City brand­ing: map­ping the me­dia images of the SEE cap­i­tals

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The na­ture of the mod­ern knowl­edge econ­omy has changed the way we per­ceive phys­i­cal spa­ces. Con­tem­po­rary cities are in­creas­ingly viewed not only as geo­graphic and eco­nomic en­ti­ties, but also as brands, shaped and pop­u­lar­ized by the ex­pe­ri­ence they of­fer to both lo­cals and vis­i­tors. The added value, pro­vided by a city's brand im­age can help it in­crease its eco­nomic po­ten­tial, to at­tract labour force and tourist in­ter­est and reap many other ad­van­tages. In other words: city land­scapes are now turn­ing into brand­scapes.

While larger cities around the world have al­ready made sig­nif­i­cant steps to­ward build­ing a sus­tain­able and highly rec­og­niz­able brand iden­tity, the cap­i­tals of South­east Europe face many chal­lenges and op­por­tu­ni­ties on their way to dis­cov­er­ing the im­por­tance of city brand­ing. This ar­ti­cle aimis to take a closer look at ten SEE cap­i­tals (Tirana, Sara­jevo, Sofia, Za­greb, Skopje, Chisinau, Pod­gor­ica, Bucharest, Bel­grade, Ljubl­jana) and the way they are rep­re­sented in con­ven­tional and so­cial me­dia. Iden­ti­fy­ing the key fo­cal points of the me­dia dis­course on a given city is a good start­ing point to grasp a city's per­ceived im­age and work to­wards build­ing a more sus­tain­able and rec­og­niz­able iden­tity.


We chose six key cat­e­gories for anal­y­sis and com­par­i­son and we based them on Si­mon An­holt's City Brand­ing In­dex – a method­ol­ogy de­vel­oped to mea­sure the im­age and rep­u­ta­tion of world cities, and to track how their pro­files evolve. Si­mon An­holt is an in­de­pen­dent pol­icy ad­vi­sor who has worked with the gov­ern­ments of over 40 coun­tries world­wide and helped them de­velop and im­ple­ment strate­gies for man­ag­ing and im­prov­ing coun­try and city rep­u­ta­tion. We ap­proached th­ese six cat­e­gories* through our own an­a­lyt­i­cal meth­ods in two types of me­dia con­text: con­ven­tional news ar­ti­cles and so­cial me­dia sources (blogs, Twit­ter and fo­rum dis­cus­sions). The an­a­lyzed pe­riod was three months (15 April – 15 July 2013) and our fo­cus was only on English-lan­guage con­tent, as it is cur­rently the lead­ing global lan­guage with a high po­ten­tial for reach­ing large in­ter­na­tional au­di­ences.


With the ac­cu­mu­la­tion of the an­a­lyzed con­ven­tional and so­cial me­dia con­tent, cer­tain pat­terns started to emerge and shape the im­age of in­di­vid­ual coun­tries and the re­gion as a whole.

One of the key con­clu­sions from the com­par­i­son of the 10 cap­i­tals was that only a few of them had a highly rec­og­niz­able and ex­plic­itly dis­tinct city im­age. The best ex­am­ple in this re­gard would be Slove­nia's cap­i­tal Ljubl­jana, which was of­ten de­scribed as a very spe­cial and unique mix­ture of Slavic soul­ful­ness, Ger­man in­dus­tri­ous­ness and Ital­ian dolce vita. On the other hand, most of the re­main­ing cap­i­tals were fre­quently dis­cussed en bloc, of­ten men­tion­ing three or four cities in

Kon­stantina Vasileva, Per­cep­tica

Per­cep­tica is a team of pro­fes­sion­als spe­cialised in cre­at­ing in­no­va­tive in-depth re­ports based on on­line me­dia an­a­lyt­ics. Map­ping brand per­cep­tions among cus­tomers pro­vides valu­able in­sights for help­ing brands, in­di­vid­u­als and or­gan­i­sa­tions thrive.

www.per­cep­ the con­text of a large Balkan trip. This re­veals an im­por­tant fac­tor for brand­ing th­ese cities: the chal­lenge to cre­ate their own dis­tinct iden­ti­ties, as op­posed to re­main­ing a part from the col­lec­tive space – the Balkans. Al­ter­na­tive forms of tourism were a re­cur­ring sub­ject in so­cial me­dia chan­nels. Back­pack­ing, hik­ing and cy­cling tours seemed to dom­i­nate blog posts and fo­rum con­ver­sa­tions – a sign that the SEE re­gion is more pop­u­lar among ad­ven­tur­ers and peo­ple in­ter­ested in ex­otic, un­usual and un­ex­plored des­ti­na­tions as op­posed to the stan­dard 4 or 5-star tourist ex­pe­ri­ence. Many trav­ellers from coun­tries such as the UK and even Aus­tralia came on a cy­cling tour and mapped out long itin­er­ar­ies across the Balkan Penin­sula, try­ing to visit as many des­ti­na­tions (coun­tries and cities) as pos­si­ble. This sup­ported the above-men­tioned con­clu­sion that peo­ple were gen­er­ally

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