Brussels city marketing

By Andreea • Branding, Graphic design, Marketing • 16 Jul 2012


The internet was expanding earlier this year, when the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or ICANN—the nonprofit organization that controls the Internet’s domain-name system—announced that it was accepting applications for new domain-name extensions.   With this announcement, a few interesting webpages appeared.
[vslider name=”bebrussels”]


For $185,000, anyone could suggest alternatives to, and the other URL standbys. Out of the 1,409 applications ICANN received, there were a few amusing ideas (, .wtf) and plenty of commerce-oriented suggestions from corporations (.pfizer), brands (.calvinklein), e-business niches (.spreadbetting), and tourist-hungry cities and regions (

Among the latter was .brussels, a domain extension for the Belgian capital that will present a new brand and logo for the Brussels Capital Region. This identity reboot was done by Base Design, an international firm with offices in five cities (including Brussels) whose clients have included Adidas, Camper, Chanel, the Museum of Modern Art, and Kanye West.

I think this city rebranding is among the most spectaculous that I’ve seen and I will share here what they shared publicly in their press release, describing the thinking behind its Brussels rebranding:


Government of the Brussels Capital Region (Région de Bruxelles-Capitale/Brussels Hoofdstedelijk Gewest)

Project Overview

On July 2012, the Government of the Brussels Capital Region approved the new brand and logo ‘Be.Brussels’ developed by Base Design for the Brussels Capital Region.

Design Solution

For the new brand system that will be attributed to the Brussels Region at the beginning of 2013, Base Design has developed an accessible and dynamic brand. It serves not just as a logo but also as a system or platform that can be used by all the Brussels stakeholders.



The new brand was developed by Base Design. It is composed of the new top-level domain .brussels that will be attributed to the Brussels Region at the beginning of 2013, and is preceded by the prefix ‘be’. The new ‘’ brand serves both as a call to action and a reference to Brussels’ status as the capital of Belgium (‘BE’) and Europe.

To ensure instant recognition and continuity the Brussels Capital Region required the new logo to incorporate the traditional blue and yellow Iris, the symbol of the Brussels Capital Region. Taking these constraints into consideration, Base Design has developed an accessible brand that serves not just as a logo but also as a system or platform that can be used by all the Brussels stakeholders.



“Logos, however pretty, are no longer sufficient to build a brand,” says Thierry Brunfaut, one of Base Design’s founders. “What makes brands vibrant and strong in 2012 is their capacity to engage users and build strong connections. This is especially true for a city marketing brand to promote a region like Brussels.”

“The new identity for the Brussels Region has to be open and accessible to all stakeholders – residents, tourists and institutions alike. It has to be a unifying symbol as well as a tool for promotion to the outside world. That’s why the brand was constructed around a number of important principles like usability, continuity and openness.”

An immediately useful and usable brand
The new name ‘’ is an internet address. Brussels will be a pioneer in Europe by adopting a brand that also serves as a destination that provides information about Brussels.

An affirmative brand
The brand is both an affirmation and a call to action: ‘’, to be Brussels. Brussels, capital of Belgium and Europe, can and should extend this invitation in English. This way the invitation can be heard and understood by the whole world.

An anchored brand
By using the prefix ‘be’, the new brand strongly ties the Brussels Region to Belgium (‘BE’), both as the capital of the country and as the capital of Europe.

A natural continuity
The new logo uses the traditional colours of the Brussels Region, as well as a modernised version of the Iris, the Region’s symbol. The design of the new Iris is simpler, more accessible and dynamic. One of the iris’ leaves is heart-shaped, symbolising the soul of the inhabitants of the Brussels Region.

An open, dynamic system
In order to be a successful marketing tool, the new identity for the Brussels Capital Region must be versatile. By designing it as an open and evolutionary system all stakeholders can adopt it and identify with it.

In most uses the system consists of the logo and two lines. The first line is a reference to the individual, specific and diverse. The second line is what unites them: their Brussels’ identity. It’s a system that invites everybody to participate: multicultural and multilingual – a reflection of the Region’s openness and ‘bon-vivant’ attitude.

Some examples: ‘Be zinneke, Be Brussels’, ‘Be Portuguese, Be Brussels’, ‘Be Moroccan, Be Brussels’, ‘Be Nederlandstalig, Be Brussels’ etc.

The brand system will be implemented by all actors in Brussels. ‘Be everywhere, Be Brussels’ for the taxis, ‘Be clean, be Brussels’ for the city’s garbage trucks, for instance. The more institutions and stakeholders that use the new brand, the more it will really come into its own and become the pride of all the denizens of the Brussels Region.

 It’s worth sharing their great ideas forward to inspire as many cities as possible 🙂


Later edit: I’ve learned that Berlin (Germany’s capital) has launched a similar campaign in 2008 on their web domain: be berlin ( and also there was a german version too: sei berlin.

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