Corporate Eye

The New Trend in Branded Cities – Love It or Hate It?

times-square-new-york-cityBranded cities are the new ad rage – outdoor destinations built for the purpose of delivering ambient marketing messages. 

The newest entrant to the branded city trend is El Portal in Los Angeles, California.  This branded city was built from the ground up with advertising in mind under the guise of providing outdoor entertainment and community events.  El Portal is 4,500 square feet and includes shopping, entertainment and town hall areas with a large number of digital displays to communicate more advertising messages than anyone could possibly remember. 

El Portal holds 4,000 people and is not the first branded city, but it is one of the first built from the ground up.  For example, areas in Dallas ,Texas and Glendale, Arizona near sports arenas have been turned into branded cities.  El Portal, however, also represents the first branded city targeted to a specific demographic — the large Hispanic population that lives in the South Gate area of Los Angeles.

Branded cities are also being considered for large U.S. cities like Boston, New Orleans, Baton Rouge, and Minneapolis. 

I think the concept of branded cities has some merit.  It reminds me of Times Square without the traffic.  If the city delivers value to the target audience through entertainment, cultural events, and so on, the advertising seems harmless enough.  It’s certainly a great way for advertisers and brands to connect with a targeted demographic. 

The challenge for advertisers will be to create ads and messages that consumers actually notice in the midst of the clutter and remember.  I can imagine brands doing “man on the street” podcasts, live blogging, vlogs, and so on, and then creating a social media campaign to tie in with the branded city ambient media initiative.  There are many opportunities to bring the branded city concept into other media, particularly in the area of viral marketing.

What do you think about branded cities?  Love them or hate them?

Image: Flickr

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Susan Gunelius is the author of 10 marketing, social media, branding, copywriting, and technology books, and she is President & CEO of KeySplash Creative, Inc., a marketing communications company. She also owns Women on Business, an award-wining blog for business women. She is a featured columnist for and, and her marketing-related articles have appeared on websites such as,,, and more. She has over 20 years of experience in the marketing field having spent the first decade of her career directing marketing programs for some of the largest companies in the world, including divisions of AT&T and HSBC. Today, her clients include large and small companies around the world and household brands like Citigroup, Cox Communications, Intuit, and more. Susan is frequently interviewed about marketing and branding by television, radio, print, and online media organizations, and she speaks about these topics at events around the world. You can connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or Google+.

Thanks for sharing such a awesome post.

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