Comparative analysis of marketing and branding strategies of European cities and the Caribbean islands


by Max Rosebert Shoewer LUBIN
Master in Innovative management and communication strategies
At South Ural State University
Bachelor’s degree in communication at the State University of Haiti

If territorial marketing is considered as a set of strategies drawing on the local economy as well as on spatial planning, which consists in strengthening the attractiveness of a geographical area, the exposure of territories to the effects of globalization the brand strategy has settled at the heart of the territorial strategies of cities and metropolises of the world. The increase in competition between cities has led them to rethink their attractiveness and to use territorial marketing to highlight their strengths. In Europe, in countries such as France, Germany and England use territorial marketing as the public authorities’ recourse to communication techniques from the business world to promote their territories. These practices exist at all scales, from the smallest municipalities to the states. The aim is to attract people deemed desirable, investments, companies, etc. Moreover, in other regions of the world more specifically in the Caribbean islands in America, the brand strategies of cities seem different or non-existent. Several aspects could explain this difference. Our objective in this article is to understand this difference and what its impact is on the tourist area of these cities. Thus, we seek to analyze the role of geographical positioning in the marketing strategies used to promote cities.

Key words: Territorial marketing; marketing strategies; Caribbean islands; Brand management; brand strategy; promotion; communication; development


In Europe, the marketing strategies of cities are often based on the territorial positioning, once the positioning of the territory is determined a traditional marketing approach: the creation of a brand. The latter is part of a territorial development project led by local actors and civil society. It must carry their current image, their inherited history and identity, without moving away from current socio-economic issues. In France, for example, several territories have structured their governance for the creation of structures such as attractiveness agencies (operational bodies created by local authorities) or the support and mentoring of networks of ambassadors from civil society. The creation of attractiveness agencies makes it possible, for example, to resolve difficulties in implementing common policies, such as the tourism policy of the Lille metropolitan area, which because of the existence of the «duopoly» Lille-Roubaix, made it possible to get out of the problem of the opposition between the two cities by assuming the role of mediator thanks in particular to the collection of opinions of all the community’s members of the Metropolis. 

However, the creation of an image for the simple purpose of «selling» the territory as an attractive space to the target populations can sometimes lead to failure due to the differences between the constructed image and the realities of the field. Intercultural competition is becoming ever stronger and requires the development of a marketing strategy to ensure the economic and cultural promotion of a city. Even if the concept of « city branding » is a recent notion, it is still growing to develop the attractiveness of a city in the 21st century. Then, we can consider it as a territorial marketing around a set of methods drawing on the local economy as well as on regional planning and which consists in reinforcing the attractiveness of a geographical area. Cities are faced with the same challenges as a brand. This has pushed them to use marketing techniques. This allows them to highlight the different aspects and services, advantages and urban benefits.

To meet the expectations of different actors: inhabitants, tourists, traders, politicians, commuters and seasonal workers; To increase competitiveness in a very competitive sector; To create a certain image of the city or a country in the mind of consumers. Consumers are used to comparing different places to live and the quality of services offered. The objective is to develop several images of the city and to select the ones to convey to the different audiences. The goal is to develop several images of the city and to select the ones to convey to different audiences in order to build loyalty or to attract new residents and visitors.

The tourist power of the Caribbean islands

In fact, with an area of 2.754 million km² and a Population: 44.42 million (2019), the Caribbean Islands constitute an old and dynamic tourist region, but which depends on the global economic situation. The different forms of tourism meet the expectations of a varied clientele and are more or less appropriate by island actors, allowing local development. In general, the level of development leads to strong ownership and the multiplication of actors and activities related to tourism. The Caribbean islands have been developing their tourism economy since the 1930s and especially since the 1970s. They were then the privileged tropical destinations, but their weight has decreased today: in 2015, 25 million international tourists visited the Caribbean, out of a total of 199.3 million for all the Americas, and $309 million for Asia and the Pacific (UNWTO, 2017). Competition from Asian tropical destinations (32.6 million international tourists to Thailand in 2016) is therefore strong. Nevertheless, the islands of the Caribbean constitute a dynamic and constantly evolving tourist area, with 11.4 million international tourists in 1990 and 25.2 in 2015, irrigated by North-by the American and European flows that are each moving towards their former possessions.

