1. Nicely done! Dunwoody certainly isn’t the first to have copied another entity’s logo (or “accidentally” mimicked one, if you prefer).

    The real question is whether this insightful author will have convinced the next city in line to think twice before commissioning a new logo.

    Perhaps among the best is still the new brand for the City of Auckland… it “accidentally” copied the logo of a local public access television station… in its own city! It then had to modify the logo when advertising entertainment, events and anything on television, since it was found to have infringed the copyright of the local television station.

    Just three years later, a new city council has a new logo.

  2. Great read. Living in Seattle we have been lucky enough to have a strong enviro-brand for quite some time. However, the authenticity is in short supply and rather than directly confront the real issues of sprawl, VMT, etc. our city council has been reduced to making empty promises. “Carbon Zero by 2030!” looks great in the press, but means nothing when followed by authorizing millions to highway and road construction and revoking the minuscule funding sources for cyclists and pedestrians.

  3. I’m copying our city council with this. Thanks.

  4. As a grad student in planning and preservation who has a background in media, I think that there isn’t enough conversation about branding and placemaking going on. I’m glad to see that others understand the importance of it.

  5. Agreed. Too much of this revolves around creating an image that others from away are drawn to. But when was the last time you chose to visit a place for it’s nice logo? No, people are drawn to places for their authenticity, their history, their culture. Everywhere has these elements in one form or another. Branding or developing an image is about enhancing characteristics you already possess. In this sense the branding process is much simpler and more subtle than is often the case.

  6. City branding is a funny business, all right, one that exposes many cities’ lack of confidence. Last year, Québec City, a place with enough character, texture and personality for 10 towns, hired a con-man from France who started a much-needed conversation in the city, but fleeced mayor and council before being exposed by the media, which took umbrage at having an outsider called in to define them.

  7. Bravo, Scott. As usual, you’ve hit the nail on the head squarely but gently.

    I hadn’t realized it before, but branding a place is very much like branding a non-profit. To be authentic and durable, the identity has to be distilled from what is already there–who the organization or institution is, what it stands for. An external applique might be fun and shiny for a minute, but it won’t do the needed work of representing what’s really behind it. In working with mission-driven organizations, I virtually always conduct research among internal constituencies only, because what “the market” thinks ultimately doesn’t matter. What’s critical is to uncover and articulate what one of my clients calls the “institutional DNA”–that which has always been present and which makes them unique. (It also turns out to be a rich and affirming consensus-building exercise.) I think branding a community calls for the same approach. Figure out who you are and then tell the rest of the world–if your message is authentic and expressed in a compelling way, they’ll believe it.

    Another similarity between a place and a non-profit is the importance of confronting gaps among foundational values, current realities and aspirational goals. To the extent that the second and third are represented in a brand, they must be clearly and defensibly linked to the first.

    Tough and painful work, but in my experience totally worthwhile to wind up with an identity that’s authentic and durable and not only supports communications and marketing but also becomes an internal touchstone for strategic visioning. I’ve seen it.

  8. Well said, sir. Your comments not only resonate with the particular city you are talking about, but definitely with cities across the continent. I’m sure that’s what you intended.
    The province of Manitoba in Canada (capital city, Winnipeg) spent a few dollars on what seems to be “brand” consulting for a slogan everyone mocks. Many people probably felt the money would have been best spend on growing infrastructure aches and IMHO, catching up to the 21st century. Sense of place is so important and I fear we will lose that as the next generations pass if we continue to be in denial and fail to address the root of problems.

  9. Scott-
    Although your article was interesting, you missed perhaps the most critical opportunity for educating your reader about branding. Lesson One: Don’t adopt another location’s tagline. Plano, Texas had used “Smart People. Smart Place.” ( for nearly three years prior to Dunwoody’s decision to adopt it. Unfortunately, their team was fully aware of Plano’s use and decided to proceed anyway. After a number of discussions with their community, you will now note, they have conceded to utilize a modified tagline.

  10. Absolutely true, Scott, and well put. But I hope you won’t be offended if I say, also, “blindingly obvious.” Because it’s not a knock at you, but at the 10,000 civic officials who seem incapable of grasping these obvious truths.


    Another asterix logo….For a project that may never happen east of Denver.

  12. Our community spent enough money to buy a new transit bus on a logo that was unanimously rejected by the public. I understand that a council committee ignored the recommendations of the consultants and went with their own choices.
    Council is now asking the community to submit taglines. Go to www, for an interesting process..


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