This paper compares the vision documents for a British borough and a German city to see how the city-as-brand is encoded in different semiotic modes, to draw inferences about the cognitive structure of the brand, to ascertain in how far any global brand values are adapted to local contexts, and discuss what this tells us about the relationship between councils and citizens. As such, the study represents a cognitive critical approach to discourse in which texts are seen as vehicles for their producers' mental representations, disseminated to align recipients' representations with those of producers. This approach leads to the investigation of linguistic and visual parameters such as attribution, actors and processes, modality and tense, and layout and logo elements. Despite local adaptations, both municipal entities are conceptualized as brands with largely generic and interchangeable attributes. Global competition among cities leads to the appropriation of corporate discourses, such as branding, which redefine and ultimately depoliticize the relationships between council and citizens.