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Friday 18 Aug 2017 | 01:31 | SYDNEY
Friday 18 Aug 2017 | 01:31 | SYDNEY

Reader riposte: Branding and Americanisation

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2 August 2011 15:20

Laura Crommelin was an intern for the Lowy Institute in 2010. She is now doing a PhD in the Faculty of Built Environment at UNSW, looking at urban branding in post-industrial cities.

The reader riposte on 'Americanisation' caught my eye as it touches on an issue I'm now working on for my PhD, which looks at the practice of 'place branding' and how it's being used to help revitalise industrial cities here and in the US. 

Rather than seeing the trend towards using American place names for property developments as an example of Australia's cultural cringe, I see it as evidence of the power of place branding. America has always been, and still is, the world leader when it comes to selling/marketing/branding places — from promoting frontier towns during the western expansion, to the seminal 'I ♥ NY' branding campaign.

This success means that if a developer appropriates a well-honed American place 'brand' by borrowing the name, there's a good chance people here will both recognise it (at least from movies, if not from personal experience) and have a positive perception of it. The hope, of course, is that some of this positive sentiment will then rub off on the property the developer is trying to sell here.

It could be a risky strategy — I imagine some people, picturing the serenity of NYC's Central Park, might be disappointed to find the Sydney version will be an apartment complex wedged between Central Station and Parramatta Road, for example. But if you're selling the property off a plan, and particularly if some potential investors are overseas, it could be an effective marketing approach.

In any case, I think the preference for using American (or sometimes European) place names is less about cultural cringe on our part, and more about the fact that we're not, and have never been, predisposed to branding our places in the same way (Bondi is probably the exception that proves the rule, as the reader riposte identified).

We still have huge fondness for our own culture and places — more than we do for the American equivalents, I'd wager — but the reasons for this sense of attachment haven't been packaged up and presented as neatly as they have for American 'place products' like TriBeCa or Beverly Hills. Certainly, the 'brand' associated with Woolloomooloo or Coogee isn't likely to be as easily recognisable for anyone who isn't a local.

Having said all that, while I don't see this practice as evidence of a cultural cringe, I do see it as a great example of how American soft power remains a force to be reckoned with — an interesting counterpoint to the suggestion that the US's cultural impact around the world is declining, perhaps.

Photo by Flickr user John Moreton.

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