The limits of branding: the World Trade Center, fiscal crisis and the marketing of recovery


This article investigates the branding of New York’s World Trade Center, and the city itself, as both financial center and entertainment destination between the 1960s and 1990s. After addressing the symbolic as well as material damage caused by the terrorist attacks of September 11th, the article traces the history behind the towers’ design and ultimate use in marketing. It first examines the early motivations behind the project, and the forces leading to its controversial construction in the 1960s–70s. Then, in the wake of the city’s 1975 fiscal crisis, the Twin Towers and Downtown skyline were branded through campaigns like ‘I ♡ NY’ to represent a resurgent, global New York. With the recession of 1989–92, and the scaling back of public‐sector marketing, this new brand was used by a host of private‐sector media and marketing firms then establishing global headquarters in New York. In the current period, the site of the towers, and the city as a whole, are being ‘re‐branded’ as a patriotic destination. Building on content analysis and archival research, the article critically analyzes how such marketing became central to New York City’s overall economic development strategy.