Marketing Countries, Places, and Place-associated Brands – Book Review

A new academic book is out, on the marketing of places, and this one is a refreshing read. Boasting contributions of many of world’s leading place marketing thinkers, the book is essential in that it reflects current thinking on the topic, often with a (most welcome) critical eye.

How did the book come about, and what are the key insights shared in it? TPBO caught up with Dr. Nicolas Papadopoulos, who edited the book together with Dr. Mark Cleveland.

Nicolas, what inspired you to ask leading scholars to contribute to your latest book, “Marketing Countries, Places, and Place-associated Brands: Identity and Image“?

In more ways than one, inspiration for the book was born of frustration over how its subject is typically covered. A “Country” is a place, a “Place” can be a city or a region as well as a country, and products can be associated with any level of “place” – but researchers and managers have turned each into a silo and the twain almost never meet. It’s as if “Country” and “Place” exist on different planets. Yet our earth, the UK, and London are “places”, and London Fog, the American company known for its rainwear, seems to know the value of “Place-associated brands”.

These silos had been building for decades, and my co-editor and I knew we faced an uphill battle in wanting to help each side learn from the other by cross-fertilizing their know-how and ideas. To achieve cross-silo integration we decided to draw on the best expertise available by approaching leading scholars – the best of the best! We were immensely gratified when they got as excited as we were about this challenging task. The result exceeded our expectations, and readers of the book will be the greatest beneficiaries by accessing a true holistic view of “places” of all kinds.

Imagine someone reads the book and is asked by a friend to briefly share what it is all about. What would you like her to say?

She might begin by pointing at our goal, which becomes the book’s main take-home for readers – synthesizing the latest thinking and know-how concerning the marketing of places and of the products that may be associated with them.

This imaginary reader (and, we hope, the actual readers themselves!), would take note of a recurring theme: The book is designed to bridge the gap between the “Place” silo, which focuses mostly on subnational issues and advancing the places themselves, and the “Country” silo, which looks mostly at the international side and how brands may be affected by a country’s image. Each has built a great amount of knowledge within its domain, but there is little or no sharing between the two – and so bridging the gap can only benefit both.

Last but not least, since the purpose is to “synthesize” the chapters cover a lot of ground – places are discussed at all levels, from neighbourhoods to towns, countries, and indeed the world at large; the perspectives of both research and practice and both sellers and buyers are taken into account; and, importantly, both identity (how places see themselves) and image (how others see them) are integral parts of the discussion throughout.

Which are the key insights you gained from developing and editing the book? 

I’ve learned a lot in my life but almost never as much as with this project. One of my earlier books focused on the “country” side, and I have worked extensively on both it and the “place” sides before, but never on this scale. The more I read and learned while working on the book, the more I was struck by how broad the field is and what great depths it covers.

“Places” of all kinds are a mainstay of research and practice in tourism, place or nation branding, social and environmental psychology, country image, urban geography, behavioural economics, international marketing… “Identity” encompasses global, foreign, national, ethnic, local, and other angles, and so does that other elusive concept, “Image”, with these two being the main underlying pillars of our book and therefore forming its subtitle…

In short, you name it, it’s there! In one sense, as we joke in one chapter place branding is “all over the place”. But in another sense, it’s great that we’ve been able to “put everything in one place”. Whether as researchers or managers, we just don’t “talk” to each other enough – and the more we “talk”, as this book does, the better off we’ll all be.

How does the book differ from others on the subject? What makes it unique? And how can place image and location marketing research support locations in the current pandemic, perhaps helping them to emerge strong(er) or more resilient to such crises?

There are many, many books on “Place”, and also some within the “Country” silo, but none that we know of that integrates the two. “Place” books typically cover subnational locales, and even when examining countries the perspective almost always is that of “place” – a mostly inward-looking view concerning identity questions and promoting the place itself. Conversely, “Country” research is mostly “outward” and deals almost exclusively with a country’s image and the potential effects on products identified with it, such as “German cars”.

Each of these fields has developed knowledge within its silo – but at the end of the day both deal with geographic areas, the people in them, and what others think about them.

So the question we asked was, wouldn’t it make sense that each learns from the other? And the answer is this book.

As for the pandemic… Places are suffering from it – tourism destinations probably more than most – and, pandemic or not, will continue to suffer from such well-known ailments as limited budgets, confused bureaucracies, and/or lack of know-how.

Therefore the answer, again, lies in integrating knowledge; there’s a lot of know-how out there, and it can help places immensely – if only places use it!

Anything else you’d like to mention?

Yes, this is an opportunity to express how grateful I am to my co-editor, Dr. Mark Cleveland, for his sage contributions and hard work throughout, to our truly stellar cast of 28 cutting-edge experts who shared their insights, to the “Olympic pantheon” of Simon Anholt, Keith Dinnie, Jan-Benedict Steenkamp, and Alain Verbeke who kindly reviewed the book and offered the comments that adorn its cover, to Edward Elgar Publishing, which made the book idea a reality and to Florian Kaefer and TPBO who made this space available so I could talk a bit more about what started out as a book and became a labour of love for us.

We believe that the book’s chapters provide numerous insights and are both authoritative as well as fun to read (and even, some readers may feel, pleasantly whimsical at times!) – from Warnaby and Medway’s “Conceptions of place” and the co-editors’ “Will the twain ever meet?” (which contrast levels of “place” in research and practice) to Candace White‘s exploration of how place-associated products influence country image (especially that of the U.S.) in popular culture, and to our Introduction (on the ‘country’ vs. ‘place’ and ‘marketing’ vs. ‘branding’ conundrum) and Epilogue (“‘Between a rock and a hard PLACE”), both of which probably fall in the “whimsical” category!

We just hope you’ll have as much fun reading it and learning from it as we did.

The book is available to order here


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