What is place marketing? [+ CASE STUDY]

by Basiel

It is impossible to imagine a street where place marketing can’t be seen. More often we hear slogans like 'I heart New York' or we see advertisements for big events like the 'Tour de France'. More and more cities and municipalities are using this instrument, but what is place marketing?

Place marketing definition

Place marketing comprises all the activities organised by a city with the aim of raising its profile as effectively as possible. In general, we distinguish 5 different target groups for place marketing. These are inhabitants, visitors, companies, students and investors.

The target groups of place marketing

In place marketing, we distinguish 5 different target groups. These target groups can be approached individually but are often also approached in an integrated way.

1. Inhabitants

Inhabitants are those who live in your city and on whom all decisions have a direct impact. This makes them one of the most important target audiences and who therefore require a lot of attention. For them, it is important that you create a feeling of pride and solidarity. Inhabitants who are happy in your city will talk proudly about it to people from other cities.

Inhabitants (city marketing Merchandise Essentials)

2. Visitors

Visitors is a broad term for day tourists, shoppers and city trippers. They are not always present in your city, so it is important that you make their experiences with the city special. In other words, you have to make sure that they keep returning to your city and talk about it as ambassadors.

Tourists in Ghent (Place Marketing Merchandise Essentials)


3. Companies

By companies we mean merchants, restaurants and entrepreneurs. This target group ensures business activity in your city. They do not only create employment for your residents but are also the driving force behind your local economy. A target group that has been demanding a lot of attention lately due to an increase in vacant commercial properties in city centres.

Companies at a fair (Place Marketing Merchandise Essentials)


4. Students

Students and creative people are the fourth target audience of place marketing. They provide liveliness in the city, and even more important: knowledge! Preserving these brains is therefore crucial for the growth of your city. Not only the typical student cities have to focus on this, but also the surrounding municipalities. A trend among the brains is to settle in the surrounding areas.


Students in Ghent (Place Marketing Merchandise Essentials)


5. Investors

The last group in place marketing are stakeholders. These are all the investors who invest in the growth of your city. This means extra financial resources that every city or municipality can use. Investing in this target group, can give you a competitive advantage.

The port of Antwerp (Place Marketing Merchandise Essentials)


Curious about what the best way is to approach these target groups? Then make sure you read how to reach your target groups as a city

A good example of a campaign in which all target groups played a role can be found in The Netherlands.

Eindhoven365, the organisation behind Eindhoven's place marketing, has developed a campaign in which all the target groups of place marketing were involved. An unequivocal message was sent out via a visual campaign.

This was done by the means of city branding, a popular part of city marketing.

Why use place marketing?

  • Place marketing is an important instrument to make the city attractive for its target audience. For example, a city introduces a new campaign to attract companies to create employment. By doing this, new inhabitants will be attracted as well. An interesting thing, where in addition to increasing the attractiveness of the city, a new income is also being generated.


  • Due to the increasing competition between cities and municipalities, place marketing has become the medium to stand out as a city. This allows you to develop a unique positioning for your city so that it doesn’t remain in the shadow of other cities. Just think of coastal cities: they all have the sea as their trump card, but one person would rather go to Miami than Los Angeles.


  • Place marketing is an option to spread a unique identity. Having your own identity as a city has become much more important. Further, you have to reflect this unique character in an appropriate way. If, as a city, you want to put your shopping in the spotlight, you have to make sure that your city radiates this.


  • Finally, place marketing creates new opportunities for private and public partners. Everyone benefits from the fact that a city functions well. This creates a vibrant economy and new financial resources, which can be used to strengthen campaigns again.


Place marketing is therefore an instrument that every city should use in the long term due to the increasing competition between cities and municipalities. This should make the target audiences enthusiastic about the city to create new opportunities for all stakeholders.

