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Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Article Type: Editorial From: Journal of Place Management and Development, Volume 4, Issue 2
I am writing this Editorial in Adelaide, South Australia. Adelaide is a “planned city”, based on a grid structure drawn up in the mid-nineteenth century. I arrived here with a copy of the original plans for the city, and not much has changed in over 150 years. In many respects, Adelaide can be held up as an example of good quality urban planning. Nevertheless, after spending only a week here, the forces for change are as strong here as they are everywhere else, and there is a constant tension between preservation and development. Place management offers the potential for many places to adapt to the global and local forces of change, but it also challenges existing agencies and here, just like in other countries, place management partnerships are not encouraged and where they do exist they are not supported as well as they should be, even though they are carrying out important local initiatives cost effectively and in a very inclusive manner, building local capacity to make improvements with businesses and citizens.
The reason I am in Adelaide is because I was invited to be the Keynote Speaker at the Mainstreet 2011 Conference. The conference explored many themes that are represented in this journal and, in particular, this issue. The problems facing Mainstreets, the ways in which they can reinvent themselves, how to increase patronage, the role of place marketing and branding, the problems of place competition and how investment in one location can alter another location’s success, how to engage stakeholders (especially when it seems they do not want to engage), the “producers” of local identity (food, festivals, etc.), the unintended displacement of certain communities through place development and the tension between those that see green field and green space development as a necessity versus those that do not are all subjects of discussion at the conference and within this issue of the journal. I would like to take credit for planning the content of the journal to reflect the conference, but it has more to do with the fact that between academics and practitioners we are starting to identify the major themes of place management, development and marketing, so it is hardly surprising we are discussing the same things.
The first paper in the issue, is Christopher T. Sneed’s “Brand, business mix, sense-of-place: do they matter downtown?”; one that Mainstreet managers will be immediately interested in as this paper investigates what makes a person decide to visit their downtown, their Mainstreet or their town centre, etc. The USA, has seen a decline in the patronage of downtowns, less people choosing to shop there, and the ones that do spending considerably less money. This has led downtown areas to adopt strategies to try and encourage increased patronage. As well as physical regeneration projects, downtowns have invested into place branding (to communicate to existing and potential patrons) and have tried to “manipulate” the business mix, to ensure a variety of complementary and competing businesses are present in the area. Finally, the “sense-of-place” associated with a downtown is also an important factor. The heritage of a location and the physical assets that differentiate it from the standardised fascias and urban design of other competing retail spaces, such as out-of-town malls, may also influence an individual’s decision to shop downtown.
The relative contribution of brand, business mix and sense of place to an individual’s patronage decision was tested across eight different communities (with 836 respondents). The overall image that a shopper has of a downtown and its business mix has a strong positive effect on patronage intention. However, sense of place had a significant negative effect. “For those who rate a downtown as excellent in historic preservation, safety, walkability, etc. patronage intention actually goes down” (Sneed, 2011). The study recognises its limitations, in that the importance of the marketing and business mix factors may have overshadowed sense of place, as the questionnaire was about shopping intentions. Nevertheless, it is also a worrying finding as it may indicate that shoppers automatically associate heterogeneity and more sense of place with an inferior shopping experience. It may be that place management may need to communicate less about regeneration and heritage protection developments as it may be having a negative effect on shoppers’ perceptions of their downtowns.
Martin Boisen writes our second paper “The selective nature of place branding and the layering of spatial identities” which is written against the “backdrop” of the “re-scaling of statehood” (Brenner, 2001), and the widespread adoption of neo-liberal approaches to develop and promote place competitiveness. Whether or not all places are in competition is a moot point, as “(i)f policymakers perceive their places as being in competition, they will embark on policies to improve the competitive position of their places (Boisen, 2007a)”. In particular, this paper investigates the policy/practice of place branding, as a competitive strategy to “add value” to a place, be that a city, region or nation.
