Place branding strategies linking marketing to places have received increasing attention in practice and theory in the past two decades. It is generally assumed that place branding contributes to the economic, social, political and cultural development of cities, regions and countries. But there exists neither a commonly accepted definition nor a sound theoretical framework for place branding research. Studies have until now mainly focused on nations and cities, while the regional scale has rather been neglected, even more in the context of Mediterranean countries. In addition, little is yet known about the conditions, processes, and outcomes of place branding.
The objective of this thesis is to contribute to the clarification of the place branding concept and to a broader understanding of this rich and complex phenomenon. The focus is on the underlying conditions, processes and dynamics of place branding in regions that contributes to territorial development. Place branding is related to local food products and tourism for sustainable territorial development in Mediterranean rural regions (in France and Morocco).
The introduction chapter outlines the societal and theoretical context of place branding regarding this thesis. Place brands have emerged as attempts to respond to intertwined and multifaceted economic, political and socio-cultural challenges: to the externalities of globalisation, to local development challenges due to regionalisation and decentralisation processes, and to socio-economic tensions in the Mediterranean basin and its food domain. Accordingly, three established literature streams are mobilized: the marketing and branding of places, regional studies and sociology. It is supposed that insights from the three disciplines are needed to understand the conditions, processes and development outcomes of regional branding. This leads to three units of analysis: the first deals with place branding in a narrow sense, understanding it as marketing strategy for the development of places and their local assets based on a distinctive territorial identity; the second considers territorial development policies and public-private interactions; and the third analyses place-based, collective and embedded processes among various actors in rural areas.
Chapter 2 comprises a case study of the Sud de France brand in the region Languedoc-Roussillon, which is mainly used for the valorisation and promotion of local wines, food and tourism, but also serving institutional aims. It is a study of local dynamics and the process of regional branding, leading to beneficial outcomes stemming from a public development intervention. It demonstrates various economic and non-economic benefits created by a place brand and unfolds some of its working mechanisms, such as horizontal and vertical relations among different territorial actors, a multiple stakeholder involvement, or the linkage of a place brand with its political, social and economic context.
Chapter 3 is a continuation of Chapter 2, as it further investigates the kind of value that can be created by a place brand for different stakeholders, using the Sud de France case. Based on stakeholder and brand equity theory, it develops a measurement model and monitoring tool for the value of place brands. Results show that various place brand value dimensions coexist, according to the expectations of four identified key stakeholder groups. These value dimensions include economic, socio-cultural and environmental indicators.
Chapter 4 offers a comparison of four regional branding initiatives in Europe, with the aim to gain insights into the general conditions, as well as context-dependent factors for successfully developing and maintaining place brands. It combines a marketing perspective with the sociology of food and endogenous rural development, and analyses strategic and operational brand management aspects, as well as contextual factors. Findings indicate the importance of various embeddedness dimensions for regional branding, such as public policies, cooperation and governance forms, territorial identity and the anchorage of local actors in their places.
Chapter 5 is an explorative case study of place branding in the province of Chefchaouen, Morocco, in order to find out whether and how it would be possible to implement there a place brand as a coherent and collective territorial development project. Preconditions and various initiatives towards place branding are analysed at three action levels (macro, meso, micro). Specific attention is given to local cooperation and network activities, to leadership and political unity, being strongly related to the question of territorial governance. The main insight gained from the Chefchaouen case is that a collective place brand could be a useful tool for cross-sector cooperation, territorial governance and development, but that currently Moroccan regions still lack sufficient autonomy to fully develop their own territorial projects.
The final chapter builds upon the research findings to highlight conceptual differences between diverse brands related to places. The main conclusion of this thesis is that place brands in regions – in order to be able to support agribusiness and local development – must be considered as more than mere marketing instruments, but as dynamic, collective and embedded territorial development processes. These insights lead to conceptual and theoretical, methodological, as well as policy and managerial implications, for place branding research and practice. A main suggestion for further research is to use complex systems theory to cover the complexity of place brands.
|Qualification||Doctor of Philosophy|
|Award date||10 Jun 2016|
|Place of Publication||Wageningen|
|Publication status||Published - 2016|
- rural sociology
- food consumption
- regional development
- rural development
- international tourism