The role of leadership and communication in internal city branding

Rico Piehler*, Ayla Roessler, Christoph Burmann

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


This study investigates the brand-oriented leadership of a city’s mayor and city online brand communication as brand management–related antecedents of residents’ city brand commitment. It thus examines if city brand managers can apply internal branding concepts from the corporate branding domain in a city branding context.

The relationships between the brand management–related antecedents and the internal city branding objective are tested through structural equation modelling using cross-sectional survey data of 414 residents of a German city.

The brand-oriented leadership of the mayor in terms of acting as a role model by living the city brand and its identity and by showing commitment to the brand as well as the city’s online brand communication in terms of its quality both have positive effects on residents’ city brand commitment. Moderation analyses reveal no significant differences between the path estimates for age, place of birth, duration of residency and education. However, the results differ significantly for gender.

As this study’s sample is limited to only one city in Germany, further research needs to investigate the relationships in different cities and other countries to ensure the generalisability of the results. Future studies might also include other aspects of city brand communication as well as cognitive and behavioural internal city branding objectives.

To increase residents’ city brand commitment, city brand managers should ensure that a city’s online brand communication is adequate, complete, credible, useful and clear. Furthermore, through creating awareness for the importance of a mayor’s brand-oriented leadership and through educating and training the mayor to engage in this specific form of brand-oriented transformational leadership, city brand managers can increase residents’ emotional attachment with the city brand.

This study integrates internal branding research from the corporate branding domain with place and city branding research. It confirms that certain aspects of internal branding (i.e., brand-oriented leadership, brand communication and brand commitment) are applicable not only in the corporate branding domain but also in other branding contexts such as city branding if adapted properly.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Product & Brand Management
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 1 Dec 2020


  • City Branding
  • Internal Branding
  • Residents
  • Brand commitment
  • Leadership
  • Brand communication

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