From Al Modarres, Director of Urban Studies at University of Washington Tacoma writing in New Geography:
The challenge of urban branding is that cities are not commodities. As such, urban branding is not the same as product or corporate-style branding. Cities are much more complex and contain multiple identity narratives; whatever the business and leadership says, there are other local voices that may challenge the accepted “script”. In fact, while city marketing may focus mainly on attracting capital through economic development and tourism, urban branding needs to move beyond the simply utilitarian, and consider memories, urban experiences, and quality of life issues that affect those who live in a city. A brand does not exist outside the reality of a city. It is not an imported idea. It is an internally generated identity, rooted in the history and assets of a city.
Catchy phrases, logos, shiny booklets, invented cultural events, or the latest urban design schemes are not the answer. Copying tactics from other cities won't make a city recognizable; it will make it less visible and less unique. The challenge is, then, to ask what assets a city has that others do not possess; which of these assets can be seen as a city’s mark of achievement or recognizable characteristics; and how does one activate, elevate and sustain those characteristics?
Interesting observations - many City marketers could learn from this outlook.