First, the paper explains the concept of “place hierarchy”, in that some places are just “more significant than other places” (Boisen, 2011). This might be due to their historical significance or just the everyday role they play in peoples’ lives. The creation of new places (such as economic development zones) that have no established identity are unlikely to rank very highly in a place hierarchy, they have “thin” spatial identities, unless they can build (or layer) associations with places that have more established identities. The example Boisen gives is the Dutch Food Valley, a new “region” but one that includes the University of Wageningen (which has a long-standing reputation in food science) and draws in surrounding cities and rural areas that are very active in the food industry. So, a farmer in a particular village in the Food Valley may identify with different spatial “layers”, his/her farm, the village and also the Food Valley.
Second, the paper discusses the concept of a place brand and reviews the different interpretations of place branding but concludes that “all places can be seen as brands” (Boisen, 2007) as to say a place name to someone will conjure up a number of associations, regardless of whether or not they have visited the place. While some authors would argue that this perception of place is the place brand, Boisen suggests that these perceptions can be transferred from other scalar layers and are not only a product of promotional or branding activities. For example, as you know, I am writing this Editorial in Adelaide. It is my first time in Adelaide, but before I came I had a perception of Adelaide, not based on any recent branding or marketing activity (as I had not been exposed to any) but based on my previous trips to Australia, my knowledge of Melbourne and the adjoining state of Victoria and my familiarity with a number of grid-planned cities of the mid-nineteenth century in Australia and the USA. So Boisen’s conclusion is that to discuss place brands is to “discuss limited geographical representations”, that may bear little resemblance with the perceptions individuals hold.
The third part of the paper discussed the process of place branding. Place branding is a place-based application of product/service branding, which has evolved to maximise profit for the organisations that own the brand. The process of branding includes identifying target groups that are most likely to associate with the brand, purchase the brand, etc. There is a selectivity inherent in the branding process, which when applied to place branding means there is a tendency to include certain stakeholder groups (and exclude others). In addition, Boisen concludes:
[…] (a) consequence of the selective nature of place branding is thus a spatial inequality between places within the place that fit the core elements of the brand identity and are seen as assets in the brand positioning, and places within the place that are not.
So place brands may not only be “selective” in terms of what elements of a place they are communicating, but also contradictory or incongruent with an individual’s perception of that place, which calls into question whether or not the orchestrated process of place branding does indeed “add value” or whether it may actually be “subtracting value”.
Our third paper “Using decision trees to identify tourism stakeholders” by Erick T. Byrd and Larry Gustke identifies the problem of “bias” in the identification of stakeholders inherent in existing methods used in tourism and other place development processes. His review of the literature identifies the need for more objective methods, such as decision tree analysis. By collecting information from a sample, stakeholder groups can be identified based on differences that are statistically significant, rather than being identified purely on the subjective judgement of the researcher. As well as providing a useful review of stakeholder theory and participation research, the paper moves on to discuss various methods of stakeholder identification before explaining the method used, in this paper, to identify stakeholders in two areas in North Carolina, USA. Both areas were at different stages, in terms of the development of tourist amenities/infrastructure. In total, 545 stakeholder responses:
[…] were collected and analyzed to develop an understanding of what variables influence participation in tourism and community political activities and to identify stakeholder groups based on this participation (Byrd, 2011).
Over half the responses were from residents, which shows the level of interest local residents, in this area, have in relation to tourism and its impact(s). By using decision tree analysis, the group of 545 was “split” into 25 distinct groups. The main independent variables that influenced stakeholder participation were:
[…] respondent’s role in tourism (governmental official, resident, business owner, visitor), respondents’ perception of impacts, length of residency, general demographics (age and gender) and their participation or lack of participation in recreational activities (bird watching, hiking, fishing, and attending festivals) (Byrd, 2011).
Further analysis identified four distinct subgroups, “high participants”, “high moderate participants”, “low moderate participants” and “low participants”.
These findings are important as they do not only help researchers and practitioners identify those that are most likely to be interested and “vocal” in any planning or consultation process, but also identify those stakeholders that are most likely to not be engaged, and whose views and feelings, etc. would usually be overlooked. Those undertaking any consultation or engagement exercise will have to work harder to reach these groups. In this study, it was the visitors that were least likely to be engaged – and yet they are such an important stakeholder for the end product of any tourism development activity.
