What is a Digital City Brand?

The term “digital city brand”, which we have coined, is made up of the three separate terms “digital”, “city” and “brand”, which are also used in terms such as “digital city”, “digital brand” and “city brand”. The .berlin domain ending is just such a digital brand for the city.
The digital city brand is an extension of the old, analogue city brand, adding attributes which are created by digital products and services. The digital city brand redefines urbanity and for a city’s inhabitants, visitors, workers and investors it stands for quality of life, for being in touch with the people, for efficiency, for care of the environment and for the general appeal of the location.

The digital city brand is based on important infrastructure in the fields of mobility, energy, health and education being equipped with the latest digital technologies and on the brand’s promise that life in the city is made easier and more convenient by going digital. Typical examples of this are that all official matters can be done online, doctor’s appointments can be at home via remote monitoring, ordered goods can be delivered on the same day and education can be offered digitally by the city.

A city having its own Internet ending can be a special distinguishing aspect of the digital city brand. It intuitively connects the city’s digital services with the city brand via Internet addresses such as www.voter-registration.manchester, www.musicals.london or www.police.birmingham. Since 2014 in London, the city’s marketing organisation London & Partner has offered Internet addresses ending in .london and has changed its digital city brand .london to match London’s city logo, or a hashtag #frankfurt

Other digital versions of city brands can be profile names such as twitter.com/hannover
To show how digital they are, Frankfurt’s city marketing team advertises with Internet addresses which may not yet exist, but maybe soon will. The dot between the words symbolises modern communication, as Berlin, Hamburg and Cologne in Germany already have.

For brand management and the marketing of a location, the digitalisation of a city brings new challenges. For the decision-takers, this means integrating the multi-faceted nature of the digital world into their vision for the urban space. Going digital raises the question of how the fundamental subjects of brand, city and digitalisation are to be integrated into the new, now digitally extended city brand.

Hence our recommendation is to perform continuous, small adjustments towards a digital city brand and cities should not be afraid of fail fast to inovate faster. Precisely because digitalisation is proceeding very dynamically, the careful and planned upheaval of ongoing processes and projects is fundamentally important.
The coming years will be referred to as “rapid trial-and-error years” in the international discussion on the place marketing topic. Positively they would be called short apprenticeship years, of which we know quite well today what to expect, but can only guess the resulting possibilities.

The Internet users and visitors do not give us time to develop a fixed or even final plan. Cities have to learn from experience and need the courage to constantly change – change is the new constant. In the ever lasting competition of cities a standing still or waiting strategy actually means falling behind as other cities progress and develop their individual set of digital place experiences. And as every city has a different DNA the same digital receipe is not the cure for every city. It is precisely the ability to always question and never see anything as established. This will be the decisive feature in city marketing in the coming years in order to gain and maintain a competitive advantage.

*) This article was brought to you by Dirk Krischenowski, Founder and CEO of .berlin Top-Level-Domain Intiative.


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