Last week I blogged about Knightdale officials considering spending up to $90,00 for a branding campaign for the town, which they think is under-appreciated and miscast. Today I happened across this interesting story from Governing’s December 2012 issue about city branding efforts. While some cities and town have found branding helpful, there remain many questions about the value and return on investment. I hope Knightdale officials consider their idea carefully before spending hard-earned tax dollars on such an effort. It is a question of priorities for scarce resources.

Still, skeptics contend that at a time when cities are struggling financially, it’s irresponsible to spend money on amorphous branding campaigns that don’t provide a concrete return on investment. Many have also questioned whether a process originally designed for corporations can work for a community. A 2006 paper on city branding by a pair of Danish professors noted that city branding campaigns tend to be bland — and thus fail to stand out — thanks to the manner in which they’re developed. Cities are diverse places: In order for a brand to see the light of day, it needs buy-in from a broad group of stakeholders. So while the intent of place branding is to emphasize what makes a city unique, the messages that come from branding efforts can sometimes be anything but that. “The result may appear well meant,” the researchers concluded, “but the remarkable and catchy will elude the branding effort.”