Place Branding Research Priorities 2019: Key Questions and Knowledge Gaps

Place branding research: which topics should receive more attention this year? Which knowledge gaps should investigators address?

Below the answers of our panel of place branding specialists (in alphabetical order –  highlighted respondents are available for consulting, research or as speakers).

Our key takeaways of topics and questions place branding researchers might want to address:

  • How to measure impact, effectiveness and success of place branding
  • Determine the failure rate of place branding projects around the world, and the root causes
  • How can place branding contribute to identity building and unity within a society, and stabilise societies in turmoil?
  • How narrative and place branding can impact the social and economic development of places
  • The effect of populism on place brand equity
  • Develop a place branding code-of-conduct
  • Social responsibility as topic in place branding
  • Future of digital communications and how information is going to be delivered

Aparna Sharma

I would like to see sector branding being brought into focus.


Ed Burghard

  • The reapplication of proven private sector branding principles in place branding
  • In-process and end-process success measures for place branding
  • The implications of my formula: Place Branding = Place Making + Place Marketing
  • Effective brand promise-driven strategic planning processes for communities

Gunter SoydanbayGünter Soydanbay

Soydanbay Consulting / Speaker profile

In its essence, every place branding project is a change management project. Unfortunately, about 70 percent of change initiatives fail to meet their stated objectives. As the place branding community, however, we don’t know how that failure rate relates to our field.

I once read a stats -published by k629, a place branding consultancy- that the place branding failure rate is 86%. They claimed to have developed a database of more than 5,000 place brands, over the past ten years. Sadly, that organization no longer exists.

So, whoever finds out the failure rate of place branding projects around the world, will address a significant knowledge gap in our field. Then, we can systemically analyze the root cause of those failures and improve place branding as a discipline.


Heather SkinnerHeather Skinner

Researcher profile

Creating engaging content – places should put less of a focus on advertising communications and more of a focus on creating and curating engaging content. Research could focus on how best to do this, what the benefits would be, comparisons between traditional advertising returns and content engagement. Note the issue about curating and not only creating content. Places also need to engage with user generated content and find ways of leveraging this to their advantage.

Partnerships – making the most out of working with all relevant stakeholders, so the place brand is more likely to be meaningful and accepted, not considered to be top-down and irrelevant.


Hjörtur SmárasonHjörtur Smárason

Scope Communications / Speaker

Place branding as a tool for conflict resolution and peace building. How can place branding methodologies help ease internal tensions in fragmented societies, or societies that are recovering from conflict? Can place branding be used in that way and if so, then how?

Nationalism has been used for that purpose earlier in history but can place branding somehow contribute to identity building and unity within a society and stabilise societies in turmoil?

And how does it work differently from nationalism in that regard?


Jeannette Hanna panelJeannette Hanna

Trajectory Brand Consultants / Speaker profile

We need more insights into how narrative and place branding can impact the social and economic development of places, especially in terms of inclusion and equity!


Jonathan McClory

Impact is everything, and measurement on impact needs to better reflect the strategic objectives of a place. Some branding efforts get too hung up on value of coverage, impressions, website traffic. Metrics should be tied to key economic and political priorities. Replicable studies that can compare branding efforts against such metrics would be extremely valuable.


José Pablo Arango

The big challenge is how to make research about the perceptions of a territory which can be applied in practice.


Magdalena FlorekMagdalena Florek

Researcher profile

Topics for place brand researchers this year:

  • brand effectiveness measurement
  • sustainability issues
  • value co-creation
  • stakeholders involvement

Martin Boisen panelMartin Boisen

For the love of place / Researcher profile

I firmly believe that the largest problem with research into place branding is the profound lack of studies that integrally address what cities, regions and countries actually do, and how they do it. This might sound very simple, but the amount of scientific publications that include more than one case study, and looks further than an assessment of strategy, a single communication channel or a single campaign is depressing.

We need more studies that provide empirical understanding of place branding as a phenomenon in and of contemporary governance.


Natasha GrandNatasha Grand

INSTID / Speaker profile

It would be interesting to see a framework for bringing the culture and traditions and lifestyle of places into place branding in a systemic way.


Paertel-Peeter PerePärtel-Peeter Pere

Future Place Leadership

  • Placemaking
  • Evidence-based urbanism
  • Digitalising community engagement
  • Artificial Intelligence

Robert Govers panelRobert Govers

Independent advisor / Speaker / Researcher

  • The effect of populism on place brand equity
  • The construct of self image versus external image

Sebastian Zenker

  • Brand management with no formal power (nudging stakeholders)
  • More complex place brand architecture (sub-brands for different target groups and/or for different place levels as districts, city, region, and country)
  • Measuring impact of place branding (e.g., big data approaches)
  • Ethical issues (a place branding code-of-conduct would be needed)
  • Social responsibility as topic in place branding

Todd Mayfield

I am personally interested in the future of digital communications and how information is going to be delivered. This includes credible and verifiable marketing through social media, GPS navigation and new electronic, interactive wayfinding devices.

How will driverless cars impact physical and digital wayfinding?

How will streaming services attract and deliver advertising?


Previous questions answered by the panel here

You’d like to ask the panel a question? Get in touch!


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