In a world where the public sector is grappling with numerous community-centric responsibilities, a pressing question has emerged: How can privately owned place brands benefit the public? This topic has gained significant interest and generated widespread discussion in recent times.
Our panel of experts at TPBO recently convened to explore the potential public benefits that privately owned place brands can offer. Interestingly, the panelists held diverse perspectives. Some firmly believe that these brands have the capacity to make substantial contributions to the communities they serve. However, others adopt a more critical stance, suggesting that these brands prioritize profits over the welfare of the public.
Read on to discover the insights shared by each panel member below. We have also included our key takeaways from the session at the end.
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Australia | Privately owned place brands can provide meaningful public benefit when they are developed and managed in a way that promotes community engagement and delivers economic uplift. It can be achieved by attracting businesses, investors, and visitors to the area to create jobs and deliver local economic prosperity. Meaningful private place brands can operate as an endorsement for a city or region. It contributes to creating thriving and liveable communities.
While I’m outlining the benefits of doing it well, unfortunately, the opposite occurs when privately owned place branding is done badly. A corporate approach to a place brand without any authentic connection will damage an area’s reputation.
Australia | Cities have varied in the boundaries of private and public ownership over centuries. Some of the great innovations have been private entities first. While public ownership should remain dominant, there is a place for both and even the movement between the two.
I would assert though that private place brands need to act somewhat as if their brand is publicly owned. As any success will be hard to remove in future once the public gets attached. It can be seen in the protest about the tearing down of various commercial fixtures for heritage reasons. But on balance, the dynamic tension is always there.
Argentina | Privately owned place brands can provide great public benefit. The best-known cases are what we call made-in brands. It is the third driver we found to boost a positive image of a country, according to The Country Brand Index (2019, FutureBrand Country Index), and is driven by products and services perceived as high quality.
It is also known that people are more likely to buy products or services from a specific country. Those “made-in” are also what people most likely will want to visit, do business, live or study there.
It is significant what a positive place brand image, private or public, can do in terms of revenues for the social and economic development of a country.
Other interesting examples on the tourism side are the private developments but very well linked to a country. For example, that’s the case of Punta Cana, a private endeavour that contributes to the Dominican Republic’s global awareness.
Australia | I think the idea of public and private operating in silos isn’t reflective of reality. If a privately owned place brand doesn’t take into consideration the broader public benefit, it is hard to imagine it being a campaign of longevity.
Australia | If we do our work well, our private sector partners will understand and use the shared brand as a lens for decision-making. Private sector partners usually have larger budgets and bigger teams, and if they see the brand as powerful and true, it can be an engine of consistency for everyone.
Poland | It depends entirely on the owner, their strategy and business principles. If we are talking about tourism brands, then today, there is social pressure, above all, pressure from informed customers. They are the ones forcing change today, including in this area.
USA | In a world where the public sector is increasingly required to focus on other aspects of life in their communities, the private sector will increasingly be responsible for developing a sense of place. How to coordinate their work to create a cohesive and compelling sense of place will be the trick.
Italy | We should first clarify what “privately owned place brands” mean. There are forms of place image appropriation that support innovation and value creation for the firms, their stakeholders and the place communities. Business networks and clusters can use forms of place branding to promote their competitiveness: examples are tourism networks. Depending on the context, these can effectively boost the place brand for tourism purposes and may even be the only viable place branding route.
However, the role and distinctive value of the public actor in place branding are supposed to reside in raising and addressing brand-building issues by bearing in mind a multi-stakeholder mission, future generation’s interest, plural place representations, thinking not just of one economic sector and its actors but of the connections and synergies among different economies and social contexts, in the broader picture of local development. We should probably think more of public-led place brand building interacting with and leveraging “privately owned place brands”.
USA | Think of a house of brand structure. The government establishes the overarching brand promise, and each privately owned entity’s brand promise represents a unique way to achieve it for residents.
USA | No. For-profit entities prioritize profits over other concerns. In our field, AirBnb comes to mind. We all know about AirBnb’s impact on overtourism as well as the housing market for locals.
China | Yes, of course. Government and private owners of the place brands should work together. On the one hand, the government should welcome these owners to incorporate their place brands into the government-managed place branding or tourism branding system and help these owners to promote their brands on a higher level and wider scope.
On the other hand, the owners should be more open-minded to regard their place brands as part of a larger local place brand or the local tourism brand. If these privately owned brands are located in certain areas or regions, the owners can offer the residents more benefits, such as free tickets for visits, special days for free entry, special events for the local communities, etc.
Spain | Sometimes private brands can be more powerful than city brands or destinations, as they have much more awareness or value. In this case, public brands involved should define a strategy of co-marketing or even maximise the use of the private brand to become the umbrella of the public brand. They will have to align with the same objectives and values and probably involve all the stakeholders in defining the strategic objectives.
Colombia | The brand of a place is the sum of all the brands within that place, public and private.
UK | There is space for privately-owned place brands on all levels – from nation to neighbourhood. Many place brands are effectively orphaned by their public sector custodians leaving a gap for the private sector to fill – from businesses to industry associations, to think tanks and non-profits.
In some cases, especially when the public brand custodian is incapacitated by political infighting or institutional paralysis, the private sector’s efforts to build and develop a place brand may offer more stability, stakeholder engagement, funding, and most importantly – action. As long as the public interest is at the forefront of those efforts, privately-owned place brands can certainly bring benefits to all.
Poland | Privately owned places can provide public benefit if their mission overlaps with that of public entities. They can engage in public-private cooperation through joint projects, include and support the message delivered by public entities and provide tangible experiences to help deliver on the place brand promise.
Turkey | It all comes down to the ones in charge: As long as they have a vision for the community and place that aligns with sustainability priorities, privately owned place brands might even be better at providing public benefit than public ones, freed by the bureaucracy and structures that may not allow public brands operate as they should.
Such privately owned brands may contribute in terms of infrastructure, but also, and perhaps more importantly, in terms of motivating other place stakeholders; For instance, residents to return to jobs and professions (e.g. agriculture) that link to the place culture which they may have abandoned in the past, adopt superior quality standards in their activities, thereby contributing with a positive impact on the environment, society and the economy. At the end of the day, as Plato put it, it all comes down to how inspired and inspiring the leader might be.
- Private sector involvement in place branding can provide public benefit if their mission aligns with that of public entities and they engage in public-private cooperation.
- Privately owned place brands should consider the broader public benefit and work towards creating a cohesive and compelling sense of place.
- The success of privately owned place brands relies on the vision, strategy, and business principles of the owner, as well as their commitment to the public interest and sustainability priorities.
- Collaboration between public and private actors is crucial for effective place branding, with both sectors working together to promote the brand, attract investments, create jobs, and deliver economic prosperity. However, privately owned brands must be authentic and have a genuine connection to the place to avoid damaging their reputation.
to the panel of industry leaders for sharing valuable insights on ways a community can derive benefits from privately-owned place brands.
The panel comes together around three times per year by invitation of Dr. Florian Kaefer, publisher of The Place Brand Observer.
With over a decade of experience in place branding and reputation management, Florian is a recognized expert and thought leader in the field. Through his articles and interviews, he provides insights into the latest trends and developments in place branding, as well as practical advice.