The purpose of this paper is to contribute to the discussion about how to develop a common identity of local stakeholders of places (e.g. politicians, local companies, residents). Such a common identity is regarded as an essential aspect to market a place consistently to external target groups (e.g. tourists, companies, qualified workers, students).
The paper follows a conceptual approach by transferring semiotic (symbolism) and sociological concepts (symbolic interactionism) to the concept of place branding. Moreover, a practical example of how to identify potential place symbols of cities is presented within the case study of the German town of Bremen.
Symbols are identified to be of special importance for the development of group identity of local stakeholders of places. Moreover, symbols are presented as essential aspects of a feeling of belonging to a place (place commitment).
As semiotic theory has not yet been transferred to the context of place branding this paper is opening up a new subject and needs to be understood as a first approach to constitute a theoretical framework. An empirical analyses needs to be carried out in order to proof the theories in the place branding context.
The paper explains that symbols can be established by the arrangement of public discourses like, e.g. competitions for place logos, place mascots or place songs. Moreover, it is pointed out, how already established place symbols which are not yet part of branding strategies can be identified in order to strengthen place identity.
Following the semiotic concept of symbolism the paper explains a high participation of residents as a necessity to establish and negotiate the meaning of symbols in order to strengthen place identity.
Because of being the first paper putting the semiotic theory of symbolism in the focus of the interdisciplinary discussion of branding the originality of the paper can be regarded as high.
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