17 March 2017

Landmark Place Branding in Vietnam

Tags: Empire City / Ho Chi Minh City / Place Branding

Empire City a new landmark for Ho Chi Minh City


From Vietnam’s largest and fastest-growing city, to the modern metropolis of Singapore and its expanding Central Business District and to Yangon’s former colonial downtown core, strategic place branding plays an important role in positioning existing and emerging landmarks.

Place Branding & Cities

The term ‘Place Branding’ is typically associated with the branding of countries, regions and cities as destinations for a broad range of stakeholders. And even within cities there are different places within the urban landscape that differentiate themselves as locations for businesses, residents, tourists and attract a range of economic and cultural activities.

The branding of tourism infrastructure and public transportation systems form part of city’s repertoire of place branding strategies along with international events and large-scale urban regeneration projects. Increasingly, mixed-use integrated developments play a role in shaping perceptions of inner-city places.

Beyond the need to facilitate recognition, place branding aims to project meaning and shift perceptions based on favourable associations. Not all place-branding solutions rely solely on logos and symbols to achieve this. Yet strategic design invariably has a role to play in defining and signalling meaning particularly in communicating the rejuvenation of existing places and emerging iconic landmarks.

Sustainable Urbanisation

For urban planners and real estate developers, particularly those in Asia, the growth in population density poses a significant challenge. As more cities struggle with overcrowding and the need to both attract and retain talent, visitors and investment, planners and developers will need to factor sustainability into ensuring their place brands have longevity.

Caption: Actual & projected growth in ASEAN cities with 500,000+ populations.


Across Asia the cities of Osaka, Karachi, Jakarta, Mumbai, Shanghai, Manila, Seoul and Beijing are each already home to over 20 million people. Within the coming decade Delhi and Tokyo are forecast to approach or even exceed 40 million people each. Urbanisation is one of the major trends currently shaping cities and the ASEAN region comprises some of the largest and fastest growing cities in the world.

How do urban planners and real estate developers across the region respond to this trend in their own ways? In the first of a three-part series on Southeast Asia’s Skymarks, our team grapples with this question through the lens of place and macro-real estate branding.

From Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon), Vietnam’s largest and fastest growing city to the bustling metropolis of Singapore’s Central Business District and finally Yangon, Myanmar’s former capital and a city bestowed with Southeast Asia’s largest number of colonial buildings, we focus on three very different downtown city cores and the branding of urban regeneration projects that are shifting the meaning of place and adding new landmarks to city skylines.

Vietnam | Ho Chi Minh City

Ho Chi Minh City is Vietnam’s most populous metropolitan area and the 20th most densely populated city in the world.

Across the Saigon River from the city’s established District 1 is the 1,620 acre Thu Thiem New Urban Area (NUA). Under the city’s master plan, Thu Thiem in District 2 is set to become the new financial, commercial and residential centre for Ho Chi Minh City and extend its downtown core.

Situated in Zone 2B of Thu Thiem, and with direct access via the six lane Saigon River Tunnel is Empire City, a 15-hectare mixed-use development with a prime waterfront location.

Empire City integrates high-end apartments and shop houses, a five-star hotel, a shopping mall, office buildings and an 86-storey tower. With KPF as the architects and a consortium of four development partners, this is project with ambition, one that plans to punctuate the city’s skyline when completed in 2022. The city’s current tallest building is the iconic 65-storey Bitexco Financial Tower in District One.

Beyond the architecture that will shape Ho Chi Minh City’s skyline, how does branding help shift the meaning of place on the ground?

Empire City | The new District 1.2

The Empire City brand is positioned as Ho Chi Minh’s new District One; District One without traffic congestion, without infrastructure constraints, without cramped spaces and crumbling buildings. This is a story about the better side of District One, the District One of tomorrow, District 1.2.



The linking of Districts 1 + 2 through the brand positioning is more than a simple game of numbers. It combines powerful associations of past and future place, signalling that a new style of urban living is but a short step across the river.

A Mark of Confidence

Beyond buildings Empire City has a big city attitude. Drawing inspiration from the place branding approach of cities, The Empire City brand identity exudes confidence. On a direct level, it signifies the location next to the Saigon River and a multi-layered, mixed-use experience. As an iconic mark subtly containing letters ‘E’ and ‘C’, the identity speaks the language of an accessible lifestyle brand.

The ambition of Thu Thiem as a major urban regeneration project is matched by the positioning and personality of the Empire City brand. While the brand has symbolic meaning around the location and the experience, the story extends beyond a mixed-use development and a badge for buildings to convey a seamless and stylish metropolitan lifestyle. Click here to visit the Empire City case study.


Keep a look out for the next two Landmark Branding instalments in our ‘Skymarking in South East Asia’ trilogy, where we look at Yangon, a city endowed with Southeast Asia’s largest number of colonial buildings and branding Singapore’s past & present tallest buildings.

Dominic Mason

Managing Director, Southeast Asia

Dom is Managing Director at Sedgwick Richardson SEA. Originally from the UK, he has lived in Southeast Asia for almost 30 years, working for leading global and local brands across diverse geographic markets, industry sectors and product and service categories.