Some time ago, I approached a group of participants in a regional place branding conference and asked their point of view regarding the European Union (EU) strategy for the coming 20 years and how the strategy will create opportunities for us as place branding researchers. A mix of opinions came to the table. Some believe the document is just another set of economic and financial guidelines for the EU Member States, which does not touch on or relate to the practice of place branding. Other comments followed our way of thinking, by interpreting that the Europe 2020 Strategy could be an opportunity to bolster future branding strategies in the EU.
What leads me to believe that the EU strategy will have implications on the place branding profession is its clear definition about where the European Union should stand in the coming years, in terms of these core subjects:
Considering that place branding is an attempt to form a unique selling proposition that will secure visibility to the outside world and reinforce local identity, these EU goals integrate perfectly with the building process for a place branding strategy.
A brief overview of The Europe 2020 Strategy
The Europe 2020 Strategy (EU 2020) – “A European strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth”, together with the recent Country-specific Recommendations from the European Commission– takes a step forward to resolve long-term challenges, such as globalisation and pressure on natural resources, by promoting a more efficient, greener and more competitive economy. In this moment of transformation, the three priorities are:
Smart growth, to develop an economy based on knowledge and innovation
Sustainable growth, by promoting a more resource-efficient, green and competitive economy
Inclusive growth, by fostering a high-employment economy delivering social and territorial cohesion
The three reinforcing priorities should help the EU and Member States deliver high levels of employment, productivity and social cohesion. The implementation of these targets – smart, sustainable and inclusive growth will be applied on the national level and guide the necessary transformation. The correlation with place branding research emerges from the flagship initiative that looks to the economic, social and territorial cohesion. This cohesion promotes regional development and makes sure that the benefits of growth will be equally distributed around the EU. A place branding strategy of this calibre needs a decision-making support system, and the EU 2020 could be seen as a base for that practice.
The Europe 2020 and place branding
As a place branding researcher, I have been exploring hot topics about place branding. We argue that the application of the concept of place branding for countries, regions and cities is a perfect link with the Europe 2020 Strategy that will raise:
Economic development and territorial competitiveness
Contribution towards a more cohesive territory
Environmental noise concerns
A place in particular a region in a Member State of the EU must follow the guidelines of the European Commission as well as an adapted place branding strategy in order to attempt to achieve the EU 2020 goals.
Eduardo Oliveira is a PhD researcher at the Department of Spatial Planning & Environment of the Faculty of Spatial Sciences, University of Groningen, The Netherlands. He holds an MSc in Marketing and Strategic Management and a degree in Geography from the University of Minho and he is doing research in place and destination branding as spatial planning instruments.