Warm vs. cold place marketing

In place marketing, a distinction is made between warm and cold city marketing. In the case of warm place marketing, active efforts are made to retain the target audiences. For example, Berlin starts a campaign aimed at students. The purpose of this campaign will be keeping those brains in its city. In cold city marketing, the aim is to attract new target groups. For example, the port of Barcelona decides to create a pleasant environment for investors to attract them.

In past years, it has been proven several times that warm place marketing has better results than cold place marketing. People don't leave their municipality easily and companies don't easily exchange their company premises for another place. Prof. Gert-Jan Hospers gave more reasons why it has become more important to focus on the preservation of the target audiences. Curious about what else this city marketing expert had to say? Then make sure you read why warm place marketing is becoming more important than cold place marketing

Only for cities?

Is place marketing a tool that only cities can use? The answer to this question is no. Place marketing can cover different areas. Usually this is called area marketing or regional marketing. For example, Kos, an island in Greece sets up a campaign to increase bicycle tourism instead of a small town on the island. 

This means that local campaigns can be tackled more comprehensively than you think. Therefore, as a city, try to work together with another region to achieve more. A good example of this is the  Dutch city of Groningen and the province of Groningen. The “Er gaat niets boven Groningen” (means: 'Nothing beats Groningen’) campaign was organised at both levels. The campaign was awarded several times. The case will be discussed later on in this article.

The latest trends

Due to the increasing importance of place marketing, many cities are putting more and more effort into this medium. This is reflected in various campaigns and methods to reach the target audiences in the best possible way. We have listed the 3 most important ones for you:

1. Shopping days

The fact that the shopping streets in many cities are quietly deflating is no secret. In this digital age, it has become easier to order clothes and things online and have them come home instead of going to different shops yourself. This problem led to the phenomenon of 'shopping days'

A good example of this is 'shop on Sunday' in Ghent, a Belgian city. By organizing various actions to promote this day, many inhabitants and visitors go shopping in the Veldstraat (The most famous street for shopping in Ghent) once a month on Sunday.

Tote bag 'shop on Sunday' (Place Marketing Merchandise Essentials)


2. Merchandise

A second trend that has gradually developed into a major player is merchandising. This has become a way to turn your target groups into ambassadors. After all, what could be a better conversation starter these days than a cool T-shirt with a design of your city on it?

The city Roeselare had understood this like no other and used merchandise to make their inhabitants proud of their city. The branded clothing was a key element in the #VANRSL campaign.

Want to discover your possibilities with merchandise? Check our website.

Inhabitants of Roeselare with merchandise (Place Marketing Merchandise Essentials)


3. City dressing

The last trend that is certainly worth investing in is city dressing. By this we mean really dressing up the city. This can range from flags and billboards to cozy little corners where your target audiences definitely want to stay.

An example of city dressing is this pop-up park in the middle of a British shopping street. The ideal place to take a short break after shopping. Small things like this can often have a big impact. For example, this action was shared massively and attracted several spectators to the shopping street.

City dressing in a British shopping street (Place Marketing Merchandise Essentials)

Ready to start integrating place marketing? We already have 7 tips to use city marketing for you.


  • Place marketing comprises all activities organised by a city with the aim of raising its profile as much as possible.
  • It is often aimed at 5 different target groups: inhabitants, visitors, students, companies and investors.
  • Place marketing is a tool used to make the city attractive, to compete, to spread a unique identity and to create opportunities for public and private partners.
  • Place marketing can be aimed at both maintaining (warm) and attracting (cold) target groups.
  • It can be tackled on a larger scale by involving other levels, such as provinces.
  • The latest trends are: shopping days, merchandise and city dressing. 

Case Study: 'Nothing beats Groningen'

Discover the case 'Nothing beats Groningen' (Place Marketing Merchandise Essentials)




About Merchandise Essentials

In 2015 Merchandise Essentials consisted out of two young guys with big dreams. Working out of their parents’ living room they started turning those dreams into goals.

The living room became a 600m2 office space with a showroom. The two man team turned into a workforce of more than 30 young and talented individuals who are now designing and producing merchandise for brands and businesses in 43 countries.


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