Interview with Adriana Campelo about Heritage and Co-Creational Place Branding

Adriana Campelo in this interview discusses the importance of cultural heritage, sensory knowledge and co-creation in the branding of cities, regions and destinations. Adriana is currently the Special Advisor to the city of Salvador in Brazil and its Chief Resilience Officer as part of the 100Resilient Cities initiative by the Rockefeller Foundation.

Learn about:

  • Current trends and concerns in city marketing and branding;
  • How place branding researchers (acafeasdemics) can benefit from practitioners, and vice versa;
  • Sensory knowledge of place and why it should form part of place branding;
  • Ethical criteria for representing places in destination marketing initiatives;
  • Why co-creational branding is key to building sustainable place brands.

Adriana, you were trained in law and business management. Could you tell us what led you to marketing of destinations and what fascinates you about it?

I am absolutely fascinated about how culture shapes places and how culture may influence markets. I’ve worked for many years on attracting foreign direct investments to Brazil and, particularly, to Bahia. As Brazil is a continental country, we are culturally very diverse.

I always believed that it was important to acknowledge culture as a powerful asset for business, for economic development and for attracting investors. What I mean by culture is not only the macro concept of it but also the subtle differences in how people do things.

You recently edited the Handbook of Place Branding and Marketing (Edward Elgar Publishing, 2017). What would you say are the current trends and concerns of place marketing and branding, as discussed in the book?

Urban branding is an incontestable trend. Cities are more powerful and challenging than ever. With 54% of the global population living in urban areas, sustainable development must deal with everything that constitutes a city. It includes mobility issues, regeneration of urban spaces, cultural clashes, and social disadvantages.

Cities are now well connected in networks such as the C40 Cities Climate Leadership Group and the UNESCO Creative Cities initiative. Cities are protagonists in global initiatives such as the 100 Resilient Cities, sponsored by the Rockefeller Foundation.

Smart City, Creative City, Innovative City or Resilient City are more than catchy titles. These nominations often come with a network of potential partners, a pool of innovative ideas to solve local problems, and, with luck, some sort of funding to implement solutions.

One key topic of the Handbook is place branding as a tool for economic development. In your view, how do the two connect – in theory (academia) and in practice?

Academics create opportunities to advance knowledge. Practitioners have opportunities to test, implement, analyze, measure and improve that very knowledge. By bringing two or three theories together, academics develop new knowledge and generate new insights on the topic. This is what happened when concepts of branding were applied to places. Now, place branding is a discipline in marketing and management. And a discipline that conquered and probably will develop a new logic.

Using place branding for economic development is to provide it with a long-term purpose.

You have done research on the sensory knowledge in place marketing, focusing on Chatham Islands (New Zealand). Could you share some of the outcomes of that study? And do you think sensory knowledge should be more incorporated into place marketing?

We are connected to the world around us through our senses. It is through our senses that we grasp the place, experience it, and create lasting memories. 

My work in place branding is always bringing me back to questioning how a collective sense of place is constructed and how sense of place creates some sort of knowledge about places. To my understanding, sense of place is influenced by tangible and intangible attributes, such as history, culture, landscape, social, political and public affairs.

By visiting and experiencing places, we develop a sensory knowledge which is a lived archive of taste, sounds, smells, visions and touches for each place. The Chatham Islands of New Zealand provide visitors with a cornucopia of sensations. I could not help myself but acknowledge the importance of the five senses when experiencing and studying the Chatham Islands.

You have also shown interest in visual rhetoric and ethics linked to the marketing of destinations. From your experience, what are the common shortcomings of representing people and places in destination marketing initiatives?

Place brands are communication artefacts to portray and to promulgate the ethos of places. They create awareness about places and influence how they are seen by outsiders, as well as how the people being portrayed see themselves.

The reinforcement of ethos, sense of place and image of the place is experienced in the realm of social reproductions of everyday life. People are not always aware of their contribution to this everyday corroboration of the ethos of the place. The challenge for place marketers and for place branding is to represent the imagery of this everyday sense of ethos.

I suggest an imagery representation approach that encompasses six criteria:

  • Empower the community by using a co-creation approach to developing a brand that defines what should be portrayed and how it should be portrayed;
  • Represent the place’s ethos based on the perceived and shared reality of a place’s social capital;
  • Frame representations that identify and celebrate traditions, lifestyle, and cultural manifestations of the relationships between people and place;
  • Contextualize and provide ties between imagery representations and the broad culture of the place;
  • Create a balance in the representation of cultures, comprising a mosaic of heritages and ethnicities;
  • Recognize that the ethos of a place is represented not just by its content but also by its form.

You are currently special advisor to the Municipal Government of Salvador (Brazil), a city with a strong festival tradition and architectural heritage. In your view, which role does place marketing play as a possible solution for combating city challenges such as overcrowding?

Place marketing might help reveal many aspects of the Carnival in Salvador. The week-long festival is very rich in terms of popular culture. It is a party that embraces different kinds of music and dance. The Municipality is not concentrating the party in one area of the city, but is spreading it across neighborhoods, which is good for the local economy and reduces the impacts on the transportation system.

Currently, I am Special Advisor to Salvador and Chief Resilience Officer under the 100Resilient Cities initiative by the Rockefeller Foundation. Urban resilience is a hot issue for cities now and we, as academics and/or practitioners, need to bring this theme to place marketing and branding. When cities take part in international networks such as 100RC and C40, they are already defining their brand positioning and shape their image.

What are your biggest lessons or key insights working with the city of Salvador so far?

The cultural heritage is the most important asset of a community. Because of this, developing place marketing and branding strategies requires digging deep into the heritage, to understand the present.

On the other hand, reinforcing place identity and fostering a collective and public sense of ownership are important pillars of social cohesion, economic development, as well as to fight urban violence.

How can place branding contribute to transforming urban agglomerations into sustainable and healthy living areas and neighborhoods? And what role does placemaking play in this context?

The role of placemaking is evolving over time. Placemaking designed for inclusion and sustainability is something city managers need to pay much more attention to. It is a need for urban living and survival.

However, this is a collaborative work and it depends on the buy-in of residents (who are the consumers of place) and all the other place stakeholders. Co-creation, as mentioned earlier, is the key.

A co-creational brand approach relies on an understanding that brands are socially constructed through collaboration and co-construction of meanings in the realm of consumers’ experiences. These experiences are highly dependent on cultural influences that impose a vital dimension for the consumers’ experiences, not only informing it but also constraining it via cultural codes.

A creational brand approach provides the basis for the development of an inclusive and sustainable place brand that comes from the people whose place is being branded. As a result, placemaking helps cities to become more sustainable, inclusive, reflective, resourceful, robust, flexible, and integrated.

Thank you, Adriana.

Connect with Adriana Campelo on LinkedIn.


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