Kalandides, A., Kavaratzis, M. and Boisen, M. (2012), "Special Edition of the Place Branding Conference: “Roots-Politics-Methods", Journal of Place Management and Development, Vol. 5 No. 1. https://doi.org/10.1108/jpmd.2012.35505aaa.001Download as .RIS
Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2012, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Special Edition of the Place Branding Conference: “Roots-Politics-Methods
Article Type: Guest editorial From: Journal of Place Management and Development, Volume 5, Issue 1
This is a special edition of the International Place Branding Conference series and the third special issue of the Journal of Place Management and Development dedicated to the conference. The two previous special issues have proven to be valuable reference points in recent place branding literature. Since the first International Place Branding Conference in Berlin in 2008, a particularly interesting tendency can be noted. In the beginning, the discussion had focused on the general discrepancies in place branding conceptualisations and approaches to its practical implementation. While, of course, these issues remain important and not entirely clarified, it seems that we are now ready to move towards a more elaborate discussion of partial issues. A certain amount of clarity and agreement has indeed been achieved. In this special issue a set of significant issues that affect the whole place branding endeavour are examined. The papers elaborate all of the conference’s themes: the roots and politics of place branding, analytical and assessment methodology as well as the relationship between culture and place branding.
In the paper by Mihalis Kavaratzis, the issue of stakeholders’ participation in place branding is examined from a conceptual point of view. A first significant conclusion of the paper is the identification of a recent trend within the place branding literature that emphasises the role and importance of stakeholders. Indeed most recently suggested theoretical or strategic frameworks for place branding have clearly underlined the necessity of stakeholders’ participation. However, as the paper argues, despite some examples of hesitant involvement of a large number of stakeholders, these suggestions have not found their way into the practice of place branding. The emphasis in practice is still on communication as the main element of place branding and on a linear decision making process by the place’s authorities without the necessary consultation and integration of other stakeholders. The paper integrates the arguments in favour of an extended involvement of stakeholders in the place branding process and offers additional argumentation. The paper outlines some significant implications for practice, but Kavaratzis deals with the question of why, leaving out of the analysis the question of how.
This is the topic tackled in the next paper by Sebastian Zenker and Adrian Seigis, which deals with the question of what methods of stakeholders’ participation are available and which ones might be more effective. The particular focus of the paper is citizen participation in the place branding process as a tool to avoid the conflicts that arise frequently between planners, authorities and the citizens. The experiment conducted by the authors reveals rather surprising results. For instance, while in theory the suggestion is to involve stakeholders in all stages of the place branding process, the results show that a continuous involvement is not important for citizens. Furthermore, the characteristic, binding or not, of the result of citizen participation, i.e. whether authorities were obliged to follow this result or simply take it under consideration, also proved rather insignificant for citizens. The paper concludes that what is more important for citizens are actually whether or not they are “asked at all”. As Zenker comments, this might be an indication of disappointment with past and current practices, where citizens have been largely ignored; therefore the simple fact of consulting with them is what they value. However, the paper offers a different explanation and main conclusion. It is the feeling of being respected that is the most significant mediator. This conclusion offers significant support for citizen participation in the place branding process and explains to a large extent its effectiveness. The practical solution as to which methods are more effective than others remains a topic for further investigation and, arguably, of local differences.
Both the papers by Peter Atorough, Andrew Martin and Marcus Andersson, Malla Paajanen challenge the idea that places can only compete with each other or that competition is the “natural state of things”. Atorough examines different scenarios of cooperation and competition in tourism organizations, following the Thomas-Killman Conflict Mode Instrument. His research shows that the majority of these organizations in North-east Scotland use a collaborative approach as their interaction choice, contrary to the common assumption that business professionals perform better on the ratings for a more competitive orientation. A possible explanation, argues Atorough, is that the tourism industry is increasingly interdependent and that managers acknowledge this reality through different modes of cooperation. In particular, it is the current economic pressures that have brought about the need for an urgent review of advantages versus disadvantages of the different levels at which the region’s branding and marketing should be based.
Paajanen brings the example of the BaltMet Promo in the Baltic Sea Region to show the advantages of supranational regional branding and how it can compete with or complement nation branding. Paajanen argues that this type of place branding is based on a bottom-up approach where a common place identity is created by products and services rather by purely representational symbols. The paper raises a still open question on the importance of geographical scale in place branding, an issue that will need further research in the future: does regional branding antagonize or complement the national one? Where does city branding come into that? At the same time, Paajanen shows the limits of the collaborative model that is often countered by rivalry and competition between authorities. Yet, Pajaanen’s optimistic outlook is that the creation of common supra-national products and policy plans can indeed have very positive effects that go beyond place branding.
Another important topic for a refined understanding and better implementation of place branding is dealt with in the paper by Marinda Scaramanga. This is the topic of culture and its relation to the place brand. Scaramanga provides an overview of the complexity of this relationship and argues in favour of better integration of local culture in place branding efforts. Culture and the arts are evidently one of the most widely used themes of place branding (of course also urban regeneration) but the way in which they are used as the basis for place branding campaigns is neither entirely clear nor always appropriate. The paper attempts to outline the current uses of culture within place branding and provide an assessment of the multifaceted relationship that links the two. The paper touches upon several “difficult” topics such as the reciprocal dependence of culture and local identity and the authenticity of the cultural features emphasised in place branding. Scaramanga draws particularly on the theory and practical development of cultural planning and cultural mapping to identify those preconditions that are necessary for a more effective usage of culture within place branding. The main conclusion of the paper is the need to move towards a place branding practice that will be rooted in the history, the cultural life and the cultural representations of particular localities.
Andreas Mueller and Michael Schade are very much concerned with symbols and how they can be helpful in creating a common place identity. The question of place identity was the theme to the latest place branding conference, which took place in Bogotá in January 2011, and of the special issue of this journal (Vol. 4, Issue 1) and seems to be recurring ever since. In that issue, Kalandides had argued that one of the possible ways of understanding place identity was as the identification of a social group with a place. Mueller takes the same argument further, but, contrary to many researchers, claims that symbols (e.g. logos) can indeed be formative of these identities, in particular through their production and appropriation. Mueller uses the case of Bremen to argue that symbols are not secondary, but an integral and formative part of place identity.
We hope that the reader will find the papers selected for this special issue an interesting and rewarding read. Each paper separately provides an “entrance point” to the wider issues that continue to puzzle commentators and practitioners. We feel that the papers in this special issue collectively provide a valuable overview of the most significant issues that will affect the future of place branding and will determine to a great extent its further development and effectiveness. This was the goal of the introduction of this special edition of the International Place Branding Conference. The discussion on all those and other topics of interest will continue. The next International Place Branding Conference will take place in Manchester (2013) and will provide the forum for more elaboration and exchange of ideas. In the 2013 conference we return to our main series of conferences where the choice of topics to be discussed is more open and where academics and practitioners meet to discuss their differing points of view. We would like to thank the contributors to this special issue for their efforts and we hope that the special issue will be as successful as the two previous.
Ares Kalandides, Mihalis Kavaratzis, Martin BoisenGuest Editors