Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to explore whether multiple stakeholders imbue a single or multiple meanings to a city brand. Design/methodology/approach: The branding literature hints at multiple stakeholders but most studies take a single stakeholder perspective. A two-stage quantitative study was used to examine similarities and differences between two stakeholder groups. The context for the study is city branding. Findings: The evidence suggests that different external stakeholders do have different brand meanings associated to a city brand. Each stakeholder group applies their own filter to interpret the meaning of the city brand. Essentially, a new conceptualisation of the city brand is provided. Research limitations/implications: Although the samples are reasonably large, it is important to apply the framework to other city brands to test for generalisability. Future research might also test the filter concept in the more general context of corporate branding. Practical implications: Organisations need to recognise the multi-faceted, multiple meanings of the brand as a whole. Corporate communication requires adjustment from a convergence approach to one that recognises different brand purposes for each stakeholder group. The ideas are readily usable in not-for-profit communities. Originality/value: The paper joins a small number of studies that challenge the conventional wisdom that convergence of brand meaning across stakeholder groups is an ideal state. The paper develops a filter concept as a way of showing that different stakeholder groups might use a different filter or lens to interpret a city brand.