City marketing tries to position cities in the mind of the public, although the process of creating and communicating city brands is still at an early stage of its development. One of the main tools for the communication of these brands is now the World Wide Web. This chapter describes the results of two combined studies (qualitative and quantitative) that analyzes a sample of official city Web sites. The results show that official Web sites of cities give much attention to ease of navigation, but interactivity is much less implemented, especially between users. Furthermore, some lack of attention to the communication aspects of city brands can also be found. Finally, the chapter submits a number of improvement proposals.
The Concept Of City Brand
The concept of brand applied to destinations, places or cities is relatively new. It started to spread with the Travel and Tourism Research Association’s Annual Conference in 1998 (Blain, Levy & Brent Ritchie, 2005). From that moment, the concept has been developed widely and has been studied from diverse perspectives, especially from the point of view of tourism. All in all, studies on city brands and destinations are still under developed and knowledge on the subject is limited. Some authors consider that it’s not correct to talk about branding or place branding in relation to territories, cities or countries. They believe that it is incorrect to associate communicational and marketing terms to realities with their own identity like cities. Nevertheless, the majority or authors appreciate that the territories and the cities do not have the same characteristics as commercial products, but agree that they can apply the same marketing strategies to the territories (Olins, 2002).
The first difficulty we come up against in the study of city brands is the confusion of concepts. Therefore, it is fundamental to distinguish between city brand and brand image (Cai, 2002). Many studies confuse the analysis of the brand image with the brand itself and the branding done by the destination.
The city brand is a new concept and is not very well defined. It is currently very much in fashion, and many people have theories, but few have dared to define it. It is a construct composed of a name, a logo, some symbols and some values that we try to associate with a city, representing its identity, with the objective of creating a position and a vision of the city in the minds of the public. Each city must have its own brand, and each city brand must be the result of a citymarketing plan and a competitive city strategy.
A very complete definition of destination brand, fully applicable to the city brand, which is based on the previous definitions of Aaker (1991) and Ritchie and Ritchie (1998) is that of Blain, Levy and Brent Ritchie (2005), which implies:
The creation of a name, symbol, logo, word mark or other graphic that both identify and differentiate a destination; that convey the promise of a memorable travel experience that is uniquely associated with the destination; and that serve to consolidate and reinforce the emotional connection between the visitor and the destination; that reduce consumer search costs and perceived risk; all with the intent purpose of creating a destination image that positively influences consumer destination choice. (p. 337)