Are you ready to teach place branding? We, Magdalena Florek and Efe Sevin, prepared this guide to help you in structuring your place branding course at an academic institution. We do not necessarily target students at specific levels (e.g. undergraduate or graduate) or backgrounds (e.g. communication studies, geography or public management). We aim to be as inclusive as possible without overwhelming the reader, giving you an idea of what can be taught under “place branding”.
Our how-to guide for teaching place branding has three sections:
- Course Structure: In the first section, we provide ideas for structuring a course. Following often-used segments of syllabi in higher education, we talk about course objectives and topics.
- Course Materials: In the second section, we provide reading suggestions coming from scholars and practitioners, as well as case studies.
- Assessments: The last section presents ideas to assess student learning.
1. Course Structure
Congratulations on getting your course assignment! Place branding is a challenging concept to deal with at any level – let alone at undergraduate level. To start with, brand and branding are abstract concepts. Even though most students might be aware of visual elements of a brand, strategy-level thinking – such as positioning, identity, and values – might not be in their minds. Introducing “place” into the mix creates another layer of abstractness. Students might not necessarily have a grasp on how cities, regions or countries come to being, how we – individuals/residents – move from spaces to places.
Course objectives are likely to change based on institutional expectations, level of the course offered, and topics chosen. Below, we list overall objectives under three headings. Knowledge and Information refers to the concepts students will be familiar with at the end of a course. Practice covers the skills and abilities that will be required for working in place branding campaigns. Theory includes the academic outcomes.
Knowledge and information
- Learn the basic principles and concepts of marketing as applied to towns, cities, regions and countries and their limitations.
- Discuss different factors influencing the behaviors of residents, businesses, visitors and other place target groups.
- Understand the level of competition between place in the era of globalization.
- Understand the complex nature of city, region and nation brands.
- Understand the social, political and commercial importance of place branding.
- Understand the internal and external forces and trends that have the influence on places.
- Understand place-of-origin effect and related new concepts.
- Identify the various place stakeholders in place branding.
- Identify, analyze and prioritize the needs for place branding coming from different stakeholders.
- Get familiar with the data analysis regarding place image.
- Assess the effectiveness of place brand strategy through locating, synthesizing and analyzing information from multiple sources.
- Get familiar with place brand management job functions.
- Follow the changes in the field of place branding.
- Converting place brand identity into tools and actions.
- Design and implement place branding campaigns.
- Assess the ways in which ontological and epistemological commitments inform and influence the production of knowledge in the place marketing area.
- Apply theories and concepts from the place branding literatures in practical communicational situations.
- Apply the models of defining place brand identity.
- Identify and analyze the differences of marketing, branding and promotion.
- Present a critical approach to the role of place branding in social life.
- Discuss the social aspects of time and space concepts.
Below you have topic ideas with brief definitions and example discussion questions grouped under five headings. Although it is up to the individual faculty member, we recommend going through the topics in the order presented here as they build on each other. Introduction introduces topics that encourage students to start thinking about how people move from spaces to places. Place brand continues by structuring some of their ideas through concepts and terms used in the literature. Place branding looks at the process of developing and managing place brands.
Although part of place branding projects, we place Measurement and evaluation as a separate heading, to underline its importance. The last category is Ethics, which includes topics that push students to reflect on the impact of place branding practice.
In the introduction part, the objective is to help students understand the need for studying place brands and how the concepts came to being.
Managing, developing, making a place: Throughout the course, you are likely to refer to many processes that take place parallel to place branding. Even though these concepts are not the main focus of your course, students should be aware of them.
- What are the relations between these concepts?
- What are the differences between these concepts?
- How do other concepts, such as urban design and sociology, play a role when it comes to places?
- Why do we brand/manage/make places?
- What happens if we do not brand/manage/make places?
Place and destination as marketing products: Another relevant concept is place marketing. In a course on place branding, marketing is likely to be omnipresent. It is important to get the students thinking about “marketing” before moving onward to in-depth branding discussions.
- What is marketing?
- Can you sell abstract concepts?
- Is it possible to sell places and destinations?
- How is service/goods marketing different from place and destination marketing?
Competition between places: Despite the lack of a consensus on its position as a key objective, competition is a frequently-used concept in place branding. The assumption is that place branding might help places compete for limited resources, such as investments, tourists, and new residents. This particular debate on competition will be instrumental in helping students build their own conceptualization of place branding.
- How can places compete with each other?
- Do places have to compete with each other?
- Are there opportunities for cooperation among places, as opposed to competition?
Objectives for place branding: The last topic builds up on the competition debate.
