While driving from Ocean Beach to Twin Peaks or from West Portal to Market Street, it is obvious that there is no place like San Francisco. From its history to its structure, the city provides a one-of-a-kind marketplace for businesses of all sizes. While every city offers different opportunities, San Francisco allows individuals and companies to grow and develop like no other.

Marketing in San Francisco relies on three main principles: demographics, competition, and authenticity. Demographics play a role in who companies target, competition weeds out weak links in the city, and authenticity verifies that a company stands out.

Marketing in San Francisco: How and Why

7.68 million people call San Francisco home, and thousands of businesses want their attention. To find marketing success in San Francisco, you have to know your audience and competitors and be authentic.


While the city itself is unique, so is the average person who calls it home. There is not one true archetype that San Franciscans fall into. Hippies on Haight Street are juxtaposed with large business executives who spend their day in skyscrapers. Everyone is welcome, and thus, new ideas and identities flourish in San Francisco. Culturally, San Francisco is a cosmopolitan metropolis.

This melting pot of cultures and personalities has a few large ramifications for a business hoping to succeed in this city. One is that you cannot please every person in the city. While marketing in San Francisco can take many forms, marketing to the masses does not work. In San Francisco, knowing your target audience is more important than ever.  Marketing to the right group will make sure the money you spend on a billboard won’t go to waste.

Successful marketing in San Francisco cannot exist without a call to action or value-based appeals. Whether a company is big or small, through their marketing practices, they are trying to get people to do something. Usually, the action in question is to buy a product or a service, but sometimes, it is simply to raise awareness. This ability to organize people and inspire them is crucial to success in the city.

Big Corporations and Start-Ups

In San Francisco, multinational corporations share city blocks with start-ups and small businesses that rely on foot traffic. Obviously, all three types of businesses are marketing in different ways. 

Being at the center of global trade and technology, San Francisco has large players who can easily knock out smaller competitors. To survive, small businesses need to know what their advantages are to succeed. The appeal of class and history draws people to big corporations based in San Francisco, while the promise of innovation brings people to startups, and the human experience brings others to small businesses. 

Knowing why your business appeals to people in San Francisco is crucial if you want to stand out from the competition. 


Lastly, to be a successful marketer in San Francisco, a brand needs to stick to its mission and be authentic. What a company supports matters, especially in a liberal city. Consumers make decisions based on their own moral compass. Showing that your company shares the same values that the consumer does creates trust. 

There are two concrete strategies to ensure authenticity: partnering with organizations that believe in your values and working by your values. Saying you support a cause is different from showing your support. You need to be able to state your mission and easily show how you work to support it every day.

Next Steps

To succeed in San Francisco, you need to know your audience, who else is marketing to them, and what your values are.

As you can see, lots of factors come into play when marketing in San Francisco. Luckily for you, Colibri has been in this city for years and can help you navigate the city’s unique challenges. Sign up for a complimentary strategy session by clicking the button below to learn more!