29 April 2014

My city – my brand: the different roles of residents in place branding

The Authors

Erik Braun, Erasmus School of Economics, Erasmus University Rotterdam, Rotterdam, The Netherlands

Mihalis Kavaratzis, School of Management, University of Leicester, Leicester, UK

Sebastian Zenker, Erasmus School of Economics, Erasmus University Rotterdam, Rotterdam, The Netherlands

Abstract

Purpose – This paper deals with the importance of residents within place branding. The aim of this paper is to examine the different roles that residents play in the formation and communication of place brands and explores the implications for place brand management.

Design/methodology/approach – The paper is based on theoretical insights drawn from the combination of the distinct literatures on place branding, general marketing, tourism, human geography, and collaborative governance. To support its arguments, the paper discusses the participation of citizens in governance processes as highlighted in the urban governance literature as well as the debate among marketing scholars over participatory marketing and branding.

Findings – The paper arrive at three different roles played by the residents: as an integral part of the place brand through their characteristics and behavior; as ambassadors for their place brand who grant credibility to any communicated message; and as citizens and voters who are vital for the political legitimization of place branding. These three roles make the residents a very significant target group of place branding.

Originality/value – Residents are largely neglected by place branding practice and their priorities are often misunderstood, even though they are not passive beneficiaries but are active partners and co-producers of public goods, services and policies. This paper highlights that only meaningful participation and consultation can produce a more effective and sustainable place branding strengthening the brand communication and avoiding the pitfall of developing “artificial” place brands.