- If competition is the key, what do places compete for?
- If competition is not the key, why do places brand themselves?
Branding is the establishment and management of a brand. Students need to be able to define “brands” properly before discussing branding strategies.
Definition of place brand: “Brand” is all about distinctive characteristics. Defining place brands help students understand what these characteristics are and eventually help them choose which characteristics should be included in branding campaigns.
- What constitutes a place brand?
- What are the unique and distinctive characteristics a place can have?
- Which characteristics can be managed/changed? How?
Place brand image and identity: Brand is not only about what a place has but also involves the perception of the audiences. The students need to see how brand image and identity work together (or not), to appreciate the need and potential for branding.
- What is the difference between image and identity?
- What is the relationship between image and identity?
- What happens when there is a mismatch between image and identity?
- What can be done to solve the mismatch between image and identity?
- How important is place experience in shaping place perception?
Defining the place brand essence: After all the abstract and conceptual discussions, students can be introduced to existing models that define place brand characteristics. The discussion will help students use the works of other scholars to structure their branding understanding.
- What models do we have that describe place brand essence? (e.g. brand DNA, Kapferer Brand Identity Prism, Place Brand Pyramid, Place Brand Wheel)
Place branding is the process through which place brands are managed. The topics under this section help students understand the different stages of the process, stakeholders and audiences that are involved, and communication tools that can be used.
Stages: It should be noted that the “stages” aspect of a place branding campaign might be influenced by the main discipline of the students. While communication students might approach the topic through traditional public relations (e.g. ROPE, ROSIE) tools, marketing students might look at brand positioning. We include example discussion questions for diverse approaches.
- What types of research are needed? (e.g. audience analysis, stakeholder analysis)
- How can you position / reposition a place?
- What will the timeline of a place branding project look like?
- Who should coordinate the process?
Stakeholders and audiences: A place branding campaign needs to engage with two main parties: stakeholders and target audiences. The former refers to the groups that can affect or be affected by the campaign, while the latter refers to the public whose behavior we are trying to change. Students need to be able to identify and categorize these parties.
- Who is affected by changes in place management?
- What are the roles of local actors, such as chambers of commerce, NGOs, local commercial brands or residents, in place branding?
- Can we list a part as a stakeholder and an audience simultaneously?
- How will market segmentation work for place brands?
- How can place branding campaigns garner support?
- How to encourage and involve stakeholders in place branding process and brand implementation?
- How to deal with stakeholders’ resistance?
Communication: Communication takes place in three levels in place branding (see Kavaratzis, 2004 for further details). Primary communication deals with policies and infrastructures. Albeit beyond the scope of communication or marketing studies, it is important for students to understand the importance of actions and assets in place branding.Secondary communication includes all planned communication activities. Tertiary communication is used to describe word-of-mouth marketing – messages that are created and disseminated by outside parties.
- What is the relationship between primary, secondary, and tertiary communication?
- For a specific city (e.g. for your hometown), what is the most important primary communication tool?
- Can we use advertising and/or traditional media for place branding?
- What are important travel/business/industry magazines/TV shows?
- What are the creative campaigns on social media?
- What is the role of visual brand identity in place branding?
- What is the role of place brand ambassadors in communication?
- What are unique communication tools for place branding?
- Is “smart-city” branding a fad?
- Do mega-events work as marketing tool?
- Can we do “sensory” place branding?
- Is gastronomy (and other associated concepts, such as the slow food movement) a branding tool?
Measurement and evaluation
Measurement and evaluation are indeed vital parts of each and every branding campaign. In the cases of place branding, their importance is augmented given the fact that these projects are likely to use public funds and need to be held to higher accountability standards. In this case the whole approach is being measured, not only particular actions. Students need to be able to be conversant on three different areas of measurement and evaluation.
Communication-related tools: The discussions here should focus on message dissemination (outputs), rather than on behavior change (or outcomes).
- How to assess the value of mass media coverage?
- How can you confirm advertisements reach target audiences?
- How can social media listening be incorporated into place branding?
Place brand measurement, value and equity: Students need to be able to articulate added value generated by place branding campaigns.
- What is the difference between a place with a strong brand and one without?
- What attributes of place brands should be measured?
- What is “brand equity” for places?
Place of origin effects: The last item under measurement and evaluation is an auxiliary outcome of place branding projects. As country of origin studies demonstrate, consumer attitudes might change based on the made-in label. As place branding campaigns might influence the perceptions of audiences, they might also generate a place of origin effect.
- Is place of origin effect an expected consequence of all place branding projects?
- Is place of origin effect universal or dependent on industry?