Tourism followed export agriculture; the holiday club and the large hotel replaced the economic and social role of the distillery or sugar factory. This transition from one system to another ends in some tourist resorts of the small islands which have strengthened their tertiarization through offshore financial activities. Other spaces initiate this change. The situations are therefore manifold and result in a juxtaposition of the forms of tourism: of stay, cruise, pleasure, great pleasure, level of reception and equipment, from luxury to fair.

Territorial development and attractiveness strategies

Thus, the integration of devitalized areas in territorial development and attractiveness strategies, based on the support of local populations, responds to the challenges of coherence and social cohesion that are essential to the success of a territorial marketing strategy. The structuring of governance is essential to the establishment of an efficient territorial marketing, allowing the objectives and expectations of local actors and individuals to converge. A context of increased competition between territories for attracting investments and people has led the cities to implement Marketing and Branding strategies. Those strategies should be adapted in order to fit the cities’ requirements and needs, consequently city managers and planners have to be initiated to those techniques. The city’s image is a central item here. Every possible asset of the city should be enhanced to improve people’s perception of the city (residents but also potential residents and visitors).

Thus, since the territory is a creator of market and non-market values, it complicates the implementation of a marketing strategy. The marketing positioning of a territory is based on its history forging its identity and allowing it to rely on an image consistent with current socio-economic and political realities. A coherent marketing position is all the more necessary in a context where the attractiveness of the territories is subject to competition. Differentiation is therefore a decisive strategy. Cultural and architectural capital: through the promotion of a cultural and architectural history at the service of the territorial identity or the creation of buildings with iconic architecture whose discovery is scripted. The city of Lyon for example using brand strategies like «Only Lion» remains as a reference.

Nowadays, cities around the world are trying to show the best possible image. There is a strong competition between them to position themselves in the top of cities’ ranking in the world, country, region or area. But, the main success factor to achieve this goal is to know what point that the city should enhance or on which segment of the market it needs to focus. Indeed, time is needed for the image to be accepted and recognized among the target public or to be accredited a new. Also, the image should be homogeneous and coherent to be accepted with more efficiency. The image of a city is one of the most important success factors in tourism. A good management and implementation of this concept can make the city realize what is the image that tourists have of it. Knowing this, the city can act to keep that line or trying to change its image.

The development of the tourism industry is based not only on rich natural and cultural capital, but also on human capital. The latter plays an essential role in the design, planning, operation and operation of tourist activities and facilities. The history of Latin America has created complex realities and has produced a very specific tourism job market. While each Latin American country stands out in terms of its attractions, the management of its territories and its workforce, the contrast is even greater compared to the countries of the Northern Hemisphere. In Latin America, socio-economic development, mobility and national incomes are not sufficient to ensure stable tourism development. This development therefore remains a major challenge, particularly due to inadequate public policy and management, poverty and gaps in education (Panasso Netto and Trigo, 2015). In the European countries, they usually think that the process of marketing the city is all the more interesting at this stage that the number of challenges that local actors have to take up is important. applied to geographical entities. From there arise the concepts of Destination Marketing (also called Place marketing) that will be defined in the next part and City Marketing, among others. Here, the authors perceive City Marketing as a special application of Destination Marketing.

