According to Robert Govers, place branding is the process of discovering, creating, developing, and realizing ideas and concepts to (re)construct the identity of a territory, its distinctive features and the genius loci to subsequently build a sense of belonging.
Since the 1990s, cities, regions and countries have promoted branding strategies and international positioning by projecting a positive image to the world with the aim of attracting talent, investors, tourism and companies. To differentiate themselves and achieve these goals, they resort to the identity of the territory, putting in value their key assets, that is, their key endogenous resources – tangible and intangible.
Why is there a place branding strategy?
The factors are multiple and known. Let’s list them:
- Globalization, understood as the creation of a worldwide market, imposes through it a cultural homogenization where the traditional borders of the nation states are blurred. In value production, cities or regions, especially metropolitan areas, take over. From here, companies conceive territories as sources of competitive advantage within their business model.
- The shift from a model of industrial society towards a model of a knowledge society, linked to the technological revolution of information, where knowledge flows and consolidates flexible production models (offshoring), mobility explodes and communication becomes essential. All this explains the model of network society, where cities become nodes of permanent connection and focus of creation of opportunities and wealth.
- The need to project abroad, to become a place in the international flows of knowledge, students, goods, etc., forces us to adopt strategies that we could summarize in the motto “think globally and act locally” to occupy a competitive place in relation to other territories.
Place branding strategies can be identified on many sites. We will illustrate this with the cases of Catalonia, Bavaria and Dubai.
- Catalunya Trade & Investment aims to attract talent, help foreign investors to locate, facilitate the creation of start-ups and the internationalization of Catalan companies. The Barcelona brand is very powerful and Catalonia is also the region of southern Europe that attracts more tourism. Therefore, the strategy of place branding is to position itself in the attraction of talent, innovation, creativity and quality of life.
- Invest in Bavaria focuses its strategy on capturing companies or parts of production processes by offering knowledge in the field of digitization and research and innovation. Bavaria has always been an industrial region and, therefore, its strategy is to position itself as reference territory of the industrial revolution 4.0
- Dubai is a new city resulting from the oil industry. Its strategy is to become a node within global tourist flows, in the segment of high-end tourism, congresses and all kinds of business events. Dubai also wants to diversify its economic base by positioning itself as a business city and as the gateway to Asia.
Placing the place branding in the agenda
In the last thirty years, the concept of place branding has taken its place in the public agenda of many territories to respond to the growing need to position themselves and increase their visibility in a globalized world, where the competitiveness between cities is increasingly more aggressive. In a global world, the place matters.
In short, place branding is a useful tool for the global positioning of cities and territories, consisting of elements of strategy, citizen participation, public-private collaboration, communication and political will. U·TRANS is currently collaborating with some cities & regions seeking to incorporate place branding in their agenda.