seemingly contradictory organizational environment” (p.18).
Dublin is Ireland’s capital city. It has a population of over a million people on Ireland’s east coast. Dublin is a historical and cultural center. It is also a modern educational, artistic, administrative, economic, and industrial center. The city covers an area of 115 square kilometers. It has one of the quickest growing city populations among European capitals, and of net immigration. These young and single foreigners are mainly from the EU. Dublin experiences a maritime temperate climate. Dublin is the key hub of Ireland’s highways network. In 2009, Dublin got credit as the fourth world city in terms of riches. About 800,000 people have actively employed Dublin’s services and industrial sectors. According to Thompson (2003), the positioning of a brand in the market and minds of consumers is germane to the created value (p.79). To brand Dublin focusing on careful positioning of the brand to reach the desired targets is crucial. Parkerson et al (2005) concluded: “that city branding would be more effective if the systems and structures of generic branding models were adopted” (p.1). Anholt (2003) echoes this saying “that countries and cities behave, in many ways, just like brands. They are perceived in certain ways by large groups at home and abroad” (p.109).
Branding can benefit a city in many ways. Like any other product, a well-branded city will inspire feelings of loyalty due to favorable conceptions introduced by branding. Robyn et al. (2010) demonstrate that “attitude functions are altered by branding and that such alterations have important implications for persuasion” (p.348). A strong brand will also create an impression of quality and superiority. The most obvious way to market a brand is via advertising. However, this is not sufficient in itself as Haig (2005) noted: “Strong brands are built on advertising. Advertising can support brands, but it cannot build them from scratch. Many of the world’s biggest brand failures had extremely expensive advertising campaigns” (p.6).
The Global Financial Centers Index ranked Dublin as 29th globally. Dublin is also listed by the Globalization and World Cities Research Network (GaWC) as a global city of rank alpha. A global city is a critical meeting point of global economics. There are global pharmaceutical, information, and communications technology firms in Dublin. The city hosts prominent banking, finance, commerce firms, and The Irish Stock Exchange. A branding campaign intended to lure business investment can be designed to highlight these aspects of Dublin business. A sustained branding campaign is likely to impress the required conception in the minds of investors.
Dublin is a beautiful and scenic city with mountain ranges and farmlands. Dublin has more green spaces than any other European city. The largest public park in Europe, Phoenix Park, is in Dublin. It also boasts the highest free-standing piece of sculpture in the world. It is also famous for its Georgian architecture which is a tourist attraction. Dublin is a cultural town and is the base of much famous drama, music, and opera acts. The city has produced many famous literary figures including Nobel laureates. There are several theatres within the city center, a vibrant nightlife, street music, and shopping. St. James’s Gate Brewery brews the world-famous Guinness beer in Dublin. It is also famous for its pubs and pub culture. A branding campaign of the city should focus on these attributes which will create a positive perception in peoples’ minds. The friendliest city in Europe according to a 2009 vote was Dublin.
Ashworth (2010) has pointed out that “many destinations now see branding as a major instrument of management” (p.116). Branding has the power to change preconceptions and prejudices. Many people do not consider Dublin to be a center of academic excellence. However, Dublin is the most prominent Irish educational hub, with three universities and many institutions of higher education. The University of Dublin in the city center is Ireland’s oldest university. The city also hosts many tertiary educational institutes. It will be the Capital of Science in Europe from 2012. A branding campaign can be designed to bring to light these aspects of Dublin life which are not well known. Gobé (2001) noted that “it is the emotional aspect of products and their distribution systems that will be the key difference between consumers’ ultimate choice” (p. xiv).
Dublin’s reputation on living costs is not good. It came in 25th among the world’s most expensive cities. In terms of living expenses, it is the 10th most expensive. Such a reputation will cause people to avoid the city and, this will lead to a loss of revenue. A branding campaign would try to get rid of such a conception. On account of the high immigration rate in Dublin, the branding might choose to portray the city as being metropolitan. This would make it attractive to travelers, multinationals and expatriates.
The branding of a city is, therefore, a valuable and powerful tool for the cities that intend to market themselves. According to Susan et al (2006), “there is a widely held principle in marketing literature that, for a brand to be successful, it must have a positive image” (p.1). Branding can be pursued on many levels with different objectives. It can be selective to achieve the required results. Susan and Lara (2009) noted that “marketers in a variety of industries are trying to increase customer loyalty, marketing efficiency, and brand authenticity by building communities around their brands” (p.2). City branding is most effective when organized centrally or jointly with a common goal. A different stakeholder may independently advance different ideas. Virgo and de Chernatony (2006), state that this may lead “to a lack of consistency and dilution of the strength of cities’ brands” (p.1). According to Kapferer (2008), “turning a town onto a brand, therefore, means building perceptions among strategic audiences, turning it into a unique and attractive destination for companies, individuals or organizations that might think of moving there” (p.127). Finally, a city should take proper care not to build a name on false ideas. As Boorstin (1992) said, “in competition for prestige, it seems only sensible to try to perfect our image rather than ourselves” (p.27).
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