The basis of city marketing strategies in the Latin Caribbean

However, in the Caribbean in Latin America, we rely only on geographic cultural aspect to build visibility for cities. Today, this development is accentuated by the interest shown by the inhabitants in recreational sports, bathing and water sports (Desse M., 2005, 2006). Tourism appears to be a dynamic driver of island territorial development, offering the full range of possibilities and targeting local and regional clientele in intermediate-level countries, to emigrating tourists and to the most demanding international tourists. Finally, on the scale of the beach, the fishing village opening up to tourism, we will show how in some cases, as in Haiti, the enclave and its segregation system remain, while in Guadeloupe a greater openness is required, providing benefits to a larger segment of the population. In all the islands, the development of tourism is based on a strong involvement of the public authorities. At the moment the Barbados had its highest level of infrastructure construction in 1982, with 14,314 beds. What is not bad, however, in the current era the brand strategies of cities require much more. In this sense, another aspect to question, the geographical positioning.

In Europe, cities have far more advantages than globalization. They are much more visited compared to the cities of the Caribbean. Lyon, Rome, Amsterdam, Berlin, Madrid, London, Moscow are cities that often have attractions such as sports and other activities. What is different in the Caribbean. So, European cities take advantage of this situation to sell their images to the whole world. The brands “Be Berlin”, “Montpellier Unlimited”, “Nice & Smart”, “Only Lyon” or “Strasbourg, l’Europtimiste” are based on the name of the city and extend their positioning universe through a signature allowing to positively evolve the perceived image of the territory.

In terms of territorial marketing, and more particularly branding, we can say that the role of the signature is strategic because it will be a question of evolving the perceived image of the city towards new values more in line with the marketing strategy and the desired positioning. This can be, for example, through the territorial brand, to reposition the city with new audiences or to assert a position in one or more areas. Several British cities, such as Birmingham, have been able, thanks to skillful brand policies, to reposition themselves in the minds of the English and European populations. From industrial cities, they have become cities attracting more diverse audiences. This reinforces the link between the overall values of the territorial branding strategy and targeted marketing strategies to specific audiences. The word used makes the link between the brand and its values with the target audiences and the arguments built for each of them.

In 1965, in the Islands a commission was created to bring together structuring equipment (casino, marinas, golf practices) and thus avoid the isolation of large hotels. Various financial and tax incentives are provided to hotel investors, attracting metropolitan capital. In the mid-1970s, the plans still envisage the expansion of the large hotel industry, but also the strengthening of small and medium-sized structures to open up the tourism sector to island capital. Since the 1980s, aid has been directed towards upgrading port and airport infrastructure, road networks and hotels, as well as gites, seasonal rentals, restaurants, entertainment facilities and recreational boat rentals (Chardon J-P, Hartog T., 1995). In the 2000s, the number of tourists visiting the Caribbean islands slowed, and this trend was reinforced in the French West Indies. The global crisis marked by the attacks in the United States, the increase in oil prices, and the sub-prime crisis affect this sector in particular. According to the Caribbean Tourism Organization, 17.9 million tourists visited the islands in 2008, down 6% from 2007. While 35.3% of tourists visited the Dominican Republic and Cuba or tourist gems such as Saint Kitts, the Virgin Islands, Aruba or Saint Barthélemy… only 2.7% of tourists stayed in Martinique. 

This decline is particularly significant for cruise tourism, which stood at 87,000 cruise passengers in 2008 compared to 414,000 in 1998. In Guadeloupe, the cruise also saw a 75% decrease in its attendance (Desse M., 2017). Thus, cycles of tourist attendance appear and mark the decline of former destinations, such as Saint-Martin, Guadeloupe, Martinique and Barbados, to the benefit of new ones like Cuba, the Dominican Republic, Anguilla and Trinidad. Since 2010, the Caribbean region has become attractive again with 24 million international tourists in 2015 (4 million more since 2010). The Greater Antilles still dominate with the Dominican Republic (5.6 million), Cuba and Puerto Rico (3.5 million), Jamaica (2.1 million). Barbados, Saint-Martin, Guadeloupe and Martinique attract 500,000 tourists. Below this, the flows may be smaller, but in relation to the number of inhabitants and the area, they are very large and generate significant per capita income.

