Christophe Alaux on Place Marketing in France

When it comes to sharing research insights and examples of best practice in place branding, marketing – or any other subject, language can be a stubborn barrier. The Place Brand Observer’s mission is to break barriers and to connect researchers with professionals, across cultural and language boundaries.

Et voilà: meet Christophe Alaux, Deputy Director of the Public Management Institute (IMPGT) at Aix-Marseille University in Southern France and Director of the Institute’s Regional Attractiveness & Place Marketing Chair (Chaire Attractivité et Nouveau Marketing Territorial).

Learn about:

  • The role place branding plays in France;
  • The difference between place branding and place marketing;
  • Co-branding between cities and regions as one trend in place marketing;
  • Which social media and blogs to follow for place marketing news in France.

Christophe, what fascinates you about place marketing as research topic?

Place marketing is a fascinating topic because it is so close to everyday life, connected both to the past and the future. After all, place marketing projects are built for the future. It is very interesting to participate in those projects as an expert, and also as an academic who can follow the evolution of this research topic.

What role does place branding and marketing play in France?

It becomes more and more familiar, even if “marketing” is not a term that French administrations are very fond of. Local authorities tend to refer to communication, economic development, or quality, instead of marketing.

Either way, most French cities are now convinced of the usefulness of these approaches. Small and large cities in rural and urban areas, but also entire regions, contact us because they want to find out more about our research Chair, which focuses on place marketing topics.

Chaire Attractivite Nouveau Marketing TerritorialWhat is this newly founded Chair in place attractiveness and marketing at IMPGT in Aix-en-Provence?

The Chair was founded by Joël Gayet in 2013, and I joined as Director in January 2015. Originally, the Chair had 23 founding members – local authorities representing cities, districts and regions, and more partners have joined since.

As research institution, we are entirely funded by our institutional members and partners, which is a unique model in France.

Our initial aim was to focus on academic research, and to keep track of best practices in place marketing around the world, and to share those insights with our members – via our Master course and our annual conference on place marketing.

Today, as part of the Public Management Institute of Aix-Marseille University, we carry on this philosophy, but go a step further in that we seek to improve place marketing, with academic research and across borders via collaboration with international partners.

What motivated you to write Marketing Territorial (De Boëck, 2014)?

Camille Chamard proposed a book on place marketing which combines academic and practitioner points of views. His approach to place marketing is very close to mine, with an emphasis on place attractiveness and hospitality – a public marketing approach which is complementary to place marketing, and a focus on place branding with place image measurement.

It was really interesting to develop this book together with him.

What is the book about?

Marketing Territorial is about how marketing approaches can be used to increase the attractiveness of places, but also their hospitality. Many examples are from cities, but we look at all different kinds of places.

The book is a guide for practitioners and students, and offers a hands-on approach, real-life examples and reflections on place marketing.

Do you share the concept of place branding put forward in the Place Marketing Manifesto?

Place Branding and Marketing Manifesto 2015I really appreciate this initiative. Place marketing needs clarification of concepts in order not to be considered as a discipline of trends.

I share the manifesto’s vision of place branding as supply driven – focused on managing place reputation in people’s minds, and place marketing as demand-driven approach.

This clarification emphasizes that the two concepts can complement each other. As Robert Govers put it in a guest editorial published in Place Branding and Public Diplomacy in 2011: “place branding should inform place marketing as a strategic compass.”

Which place marketing trends do you observe in France and abroad?

One trend is co-branding between cities and regions. This trend is very interesting because local authorities have to think about similarities and where they complement each other, rather than focus on differentiation and distinctiveness.

Also, there is an increase in small cities which want to be part of place marketing, because they feel constrained by surrounding massive metropolitan and regional areas. They want to emphasize their uniqueness and local character. Relationships between those smaller cities and large metropolitan areas in France will be a very interesting topic for the future.

Your favorite place branding book this year?

For 2015, Rethinking Place Branding is perhaps the best book to learn about current issues linked to place branding. I am also reading the Place Marketing and Branding Manifesto by the European Place Marketing Institute.

Which researchers and (social) media sites would you recommend emerging place branding researchers and practitioners to follow?

Some of the leading place marketing researchers in France are Camille Chamard, Charles Houlier-Guibert, Benoît Meyronin and Boris Meynadier. In terms of international researchers, of course Mihalis Kavaratzis, who is a member of the scientific committee of our Chair, but also Erik Braun, Gregory Ashworth, Jasper Eshuis, Cathy Parker and Magdalena Florek.

I think that The Place Brand Observer is a very good website for English speakers. For social media, Twitter is of course a major source of information, and the hashtag we use in France is #markterr.

Thank you, Christophe.

Want more? Connect with Christophe Alaux on LinkedIn or visit the Chair’s website for details.

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