In this interview with Jesper Falkheimer, Professor in Strategic Communications at Lund University, we explore current trends in place branding from a strategic communications perspective. Learn about his research on regional branding in the case of the Danish-Swedish Öresund region, and why journalistic approaches to communicating place brand identity trump marketing.
- Journalistic vs. commercial approaches to communicating place brand identity;
- The role of media and strategic communication in place branding;
- Strategic communication trends likely to impact place branding practice;
- Tips for city leaders in China on how to apply place branding to their cultural context;
- Recommended reading for strategic communication pros interested in place branding.
Jesper, one of your main interests as Professor in Strategic Communication at Lund University (Sweden) is the role of media in place branding. Do you remember what first attracted your interest in this topic? Why the focus on the media?
My interest in the role of media in place branding started when I did research for my doctoral dissertation in the beginning of the 2000s. In those days only very few attempts had been made to connect place branding to media research.
The focus in my research was regional and well known to me: the evolution of the Danish-Swedish Öresund region. This transnational region was and is still mainly a strategic social construction – one may call it a brand – founded in the 1990s. The region is linked to the building of the Öresund bridge, inaugurated in 2000, which connects the South of Sweden with Copenhagen in Denmark.
When I did my research on the Danish-Swedish Öresund region I realized that the role of the media in Denmark and Sweden was crucial for the public opinion and the development of place identity among the residents as well as external stakeholders. The traditional branding campaigns did not have the same effects as the journalistic coverage and stories that were spread.
My research showed that the traditional marketing logic using a commercial mode of communication did not work as well as a communication logic that used journalistic tools. In other words, public relations tactics seemed to be more relevant than marketing tactics.