We can see that there is a weakness in the practice or mastery of developing brand strategies for cities in Latin America. These countries focus on their cultural landscape, their historical past to make themselves noticed. However, territorial marketing must be part of an approach aimed at involving the main actors concerned by the attractiveness of the territory, the city in this case. In this context, the creation of a city-wide territorial brand consists of mobilizing actors under a neutral “umbrella brand”. In addition to this functionality, the territorial brand aims to strengthen the attractiveness of the city by a system of values, a discourse or actions to strengthen the overall awareness of this destination by the power of coherence created. According to Boris: «it requires constant efforts» and, as I often add, human and financial resources sometimes underestimated! The territorial brand created at the scale of a city can be global targeting several markets like ‘’Be Berlin’’.

Despite a weak marketing strategy of the cities, in the Islands tourist activities still always working. The World Tourism Organization (UNWTO), in its statistical studies, divides the Americas into four regions: North America, the Caribbean, Central America and South America. In 2014, according to the WTO, the entire U.S. continent – the Americas – recorded 181 million international tourist arrivals, representing 16% of the global tourism flow, and USD 274 billion, or 22% of the revenue generated by this flow (UNWTO, 2015). Of these 181 million tourists, two-thirds visited North America. Mexico, integrated into the North American region, alone accounted for 16.1% of arrivals and 5.9% of tourism receipts. The Caribbean accounted for 12.4%, with 9.9% of revenue. Central America accounted for 5.3% of arrivals and 3.5% of revenues. Finally, South America accounted for 15.8% of arrivals and 9.4% of receipts, with the majority of arrivals going to Argentina and Brazil (OMT, 2015).

The problem of the city marketing strategies in the Caribbean Island

It can therefore be observed that despite an important cultural and natural heritage and an exceptional climate, Latin America has only a small international tourist flow. There is also a high concentration of arrivals in a few seaside countries. Archaic tourism development models and political and social problems are the main causes that have undermined the growth of this industry in most of these countries. The problem is also the strategies used to promote cities. The marketing of the cities is really weak in the Islands, especially these islands do not often make from the major world events. What could help is a real territorial marketing strategy developed around three major phases with very distinct objectives. The first is brand activation; the second is brand implementation; and the third is brand consolidation, which includes results measurement tactics. In Europe, to communicate their advantages, cities create promotion agencies. They plan the marketing strategy and do market prospecting to attract investors. 

In general, regions that launch new niche markets will adapt their image, messaging and prospecting tools to suit the target sectors. New advertising vehicles are also being explored to sell the city’s attractions. Thus, websites are created or redeveloped to open an international showcase to municipalities. Various communication tactics will be deployed over the next five years, via a digital platform, social media, urban signage, relational marketing, and event offensives. Most importantly, communication tools will be made available to businesses, real estate developers, investors, entrepreneurs, business people and professionals involved in economic development to facilitate their work and, therefore, to increase the influence of the Cities.

However, in the Caribbean, municipalities and senior levels of government often make massive investments in infrastructure to develop their strategic plans, create incentives and establish promotional structures. The regions are becoming aware of the need to offer more value to investors in order to convince them to settle in their territory. The creation of an image simply to « sell » the territory as an attractive space to target populations can sometimes end in failure because of discrepancies between the constructed image and the realities on the ground. Thus, the integration of devitalized areas into territorial development and attractiveness strategies, relying on the support of local populations, meets the challenges of coherence and social cohesion that are essential to the success of a territorial marketing strategy.

Comparison of marketing strategies in the Latin Caribbean and European cities

In fact, in the Caribbean Islands more particularly in Cuba, the Dominican Republic and Haiti, the attraction of activities is one way used to give notoriety and credibility to their niches of excellence, municipalities seek to convince senior levels of government to establish research centers and development on their territory. The opening of these centers is the adaptation activity most often noticed among municipalities trying to start or revitalize an industrial cluster. There should be more in the Caribbean to stand out in the world. For example, the technique used in the marketing of cities’ brands in Europe as by ‘Only Lyon’, as part of its second campaign. As expressed in the press kit: Thus, ’ONLY LYON’ will remain the benchmark of the agglomeration, and will be enriched with a set of other notions through new English adverbs in LY: Lively, Lovely, Successfully, Brightly, Exceptionally, tastefully… All come to decline and clarify the message by expressing the diversity of the offer of the territory, its fields of attractiveness and its actors».

