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Moving Milan towards Expo 2015: designing culture into a city brand

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Purpose ‐ To create a competitive edge in today's tourism marketplace, cities seek to differentiate themselves and create a positive image. Yet, there is little consensus about city branding processes and few case studies. This paper aims to explore Milan's brand image and personality, focusing on the extent to which its image is dominated by business and fashion or culture and heritage and the implications of this positioning for Milan's re-branding in preparation for Expo 2015. Design/methodology/approach ‐ The paper combines quantitative and qualitative primary research. It reports the findings of a questionnaire survey, a web survey, desk research and focus group research. It analyses actual and potential tourists' perceptions, Milan's heritage product, current brand personality and the brand fingerprint. Findings ‐ Business tourism is central to Milan's prosperity; in contrast, its significant cultural attractions remain marginal to its tourism offer. This results in a narrow range of tourist perceptions of the destination and highly seasonal tourist activity. Research limitations/implications ‐ This paper represents the discovery phase research for a new city brand and further longitudinal and qualitative work is required. Practical implications ‐ The paper includes implications for the development of a consistent destination branding strategy analyzing the first steps of the definition of the Milan's brand. Originality/value ‐ The paper makes practical recommendations to tourism and place marketing practitioners for broadening Milan's brand to build on the city's strong architectural and cultural heritage. It also has value for tourism academics since it makes a methodological contribution to the place branding literature through its use of projective techniques.
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Keywords: Brand image; Cities; Culture; Heritage; Italy; Tourism

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 2009-03-13

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