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CityLab
Perspective

Cities: Don’t Fall in the Branding Trap

From Instagram stunts to Edison bulbs, why do so many cities’ marketing plans try to convince people that they’re exactly like somewhere else?
Visitors pose for a photo with Elvis in downtown Nashville.
Visitors pose for a photo with Elvis in downtown Nashville.Harrison McClary/Reuters

It’s curious that while every company tries its hardest to convince you of how much different and better it is than every other company in its industry, every city tries its hardest to convince you it’s exactly the same as every other city that’s conventionally considered cool.

Look at any piece of city marketing material, from promo videos to airline magazine ad inserts. It’s amazing how so many of them rely on the same basic ingredients: hipster coffee shops, microbreweries, bike lanes, creative-class members, startups, intimations of a fashion scene, farm-to-table restaurants, new downtown streetcars, etc.