Journal of Place Management and Development

ISSN: 1753-8335

Article publication date: 7 October 2014



Roberts, G., Quin, S. and Parker, C. (2014), "Editorial", Journal of Place Management and Development, Vol. 7 No. 3. https://doi.org/10.1108/JPMD-09-2014-0014



Emerald Group Publishing Limited


Article Type: Editorial From: Journal of Place Management and Development, Volume 7, Issue 3

Appearing twice in this issue, we have some excellent place branding research from Staci Zavattaro. Zavattaro’s first paper, “Re-imaging the sustainability narrative in USA cities”, explores how US cities are communicating an overall sustainability narrative in their place branding activity. Exploratory in nature, this study utilises Qualitative Media Analysis to analyse documents and images gathered from 22 US city websites. Two particularly interesting findings of the paper are that cities are using some form of UN definition of sustainable development as a proxy for sustainability – thereby potentially neglecting social and economic aspects of the construct, and that marketing that is being done is largely geared towards encouraging consumption – which is somewhat at odds with sustainability in general. To explain this ‘status quo’ of place marketing; critical theory is introduced with a view to illustrating the potential for destination marketing to move beyond this environmentalism-centric narrative of sustainability, encouraging destination marketing managers to think outside of this given narrative to create their own sustainable stories that might help their place achieve a competitive advantage. A number of implications, both practical and theoretical, are presented as a result of the research.

Zavattaro’s second paper, this time in conjunction with Joshua Daspit, is entitled “Integrating innovation and absorptive capacity into the place branding process: a capability-based perspective”. Taking as their influence, Hankinson’s (2004, p. 118) belief that “[…] the need for the development and refinement of a comprehensive model of the place brand has never been greater”, the authors present a reconceptualised framework that offers a comprehensive perspective of the place branding process. The primary purpose of the research is to integrate organisational capabilities into the place branding process to highlight how a lead destination marketing organisation (DMO) can influence a customer-based brand equity outcome. By taking this approach, the authors hope to highlight the strategic, relational nature of place branding while uncovering new insights that are not clearly identifiable in previous research.

The authors define capabilities, in line with Winter (2000), as high-level routines that provide leaders with a set of options for producing output using available resources. Capability theory suggests that there are three levels of capabilities within an organisation, second-, first- and zero-order capabilities (Collis, 1994; Winter, 2000). The authors suggest that the various levels of capabilities are related in a hierarchical manner and work together to influence the outcome of the organisation. The focus specifically is on first- and zero-order capabilities, integrating absorptive capacity (first order) and an innovation capability (zero order) into a place branding framework. The authors define an innovation capability within a place branding context and offer absorptive capacity as a mechanism through which DMO leaders can exploit external knowledge acquisition.

By analysing existing place branding models and integrating organisational capabilities, the paper presents a theoretical framework of the place branding process that integrates firm capabilities. This approach offers deeper insights into the place branding process by highlighting the internal capabilities that allow DMOs to successfully influence brand equity. The theoretical conceptualisation offered is a framework of how capabilities exist in the place branding process.

Both papers provide interesting and original takes on place branding research. As well as creating implications for those involved in place branding in practice, the research presented also opens up some potentially interesting avenues for further theoretical development.

Our third paper by Sebastian Zenker and Carsten Erfgen is “Let them do the work: a participatory place branding approach”. This conceptual paper reinforces the need for place residents to be an active part of any place branding process. However, unlike a lot of other papers that have been written in this area, the authors show some appreciation for the complexities of participatory place branding within the context of complex, historic and democratic political and governance systems.

Zenker and Erfgen go on to offer some guidance for participatory place branding, highlighting the importance of structure. In other words, opening up existing public agencies to support a participatory approach. The authors then describe some steps towards the implementation of a participatory place brand management approach that have been taken in cities such as Hamburg and Berlin.

The penultimate paper by Sven Willemsen “Organising local ‘green’ entrepreneurship: a brand perspective” is a case study of a more participatory branding process, espoused by the previous paper. What is interesting about this paper is the conclusion that a place brand was not the appropriate solution for engaging, developing and communicating the green entrepreneurial philosophy of businesses in the Uttechtse Heuvelrug Gemeente region of The Netherlands.

While branding principles were useful in developing and supporting the collaboration of businesses and the communication of a shared vision, the case study shows that the entrepreneurial collaboration had meaning, relevance and ownership – not the construction of a place brand. Of course the place is incredibly important as the geographical home of this collaboration – but the complexity involved in doing anything at the level of the place is outside of the small businesses span of control. Rather, the paper argues, people and businesses develop their own place-based sub-brands, which all fit under the broad umbrella of ‘regional identity’. This should always be an open and fairly unmanaged space to allow the organic creation of smaller place-based brands that reflects the reality of local collaborations and interests.

Our final paper is “Leeds and the Northern Arts prize” by Brian Jones and Shirley Beresford. This paper examines the marketing of contemporary visual arts in Leeds via a case study of the Northern Art Prize. It offers a practical description of the intersection between arts marketing, city branding and place management. Some familiar ‘place management’ findings result. A lack of overall vision for arts marketing, a lack of collaboration across different stakeholders and little evaluation of activities. Nevertheless, case studies such as this and the one by Willemsen serve to remind of us the reality of place marketing, branding and management; realities that our academic researchers need to be more aware of if they want their conceptual frameworks to be adopted by practitioners.

Finally, we are delighted to announce another opportunity to bring the academic, practical and policy perspectives on place management together. The 3rd Institute of Place Management Conference will be held at Poznan University of Economics (Faculty of Management) on the 6th-8th May in partnership with Manchester Metropolitan University and Stockholm University (Stockholm Program of Place Branding). The Conference Chair is Dr Magdalena Florek.

The title of the conference is “Place management and branding: sustainability, liveability and connectivity” and the three main tracks running through the conference will be place management, place brand management and the influence of global trends on specific places.

There will be a special issue of the Journal of Place Management and Development containing the best papers from the conference. Academic and practitioner contributions are welcome.

Cathy Parker, Gareth Roberts and Simon Quin


Collis, D.J. (1994), “How valuable are organisational capabilities?,” Strategic Management Journal, Vol. 15 No. S1, pp. 143-152.

Winter, S.G. (2000), “The satisficing principle in capability learning,” Strategic Management Journal, Vol. 21 Nos 10/11, pp. 981-996.

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