Just Because You Could, Doesn’t Mean You Should
Exploring if (and when) Cities Should Brand Through a Case Study of the City of London, Ontario
Cities in Canada and abroad are engaging in place branding initiatives without any true understanding of whether they are likely to succeed. A key reason for this uncertainty is that there is a lack of understanding of what local conditions are needed to ensure the best chance for success. This study addresses this uncertainty in two ways: first, a theoretical framework is developed to identify local characteristics and conditions that are requisite for place branding; and second, the City of London, Ontario is used as a case study to examine whether small and midsized cities should be branding. Based on an extensive review of the literature domain a framework of seven criteria was developed: is there a need? Is there something to be branded? Is there local capacity and knowledge? Is it part of strategic planning? Is there leadership? Is there coordination? And is the process inclusive? Based on interviews with sixteen key stakeholders in London (both local officials and community stakeholders), it is clear that the city meets very few of these criteria. This suggests that London – and likely most other small and midsized cities in Canada and abroad need to be measured in their approaches to place branding.