Place Marketing and Branding
Definitions and concepts of place marketing and branding often lack a proper definition and a consistent usage. As a result, place marketing is often mistaken as place selling or promotion (see for a discussion: Berglund and Olsson, 2010; Kavaratzis and Ashworth, 2006), focusing solely on the promotional aspects of marketing while disregarding the central aim and broader range of place marketing and branding – namely, to satisfy the consumer’s needs and wants (demand orientation). Place promotion, on the other hand, describes a process that tries to find the right consumers for an existing product (supply orientation). While the two may work in conjunction, they cannot be used interchangeably.
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Although there are examples for promoting cities dating back to 1850, place marketing is a relatively new field of academic research. Even if the topic becomes increasingly important, because of the rising competition between cities for attracting investors, companies, new citizens, qualified workforce (talents) and tourists, still nowadays place marketing agencies repeatedly concentrate just on the promotional aspects of marketing and therefore often fail in using all the potential of a integrated marketing strategy.
Like marketing in general place marketing could be understood as „an organizational function and a set of processes for creating, communicating, and delivering value to customers and for managing customer relationships in ways that benefit the organization and its stakeholders“ (American Marketing Association, 2009) but with the focus of places. Its aim is through „… a process whereby local activities relate as closely as possible to the demands of target customers (…) to maximize the efficient social and economic functioning of the area concerned, in accordance with whatever wider goals have been established“ (Ashworth and Voogd, 1990, p. 11).
Given the unique characteristics of places and place brands, a more enhanced definition of place brands is needed, that acknowledges the complexity of place brands more and delivers a stronger conceptualization of the process of building place brands.
In this regards, it is not the brand, in terms of a name or symbol to identify and to differentiate, but brand knowledge that underpins the definition in use here. Adopting the concept of a corporate brand for the context of place branding and in the comprehension of the brand as a network of associations in consumers‘ mind (Keller, 1993) Zenker and Braun (2017) defines a place brand as:
„A place brand is a network of associations in the place consumers’ mind based on the visual, verbal, and behavioral expression of a place and its’ stakeholders. These associations differ in their influence within the network and in importance for the place consumers’ attitude and behavior.“
Essential for this definition is that a brand is not the communicated expression or the „real“ place, but the perception of those expressions in the mind of the target group(s).
Additionally, I would distinguish between „the brand“ and „branding“ (which is the process of building, changing, managing and using the brand) and „brand management“ (which is the controlled building, changing, managing and using of the brand).
- American Marketing Association (2009): Dictionary of marketing terms. Retreived from http://www.marketingpower.com/_layouts/Dictionary.aspx?dLetter=M
- Ashworth, G. J. and Voogd, H. (1990): Selling the city: marketing approaches in public sector urban planning, Belhaven, London.
- Berglund, E. and Olsson, K. (2010): Rethinking place marketing – A literature review. Paper presented at the 50th European Regional Science Association Congress, 19th–23rd August, Jönköping, Sweden.
- Kavaratzis, M. and Ashworth, G.J. (2006): City branding: an effective assertion of identity or a transitory marketing trick? Place Branding and Public Diplomacy, 2 (3), 183-194.
- Keller, K. L. (1993): Conceptualizing, measuring, and managing customer-based brand equity. Journal of Marketing, 57 (1), 1-22.
- Zenker, S. and Braun, E. (2017): Questioning a ‘one size fits all’ city brand: developing a branded house strategy for place brand management. Journal of Place Management and Development, forthcoming.