by Ares Kalandides
The Georg Simmel Centre for Metropolitan Research together with in:polis organized the 2nd International Place Branding Conference The Search for Place Identity in Bogotá Colombia 20th – 22nd January 2011. Approximately 100 participants from all over the world spent 3 days discussing theory, methodology and implementation of Place Branding in an international and interdisciplinary context.The conference was a step further towards not only understanding how to brand places, but especially what it is we are doing. Here is what I got from the conference:
First of all, I defined place branding mainly as spatial policy combined with communications. In particular geographers insisted on the need to understand that space does not function as a simple product – and thus can not be branded in the same way – but that it is constituted according to its own rules. The same way the term place identity can only be used metaphorically. It would be more precise to speak of the “sense of place”, a process that combines sameness and distinctiveness.
Secondly, focus was put on research methodology. It was stressed that what is needed is a method mix, combining quantitative and qualitative methods. The use of discourse and image analysis were mentioned extensively as very useful analytical tools, while at the same time researchers identified the lack of an anthropological perspective in the field.
Finally, some participants focussed on the need to rethink citizen participation not only as consultation, but rather as a redistribution of the added value produced by place branding strategies.
There are several issues that remain open:
How can we conceptualize place branding outside place competition? Can the complexity of a place be reduced to simplified messages as communication experts keep telling us? What is the relation between place branding/marketing and place management? What is the role of geographical scale?
The conference was organized in cooperation with the Institute of Place Management. A special issue of the Journal of Place Management and Development (http://www.emeraldinsight.com/products/journals/journals.htm?id=jpmd) is dedicated to the conference and will appear in March 2011.