Modeling the city’s image in order to determine the priorities of city branding case study: Urmia City

Document Type : Research Paper


Associate Professor, School of urban planning, College of Fine Arts, University of Tehran, Tehran, Iran


City’s competitiveness and attractiveness depend on effective management of the city’s image. Leading cities in the world have always used different approaches in order to improve their image. One of these modern approaches is city branding. Many cities in countries ranging from India and China to Russia and England have employed this approach in order to improve their image. In a world where cities and regions aggressively compete for investment from public and private sectors, brand reputation is critical. The motivation for cities to engage in city branding frequently stems from a feeling that existing perceptions of the city have become outdated and need to be updated in order to reflect the contemporary reality of the city. Repositioning the city brand is often seen as necessary and urgent. Indeed, a brand is the DNA of a place, i.e., its material and essence which pass from one generation to another. Today, many cities attempt to use city branding concepts to find a niche in the competition for resources and wealth.
Like many other cities in Iran, Urmia City doesn’t project a strong and clear image to its dwellers and beyond. Most of its cultural, historical and natural features have been neglected. Anonymity of these features causes Urmia City to encounter problems in attracting investment and tourists, losing the competition to cities with stronger image. The main purpose of this paper is to model an image for the Urmia City based on the concepts pertaining to city branding. Since a city brand needs to be rooted in reality, the starting point for an effective and inclusive branding strategy, would be a search for the elements which the city has to offer to its current and potential residents, as well as the visitors and investors. It also needs to tap its unique assets and strengths and to address its flaws and weaknesses. Here after a review of the theories associated with city branding and its relation to city image, a theoretical was developed. This framework provided us with nine components and 46 criteria to be used in the analysis of the Urmia City’s image. Structural Equation Modeling (SEM) was used in order to identify the components and the criteria which influence the City’s image the most. Finally, priority of actions in Urmia City branding is determined and suggestions are presented. Results show that, Urmia city needs strategies which can upgrade its urban facilities and infrastructure along other measures that deal with its unique history, culture as well as its location on the border with Turkey to the west. In addition, the City’s strong environmental quality and natural features need to be emphasized in the strategies and action plans for the sake of the City’s image. In our findings, we can also note that the City's dwellers have a negative view of its economy and job opportunities, while the life style and social Issues are not much of an issue in formation of the City’s image.


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