In this conversation with Dominic Medway, Professor of Marketing at the Institute of Place Management, Manchester Metropolitan University, we discuss the state of place branding in the UK with a focus on city and town centres. Dominic pays specific attention to the needs of places to start future-proofing themselves in response to the current trends of austerity and decentralisation.
- How place brands are socially constructed by the people that have a stake in them;
- The challenges faced by place branding in an age of increasing austerity and distrust against top-down strategies and systems of governance;
- Why listening to those who live in a place is crucial for place branding success;
- How smell and other senses can benefit place marketing and branding;
- How the UK High Street can be revitalized by repositioning it as experiential communal space.
Dominic, do you remember what first attracted you to the idea of place marketing and branding?
After completing my PhD back in the mid-1990s, I obtained a post-doctoral post to study the (then) fairly new concept of town centre management (TCM) in the UK and Europe. In those early days of TCM, a lot of schemes were focused on janitorial issues, such as street cleaning, putting up Christmas lights, and graffiti removal.
However, it was not long before TCM, and subsequently business improvement districts (BIDs) started to have a more strategic marketing orientation, addressing issues such as place promotion and place branding in relation to town and city centres.
Back then, these ideas, which appeared to have ‘blown over’ to Europe from the U.S. BIDs model, seemed quite new and fresh. As a geographer by academic training, I remember being intrigued by the idea that places could be marketed and started to look at the practice in more detail through my research.