Florian Kaefer on Nation Branding and the Origins of The Place Brand Observer

Keith Dinnie, for his forthcoming book on Nation Branding, recently interviewed Florian Kaefer, founder and editor of The Place Brand Observer and author of An Insider’s Guide to Place Branding: Shaping the Identity and Reputation of Cities, Regions and Countries.

Keith kindly agreed to have the interview republished here.

Florian, why did you establish The Place Brand Observer?

I established TPBO in 2014 upon completion of my doctoral thesis at Waikato Management School in New Zealand, to fill a gap by facilitating access to latest research insights into place branding. I realized that there was no platform where practitioners could find out about academic work on the topic in a way which they would understand, and where academics could learn about the actual experiences and challenges of place brand managers and marketers “on the ground”.

Since I had just completed a thorough review of academic literature on place branding for my PhD, I started by making summaries available, on the website PlaceBrandObserver.com. Most academic work is outdated by the time it is published (since it can take up to 2-3 years for academic work to be published), so I began to invite leading thinkers and practitioners to share their story and insights in the form of interviews. By now over 260 professionals have contributed to our series of interviews (which is still ongoing).

What role does The Place Brand Observer play in the field of place branding?

As knowledge platform and global network of specialists, TPBO supports country and nation brand teams with insights, examples and advice on how to strengthen community identity and location reputation. We highlight best practice examples and give locations – cities, regions, countries – the opportunity to present answers to the question “why (visit, invest, live) here?”

TPBO facilitates dissemination of latest research insights (we have a knowledge partnership with the Journal of Place Branding and Public Diplomacy). Through our bi-monthly expert panel (around 60 participants around the world), we are able to facilitate timely advice on place branding issues and developments, trends and challenges.

With our interview portraits of leading changemakers and influencers in the field of place branding, we illustrate how diverse this field of research and practice is and how place branding is approached around the world.

TPBO serves both place branding professionals and those on the lookout for their next business or investment location. We realized early on that many of our social media followers and website readers are senior level executives who are interested in how places – especially countries – position themselves, how they deal with challenges such as the coronavirus pandemic or the climate emergency, and what they have to offer. Whereas economic developers, fdi and talent attraction teams, country brand managers and other professionals involved with place branding are still our key audience, discerning visitors, talent and investors complement those, as a growing audience segment for TPBO.

The Place Brand Leaders podcast complements what we offer through the website and is a great way to engage even stronger with those in charge of developing or managing the identity and reputation of their country or nation.

What are the most inspiring nation branding cases you have come across in the past 2-3 years?

Costa Rica, Slovenia and New Zealand are, to my mind, some of the best cases of successful nation branding right now. All three very much engaged with country branding and carrying it beyond marketing, backing brand propositions with policy and action. I find their strong focus on sustainability very appealing and convincing, especially since this is a topic which our panel of place brand experts identified as crucial for future place branding success.

Peru and Uruguay are two other countries which I had the opportunity to experience first-hand (and you’ll find the country reports on PlaceBrandObserver.com). Both are great examples of how much is possible with the right policies and determination, which is what it takes nowadays to succeed with nation- or country branding.

Can you give any examples of nation branding campaigns that were developed to promote export products, e.g., by enhancing the country-of-origin effect?

New Zealand is the example I know best, having benefited tremendously from its “100%Pure New Zealand” tourism marketing campaign, and the “clean and green” image of its produce – for instance apples and other fruits, and dairy. This was also the topic of my PhD, and you will find more on the meaning and economic success of New Zealand’s country of origin branding on PlaceBrandObserver.com.

Connect with Florian on LinkedIn or book him as a speaker or advisor.

More about Keith’s forthcoming book soon. Details on a previous edition of Nation Branding: Concepts, Issues, Practice HERE.


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