Because of the exposure of territories to the effects of globalization, territorial marketing has become a central part of the territorial strategies of cities and metropolises around the world. The increase in competition between cities has led them to rethink their attractiveness and to resort to territorial marketing to highlight their assets. Perhaps in the Caribbean Islands, the leaders do not understand that territorial marketing is a recourse of public authorities to communication techniques, from the business world, to promote their territories. These practices exist at all levels, from the smallest municipalities to states. The goal is to attract populations deemed desirable, investments, companies, etc.

Whether it is to support an established territorial attractiveness or to start an urban transformation and create a new showcase for the territory, major development projects are necessary. Post-war functional urbanism based on a strict separation of activities is no longer considered optimal, leaving room today for the functional mix of uses in urban projects. Conduct a reflection on devitalized spaces, create neighborhoods mixing office spaces, housing, shops, infrastructure (public services, structural transport, etc.) becomes vital, in the era when quality of life has become a cardinal value of the attractiveness of a territory. The strategic elements highlighted are the presence of the river and its tributaries, the economic vitality and the “quality of life” found in the city. More concretely, you will notice that the mission of the key messages is to interpret each clientele with greater precision, depending on the niche.

The economic growth generated makes it possible to attract new residents (feeding the employment pool) and new specialized players alongside the companies established in the territory (promoting innovation). But with the repetitive political cries in the Caribbean, it seems difficult to conceive a sustainable plan at this point. The dynamism of the territory’s productive system has attracted investors, training and research players, and cultural players. These areas benefit from the spin-offs of their regional, national and/or international influence and support it with new offers within the framework of urban projects that make it possible to accompany this growth and maintain the virtuous circle of their dynamism.  


Therefore, what is missing in the Caribbean is the institutional or public marketing of a city which consists in promoting the activities and services of the City especially to the inhabitants, the economic activities that are there or tourists in the other continent. In this context, the Caribbean City may decide to create a brand, or brands, to promote itself globally and/ or for specific services (hosting companies, public water service, public facilities, etc.). The brand created is then an institutional brand serving the strategy of the community and the world. Territorial marketing at the city level is a “a collective approach to valuing and adapting territories to competitive markets, in order to influence, in their favor, the behavior of their audiences through a different offer whose perceived value is durably higher than that of competitors” (based on Le Mercator 2013).

Thus, the territory being a creator of market and non-market values, makes the implementation of a marketing strategy more complex. The marketing positioning of a territory is based on its history, which forges its identity and allows it to rely on an image that is consistent with current socio-economic and political realities.  A coherent marketing positioning is all the more necessary in a context where the attractiveness of territories is subject to competition. Differentiation is therefore a key strategy. Once the positioning of the territory has been determined, a traditional marketing approach is used: the creation of a brand. The latter is part of a development project for the territory carried out by local actors and civil society. It must reflect their current image, their history and inherited identity, without distancing itself from current socio-economic issues.

Though, the creation of an image for the simple purpose of «selling» the territory as an attractive space to the target populations can sometimes lead to failure due to the differences between the constructed image and the realities of the field. Thus, the integration of devitalized areas in territorial development and attractiveness strategies, based on the support of local populations, responds to the challenges of coherence and social cohesion that are essential to the success of a territorial marketing strategy. However, the strategies employed in the Caribbean islands are based solely on the territory’s history. And another thing that does not play in favor of these islands is the geographical positioning. European cities still benefit from certain global activities that enable them to promote their cities. What is different in the Caribbean, therefore, they are obliged to use their only strategy which is the promotion of their culture.

Max R. Shoewer LUBIN


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