International Place Branding Research Conference 2019: Key Takeaways

“Which are your key takeaways from the IPBA conference in Volos this November? What did you like the most?” We invited participating TPBO interviewees and panel members to share their impressions.

TPBO editor’s reflections on the conference here

How did YOU like the conference? Leave a comment!


Cecilia Cassinger

Key insights for researchers:

Place branding is still an undertheorised field. This year there was a stronger emphasis on public diplomacy and nation branding, which put place branding in an interesting international and geopolitical context.

Key insights for practitioners:

Place branding practices differ between countries, regions and cities. This conference also called attention to how place branding practices change when applied to islands.


Guido van Garderen

As a practitioner, I thought the presentation by Viriya Taecharungroj on ‘Analyzing flickr photos of 222 cities worldwide using machine learning’ really interesting. It demonstrated creative uses of existing technologies to come to new place branding insights.

I really appreciated the feedback I got from the panel during the Doctorial Colloquium, but also afterwards from several other PhD candidates, that gave good suggestions for further improvement of my research.


Hong Fan

Nick’s keynote was very interesting and inspiring, especially in nation branding and how public diplomacy is used for place branding.

Roberto’s keynote on Cinque Terre was also very useful and practical, illustrating the strategic transformation of a place for tourists.

There were a few presentations which I found particularly insightful for my own research in the Chinese context.


Marta Herezniak

My key takeaways for practitioners:

  • Reputation is one of the foundations of security – places that are meaningless and irrelevant to the world are also much more likely to become forgotten by the international community when attacked, occupied or in crisis. #reputationalsecurity
  • Place branding and public diplomacy are mutually-dependent and inseparable, both have the same goals and face the same challenges.
  • Place branding and public diplomacy become more and more value-driven, to ‘do well’ places must ‘do good’ . Places should become less ego-driven and should focus on multilogue, on sharing of ideas and creating partnerships to drive global changes.
  • Place branding is an increasingly social endeavour. Its primary goal is to engage stakeholders in the meaningful exchange of ideas and in the creation of value.
  • To stay legitimate, place branding strategies (and strategists) should address the current global issues such as climate crisis, migration waves, upcoming economic crisis, populism and diverse political tensions. In this context, the role of place branding is much more ‘ambitious’ and ‘prominent’ than it used to be. It can now be seen as an instrument of policy advocacy, as conflict appeasing tool and the driver of sustainable place development.

My key takeaways for academics:

  • New discourses, paradigms and disciplines should be explored to give more meaning to place branding as a domain.
  • Research should be focused on how place branding can transform places and empower citizens.
  • Further research is needed on place brand effectiveness to increase its legitimacy and accountability.

Martin Boisen

Advisor | researcher

For researchers:

First the positive: I am astonished by the progress made over the last ten years of academic research in this field, and glad that IPBA increasingly seems to connect engaged researchers from all over the world. A large number of contributions to this year’s conference were intellectually challenging and refreshing compared to the traditional angles and pathways taken by (most) researchers in the past.

Then a critical note: It seems to me that literature reviews, increasingly, are conducted by computers and not by actual researchers. Obviously, digital resources combined with smartly programmed crawlers and analytical tools are powerful tools for analysing the literature. However, I sense that less and less actual reading and interpretation is going on, and more and more echo-chambering occurs: the same articles, in the same journals, by the same authors. Old deliberations on this topic, academic books and scientific articles from other fields are seldomly used.

And last, because I always have to state this: a substantial amount of presenters did not state what they actually meant by ‘place branding’, leaving it up to the audience/reader to deduct their definition from the context. For the umpth time: please make sure you do not contribute to the conceptual confusion, because it is easier not to take an intellectual stand.

For practitioners:

As an advisor to places myself, I think that Nick Cull’s keynote was the most rewarding: Nick’s ideas on reputational security resonated a lot with my own view that places should value reputation management as a task in its own right – not only as an instrument for economic boosterism. Reputation management and image orchestration should be seen as an essential and intrinsic task for the governance, management and planning of places on the scalar levels of cities, regions and countries.

It was comforting and inspiring to hear Nick present this notion as one of his key points – to hear him push the same agenda, yet from a completely different vantage point, and a different academic perspective.

Second, I noted that quite a large number of researchers have quite limited understanding of how place brand management works in practice. The people that wake up every morning and go to their work, being responsible for managing the brand of a city, for example, deserve a bit more credit. Please do not reduce the practitioners’ professional understanding of their job to the more shallow initiatives out there!


Nick Cull

I felt there were excellent indicators of a vibrant field — I loved the practitioner case studies but found that some of the scholar papers were at too early a stage. I’d have liked some round table panels by big name practitioners. I appreciated the hospitality of Volos.


Robert Govers

Speaker | advisor | researcher | IPBA chair

The IPBA conferences have been growing from strength to strength. This year saw the same number of delegates as our inaugural conference in London (which, in 2016, like this year, because of novelty and location back then, drew almost 130 delegates). Having 130 people take part again this year was a real treat.

If there is one positive thing that I hear time and time again from delegates it is that we’ve built a nice, friendly, relaxed and constructive network.

We’ve succeeded in bringing an extremely diverse group of researchers as well as practitioners together: geographers, marketers, tourism scholars, psychologists, consumer behaviouralists, artists, designers, political scientists, etc. etc.

We’ve built a great network of conference hosts who do a fantastic job.


Vadim Volos

I would say the most valuable aspect for me in this and future IPBA conference is an opportunity to share my insights and experience with academic peers. For-profit research is fast-paced and driven by commercial goals, it’s good to take a pause sometimes and see what is done in universities around the world in your field, share insights from own work, and vet them by academic community.

I was amazed with depth and breadth of research projects in place branding research, many done by young scholars. It’s really beneficial for both academia and commercial research keep sharing findings and ideas.

Group picture by @andrelinsphoto


You want to know where you can meet place branding researchers or practitioners face to face? Keep an eye on our conference page – or get in touch!

You participated in the Volos conference and would like to share your impressions? Leave a comment!

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