“The less transparent, the more attractive? A critical perspective on transparency and place branding” is the title of a recent article published in the academic journal of Place Branding & Public Diplomacy, by Renaud Vuignier and Vincent Mabillard of the Swiss Graduate School of Public Administration, University of Lausanne, Switzerland.
As awareness about the “goodness” of countries grows (see, for example the Good Country Index), transparency has become one of the potential challenges of Brand Switzerland, a country eager to readjust widespread perceptions of it being a tax haven. We caught up with Renaud and Vincent to learn more about their research.
In your recent article published in Place Branding & Public Diplomacy you discuss the links between transparency and country attractiveness. What brought you to this topic? And which are your key findings?
Transparency has become a keyword in both political and mass media scenes, often presented as an ideal goal to reach. Considered an end in itself, it is expected to solve all sorts of problems, including corruption and mistrust in institutions.
In terms of economic promotion, we have noticed that transparency is used by many governments and place marketers as an argument to attract investors. Simultaneously, and somehow paradoxically, the most attractive financial hubs in the world have recently faced criticism due to their rather high level of opacity.
Building on these premises, we decided to critically analyze the link between transparency and place attractiveness. Through a theoretical clarification of the concepts based on the literature and the case study of Switzerland, we argue that, while transparency of the regulatory framework can effectively improve the attractiveness of a place, opacity of legal requirements may also attract foreign investors. In this sense, transparency of and required by the rules can be at odds.
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