- What are the limitations of the place of origin effect?
We encourage students to consider two possible areas in their attempts to understand ethics and ethical conduct on place branding. The practice has the potential to shape and reshape what a place looks like and achieves these outcomes while using public resources. The first topic, Practice, highlights issues related to public resources, whereas Outcomes looks at the results of campaigns.
Practice: While using public resource, place branding campaigns need to be cognizant of the impacts of their decisions on the community.
- How can you ensure an ethical use of “resources”?
- Should place branding value external audiences (e.g. tourists, investors) more than internal audiences?
- How do you balance money-generating interests and public service?
- How do you balance the needs and demands of different stakeholders and audiences?
- How do political cycles influence place branding?
- Who should take responsibility for branding activities?
Outcomes: A successful place branding campaign can influence policy decisions and change the identity of a place.
- What is gentrification?
- Who benefits / suffers from gentrification?
- What is over-tourism?
2. Course Materials
The following books can be used as textbooks, listed alphabetically.
For a list of practitioner-focused reading, see also The Place Brand Observer’s list of recommended books.
Anholt, S. (2010). Places Identity, Image and Reputation. Houndmills: Palgrave MacMillan.
Dinnie, K. (2011). City branding theory and cases. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
Dinnie, K. (2016). Nation branding: Concepts, issues, practice (Second edition). New York, NY: Routledge.
Govers, R. (2018). Imaginative communities: Admired cities, regions and countries. Antwerp: Reputo Press.
Govers, R., & Go, F. (2009). Place branding: glocal, virtual and physical identities, constructed, imagined and experienced. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
Kotler, P. (Ed.). (1999). Marketing places Europe: How to attract investments, industries, residents and visitors to cities, communities, regions and nations in Europe. Harlow: Financial Times Prentice Hall.
Kotler, P., Haider, D. H., & Rein, I. J. (1993). Marketing places: Attracting investment, industry, and tourism to cities, states, and nations. New York, NY: The Free Press.
Rainisto, S. K. (2003). Success factors of place marketing: a study of place marketing practices in Northern Europe and the United States. Link
Zavattaro, S. M. (2014). Place branding through phases of the image balancing image and substance. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan
The journals listed here (and below) frequently publish articles relevant to place branding:
- Annals of Tourism Research
- Journal of Destination Marketing and Management
- Journal of Place Management and Development
- Journal of Travel Research
- Journal of Vacation Marketing
- Place Branding and Public Diplomacy
- Public Relations Review
- Tourism Management
The articles below can be assigned as recommended or additional readings to complement the main texts.
Introduction to place branding:
Angell, S. I., & Mordhorst, M. (2015). National Reputation Management and the Competition State: The cases of Denmark and Norway. Journal of Cultural Economy, 8(2), 184–201. Link
On place brands:
Hankinson, G. (2009). Managing destination brands: establishing a theoretical foundation. Journal of Marketing Management, 25(1), 97–115. Link
Lucarelli, A., & Berg, P. O. (2011). City branding: a state-of-the-art review of the research domain. Journal of Place Management and Development, 4(1), 9–27. Link
On place branding:
Alves, H. M. B., Cerro, A. M. C., & Martins, A. V. F. (2010). Impacts of small tourism events on rural places. Journal of Place Management and Development, 3(1), 22–37. Link
Barreda, A. (2018). Gastronomy tourism as a marketing strategy for place branding. In D. Gursoy & C. G. Chi (Eds.), The Routledge Handbook of Destination Marketing (1st ed.). Link
Grix, J., & Houlihan, B. (2014). Sports Mega-Events as Part of a Nation’s Soft Power Strategy: The Cases of Germany (2006) and the UK (2012). British Journal of Politics & International Relations, 16(4), 572–596. Retrieved from a9h. Link
Hankinson, G. (2010). Place branding research: A cross-disciplinary agenda and the views of practitioners. Place Branding and Public Diplomacy, 6(4), 300–315. Link
Kavaratzis, M. (2005). Place Branding: A Review of Trends and Conceptual Models. The Marketing Review, 5(4), 329–342. Link
Lee, A. L. (2010). Did the Olympics help the nation branding of China? Comparing public perception of China with the Olympics before and after the 2008 Beijing Olympics in Hong Kong. Place Branding and Public Diplomacy, 6(3), 207–227. Link
Pawaskar, P., & Goel, M. (2014). A Conceptual Model: Multisensory Marketing and Destination Branding. Procedia Economics and Finance, 11, 255–267. Link
