by Caspar Lundsgaard-Hansen
What role can movies play concerning destination brand building? MORGAN, PIGGOTT and PRITCHARD (2004) argue that movies can be understood as opportunities for public relations (PR) strategies, which in term can be a cost-effective tool in the drive to create valuable destination brand relationships.
The authors exemplify their conclusions with the country of New Zealand. The country used the opportunity, which the filming of Lord of the Rings provided for a platform for lifestyle-based PR activities. New Zealand thus is, I believe, home of Middle Earth: beautiful nature, great adventures and fantastic characters.
Unfortunately, from a destination branding perspective there are also movies, which it seems can not be considered as a welcome addition to any common PR strategy…
Imagine a city with structural economic problems and a steady decline in population from 950’000 in the 1950s to a mere 620’000 in 2010. The talk is about Baltimore; and the local decision-makers probably pray for a kind of ‘Lord of the Rings’ for their hometown. But there is no such thing in this case – quite the contrary.
I have to admit that I have never been to Baltimore. But nevertheless I have an image of the largest city of the US state of Maryland. And this particular image has not much in common with the ‘Lord of the Rings’ kind of image I explained above. It was instead formed by what is by many critics considered to be the greatest television series ever produced: The Wire. This series – recognized and hailed as being realistic (!) – focuses on different ‘urban’ aspects of the city of Baltimore, most prominently drug trade, the dodgy port system or the city government and bureaucracy.
As much as I personally admire and recommend the Wire, I’m afraid it led to a rather negative and deeply rooted image about this strapped US city. Many viewers of the Wire might associate crime, poverty and corruption with the once very powerful industrial city. Not exactly what common place branding strategies aim for. And not exactly what Lord of the Rings provided for New Zealand; except for fantastic characters maybe.
What do we learn from this? Hollywood should be careful. It can easily undermine any painstaking efforts to create a positive destination brand strategy.
MORGAN, Nigel; PIGGOTT, Rachel and Annette PRITCHARD (2004): New Zealand and The Lord of the Rings: Leveraging Public and Media Relations. In: MORGEN, Nigel; PRITCHARD, Annette and Roger PRIDE (Eds.): Destination Branding. Creating the Unique Destination Proposition. Oxford: Butterworth-Heinemann, pp. 207-225.
Or has The Wire put Baltimore back on the center stage?! One has to admit that it is pretty hard to draw the attention to one of the large US-American cities in a country of hundreds of large cities, each seeking for success, fame, a sports team, big business, and political importance
I totally agree with the point about negative associations of cities linked to film productions, but at the same time, I would like to point out that Baltimore has undergone a tremendous and – many people say – successful redevelopment of its waterfront area. (e.g. http://www.wrtdesign.com/projects/detail/Baltimore-Inner-Harbor/157)
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