This chapter discusses a current example of the ongoing efforts of city managers to promote their cities, also known as place marketing or place selling. After introducing the concept of city branding, and a model of how Web site elements communicate brand values and messages, we analyze a recent attempt of city managers in Stockholm to promote the brand of “Stockholm: The Capital of Scandinavia”. The authors hope that the empirical illustrations of how city managers of Stockholm have worked to provide a broader understanding to the complex Web of communication and brand building on the Internet, both empirically and conceptually.
Branding, i.e. the building of brands, is something that since the 1980s have become more and more common in everyday language denoting, that which gives a product meaning and identity in time and space. With the growing realization that the brand is important terms like “brand equity” (the financial value of the brand) and “brand management” (the managerial activities aiming at creating, sustaining and developing the brand) have also entered our language (Kapferer, 1997). The ideas of branding have also influenced the managers of cities, who, in a world of hardening competition for investors’ money, tourists and the most intelligent and creative workers, have begun to grasp the importance of the building of a strong city brand.
But despite the rapidly growing interest in branding both among practitioners and researchers, there is still a lack of empirical studies that shed light on how the process of branding a city actually takes place. There is also a need for case studies that reveal how cities work with the new possibilities provided by information- and communication technologies (ICTs) in their branding work. Thus this chapter provides experience, concepts and knowledge for practitioners to reflect upon their own branding situation and for scholars to further develop.
Cities, if seen as a complex web of actors of interacting, fighting, organizing and disorganizing, certainly provide challenges to the brand managers. The aim of this chapter is to explore how the branding of a city takes place by presenting and discussing a case study from the Swedish capital of Stockholm. In 2005 Stockholm launched the brand “Stockholm: The Capital of Scandinavia” and behind this cheeky statement lay several years of work, including city managers and brand specialists such as Dowell//Stubbs, a reorganization of the city organization and the building of a partnership involving 43 of the municipalities in the greater Stockholm region. In this the Internet was chosen as one channel to communicate the brand both with the partners geographically spread around Stockholm as well as with the presumed international audience. By telling the story of how Stockholm developed the brand and tried to engage as many actors as possible in this work and by examining closely the web pages of the City of Stockholm our aim is to shed light on the branding of cities and the use of ICTs in this work.
Having a long history of developing and using information- and communication technologies, it is not surprising that the City of Stockholm recognized the importance of IT as a tool in building the new brand. Even though local governments today are increasingly represented on the Internet (Urban, 2002), they still represent a sector where online branding has played a limited role, though, a state which will is expected to change in the future due to the digitalization of the economy (Rowley, 2004a, 2004b). Therefore, a case study of how the City of Stockholm has worked with online branding as a step in building “Stockholm: The Capital of Scandinavia” should provide interesting insights into the role of ICTs, especially information technologies, in the building of city brands today. The questions to be answered here are thus: How do the City of Stockholm and its partners use their web pages when it comes to promoting the brand? How was the brand developed and what was the rationale behind forming the partnership?
To answer these questions we have carried out nine interviews with the people responsible and involved in the work such as City managers and people from business. In addition to this we have studied Internet pages and collected all kinds of printed material about “Stockholm: The Capital of Scandinavia” such as brochures and articles from magazines and newspapers. After giving a brief background to the theory of city branding in general and to brand-building on the Internet in particular, we will based on the material mentioned above tell the story of how the idea of “Stockholm: The Capital of Scandinavia” developed. Then we will take a closer look at how the Internet has been (and is) used in the work before discussing our findings. Finally, we make some concluding remarks.