Presenza, A., & Perano, M. (2016). The Cittaslow Certification and Its Effects on Sustainable Tourism Governance. SSRN Electronic Journal. Link
Servon, L. J., & Pink, S. (2015). Cittaslow: Going Glocal in Spain. Journal of Urban Affairs, 37(3), 327–340. Link
Yigitcanlar, T., & Lee, S. H. (2014). Korean ubiquitous-eco-city: A smart-sustainable urban form or a branding hoax? Technological Forecasting and Social Change, 89, 100–114. Link
Measurement and evaluation
Andéhn, M., & L’espoir Decosta, J.-N. P. (2018). Re-imagining the country-of-origin effect: A promulgation approach. Journal of Product & Brand Management, 27(7), 884–896. Link
Andéhn, M., Kazeminia, A., Lucarelli, A., & Sevin, E. (2014). User-generated place brand equity on Twitter: The dynamics of brand associations in social media. Place Branding and Public Diplomacy, 10(2), 132–144. Link
Compte-Pujol, M., de San Eugenio-Vela, J., & Frigola-Reig, J. (2018). Key elements in defining Barcelona’s place values: The contribution of residents’ perceptions from an internal place branding perspective. Place Branding and Public Diplomacy, 14(4), 245–259. Link
De Man, A., & Oliveira, C. (2016). A Stakeholder Perspective on Heritage Branding and Digital Communication. In V. Katsoni & A. Stratigea (Eds.), Tourism and Culture in the Age of Innovation (pp. 447–455). Link
Insch, A., & Florek, M. (2008). A great place to live, work and play: Conceptualising place satisfaction in the case of a city’s residents. Journal of Place Management and Development, 1(2), 138–149. Link
Eisenschitz, A. (2010). Neo-liberalism and the future of place marketing. Place Branding and Public Diplomacy, 6(2), 79–86. Link
Gainza, X. (2017). Culture-led neighbourhood transformations beyond the revitalisation/gentrification dichotomy. Urban Studies, 54(4), 953–970. Link
Keatinge, B., & Martin, D. G. (2016). A ‘Bedford Falls’ kind of place: Neighbourhood branding and commercial revitalisation in processes of gentrification in Toronto, Ontario. Urban Studies, 53(5), 867–883. Link
Oklevik, O., Gössling, S., Hall, C. M., Steen Jacobsen, J. K., Grøtte, I. P., & McCabe, S. (2019). Overtourism, optimisation, and destination performance indicators: A case study of activities in Fjord Norway. Journal of Sustainable Tourism, 1–21. Link
Seraphin, H., Sheeran, P., & Pilato, M. (2018). Over-tourism and the fall of Venice as a destination. Journal of Destination Marketing & Management, 9, 374–376. Link
Practitioner publications and online resources
Here just a few suggestions of publications you might find useful when teaching place branding at university:
- Atlantic CityLab
- Best Countries E-Book
- CNN Travel
- Global Green Economy Index by Jeremy Tamanini
- Good Country Index by Simon Anholt
- City Brands series (the Guardian)
- Main Street Alliance
- Strong Towns
- The Place Brand Observer
- Tourism Highlights, 2018 Edition (UNWTO)
- Best Countries Index (US News)
The case studies below are only several examples how you can use resources which are available online.
We recommend you also have a look at The Place Brand Observer’s collection of place branding examples. Those are mostly written by place brand advisors and aimed at a professional audience, but are very detailed and as such provide unique insights into place branding strategies.
- Place identity – brand relationship
- Place branding: communications
- Place branding: stakeholders
- Measurement and Evaluation
Questions and tasks:
Choose some from the list and analyze them with your students (they should search for more information about them). You can use points like: what are the strong and weak aspects of the campaigns, how effective they were, how much they did communicate the destination brands, etc.
Questions and tasks:
Choose some from the list and analyze them with your students in the context of brand communication criteria. You can use the criteria listed here
Identity: design a brand identity for chosen city or region using one of the place brand identity models.
Image: analyze an image of a chosen place using the methods of image analysis/design a research project (propose tools and its content) to define the image of a chosen place.
Place development: analyze how the chosen place brand relates to the place’s development goals/strategy.
Advertisement: develop a short video that aims to design and propose a novel visitor experience in line with the place brand strategy.
Social media: compare the communication of two cities in social media.
Segmentation: choose a city brand and describe or propose the market segmentation.
Measurement: design measurement tools for a chosen place brand in relation to brand goals.
Residents involvement: analyze the tools of residents’ engagement in city branding.
Event: design an event that could communicate the brand of chosen place.
Place of origin: analyze how commercial brands communicate the brand of a chosen place (analyze their names, symbols used, communication strategy, etc.)
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