Branding is commonly used in the private sector. There is general agreement that branding can also be useful in the public sector. In the Netherlands, there is a lot of experience with branding of cities, places and urban regions. One of the lessons that has been learned is that city icons can contribute to successful branding strategies. Branding of rural areas, however, is a relatively new (and also more complicated) phenomenon. Also, the use of icons in branding strategies seems to be a lot easier in cities compared with rural areas. Rural areas frequently lack great and inspiring objects, such as striking buildings or photogenic bridges that naturally invoke strong positive emotions, promoting their preservation. Rural areas are quickly interpreted as residual spaces: empty canvases, waiting to be developed. Furthermore, small towns situated in rural areas are under pressure, because people and facilities are moving out. This paper discusses the effect of (developing and using) rural icons in the branding of rural areas. On the basis of three case studies in rural areas in the Netherlands, phases, stakeholders and strategies are identified. The use of icons for the branding of rural areas in which small towns are situated can be an important new strategy for their managers.

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Journal of Urban Regeneration and Renewal
Erasmus School of Accounting and Assurance (ESAA)

van Twist, M, & Kort, M. (2014). Rural icons as strategic branding tools. Journal of Urban Regeneration and Renewal, 7(4), 317–328. Retrieved from