The fourth paper is “Marketing Senegal through hip-hop – a discourse analysis of Akon’s music and lyrics” by Nnamdi Madichie and this paper starts by drawing parallels between research into entrepreneurship and place marketing, as in both areas there is confusion about their definition and interpretation. In choosing to analyse the music and lyrics of a particular “entrepreneur” hip-hop artist (Akon), fundamental aspects of place marketing are explored. Akon is “a Grammy Award-nominated Senegalese hip-hop and R&B artist, songwriter, record producer and record executive” (Madichie, 2011) and the founder of two record labels. The paper fuses three streams of literature to make connections between entrepreneurialism and place through music. It reminds us of the importance of “place” in certain products (such as music) as the lyrics demonstrate the significance of various places (in this case, Africa, Senegal and inner-city ghettos). In this regard, place is a constituent part of the product (marketing music through place). Nevertheless, as someone passionate about their place-past, the artist also wants to ensure that “everything I do is to rebuild Africa to put money back into Africa” and “I think Africa is like the forgotten continent […] I see it like one of the most beautiful places in the world, not just because I’m from there”. In this regard, place is being marketed through music. This case shows the value of examining disparate but related streams of literature through the lens of “place”, in that the meaning of the phenomenon under inquiry is interrogated in a much deeper and more meaningful and “real-world” way.
Our penultimate paper is “Place branding’s role in sustainable development” by Vishwas Maheshwari, Ian Vandewalle, and David Bamber. The paper begins with what has become to be the normal criticism on place branding, in terms of its lack of clarity in definition and underpinning academic research but also identifies the lack of research in the relationship between place branding and sustainable development. The potential place branding can bring to a place is to combine:
[…] the responsible and intelligent application of disciplines and techniques from commercial and corporate branding, along with new collaborative leadership and partnership development practices within stakeholders, with a creative approach to existing methods of global relations, diplomacy and policy making (Anholt, 2007).
but whether these activities actually exist in practice and whether they are associated with the sustainability of a place remains unexplored.
Vishwas’ qualitative case-study of Liverpool08, when it was the European Capital of Culture addressed the following questions: what is place branding and what is the role of a place branding campaign? Who is responsible for place branding and how is this coordinated? What are the components that comprise place branding and what is their relative importance? Does place branding enhance sustainable development and if so, how? And conversely, does sustainable development enhance a place brand, and if so how? Results show that place branding is a major driver in Liverpool’s sustainable development, associated with economic growth, social harmony and environmental sustainability. Whilst the paper is only concerned with one case (Liverpool) it does explain what important aspects of place branding are in context. This may be an important development for the future. The need for a more thorough conceptual underpinning for place branding has been recognised, but perhaps this conceptual “breakthrough” is best underpinned by empirical evidence, from specific locations.
Finally, we publish “Sustainable green urban planning: the workbench spatial quality method” by Elizelle J. Cilliers, Emma Diemont, Derk-Jan. Stobbelaar, Wim Timmermans. This paper deals with a subject close to my heart, green spaces in city centres. Here in Adelaide, a city surrounded by parkland, where you are never far from a park or a tree, I am reticent to return home to Manchester, where you are hard pressed to find any green space in the city centre. The paper starts with a review of the importance of green spaces and the problems inherent in “valuing” them vis-a-vis land that can be developed for commercial activity. The paper then describes the Workbench Method, which is a method of capturing the experience of stakeholders whilst encouraging them to think of all the possibilities and outcomes for a specific space. This is then encapsulated into a visionary plan, which stakeholders evaluate in terms of the elements which are more realistic and practical. Finally, the finished development is evaluated against the original identified wishes and qualities that the stakeholders identified.
The contribution of this method is then discussed in two The Netherlands-based case studies. In terms of the contribution of the study, then the author sums it up in her conclusion when she states:
This participatory method clarifies the value of green, as (it is) perceived from different stakeholders. It is a method used to identify the various values and then plan for, and enhances, these values in future development projects. The use of the Workbench Method stimulates enhanced community cohesion and co-ownership, local communities being part of decision-making processes and maintenance of the green spaces.
It is also, obviously, another planning tool that can be used to receive important information and knowledge that can help protect green spaces against the force of commercial development, preserving them for current and future use. Unfortunately, it is too late in Manchester as we do not have any green spaces left.