Place Marketing: City Flags Say a Lot About Your Brand (Good and Bad)

Place marketing continues to grow in importance. As economies mature, places must strengthen what they mean to their citizens, workers, visitors and employers. In the past, we’ve discussed integrated approaches to place marketing with branding, content marketing, public relations, digital advertising and websites.

But place marketing expands beyond that. Naturally, it includes the very symbol of a city, its flag. A recent article in the Wall Street Journal, Surprise! Your City Has a Flag And It’s Really Terrible, examines some of the worst city flags in the U.S.

The city of Milwaukee, Wisconsin’s flag ranked 147 out of 150, according to the North American Vexillological Association, which tracks and studies flags. Roman Mars, a flag-obsessed designer, exacerbated the flag’s bad rank when he discussed the questionable design in a TED Talk, which now has more than 3 million views on YouTube.

Two years ago, Milwaukee attempted to update its flag by holding a design contest to create a new design that better reflected the city’s evolving focus and economy. The contest sparked strong opinions, especially toward the current flag. Some dislike it while others like it, with one person even having it tattooed on his body, arguing it reflects the city’s industrial past.

The designer of the winning flag from the contest two years ago is ready to plant his design, dubbing it “The People’s Flag of Milwaukee.” The design is the sun rising over Lake Michigan, representing the city’s rising economy. Introducing a new flag will complement Milwaukee’s other marketing efforts of content marketing, public relations, digital advertising and more.

As a city, before you check your flag’s rank with the North American Vexillological Association, determine the city’s authentic identity with your own place branding exercise.

At BK, it’s one of our passions. To see some of our work, view our latest post on place marketing featuring Clay County, Florida.