What do you think is needed to improve understanding amongst those cities and nations who are still not really getting it right? As with any progressive development in society, education is key. Policy makers need to become acquainted with the fundamentals of place brand management, namely, how are place brands formed and what interventions can you make to help the place brand evolve in a positive direction. Unfortunately the prevailing norm still seems to be a default approach wherein an advertising agency or brand consultancy is hired and then allowed to create a cringeworthy campaign that alienates everyone, because no local buy-in was sought. In such cases, policy makers take an approach that is so hands-off it borders on negligence. This dull, conservative design-by-committee approach leads to branding in which the slogans are so meaningless that they are completely interchangeable between places.
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Having lived in and worked in countries around the world, Keith Dinnie has gained unique insights into the different conceptions and approaches to place branding, some of which he shares in the interview. He also reflects on how the nation branding scene has changed and evolved since publication of the first edition of his book in Keith, as a researcher, what got you interested in place brand management and the branding of cities, regions and nations?
That was the first time I had come across a country explicitly being treated as a brand. Initially I was highly skeptical, for the reasons that opponents of place branding still put forward, i. Cities, regions and countries get branded every day by foreign media, credit rating agencies, individual commentators, and the malevolent force of lazy ignorant stereotyping. At the very least, countries can attempt to make use of the communicative power of branding to counter such stigmatization.
Negative external branding is inflicted on countries every day. So for me, place branding is only partially what the place itself does; much more significant is the branding that is done to places without their consent.
You are about to publish the second edition of your book Nation Branding — Concepts, Issues, Practice: How has the field changed since you first wrote the book in ? To some extent the flurry of excitement in the late s has given way to a more mixed state of affairs today.
When I wrote the first edition of Nation Branding — Concepts, Issues, Practice, the field of nation branding was taking off, in no small part due to the groundbreaking work of Simon Anholt. All over the world, governments jumped on the nation brandwagon and spent lavishly on crass advertising campaigns rather than investing resources in more long-term initiatives such as diaspora engagement, inter-agency collaboration, and other strategic measures.
We are now at a point where many countries have a jaded view of nation branding because they spent money on advertising campaigns, wrongly believing that all you need for nation branding is an ad campaign, and when they failed to see any significant results they concluded that nation branding is a waste of time.
Just because it has often been done poorly, with dismal design and implementation, does not render the practice of nation branding redundant. But there is still a huge amount of ignorance within city, region and country governments regarding how to adapt the techniques of branding to their own unique contexts. Hence the need for the second edition of the book. On a more positive note, from an academic perspective the field of place branding is much more established now than it was when the first edition was published.
Many articles on place branding have now been published in top journals, particularly in the marketing and tourism disciplines but also occasionally in the field of public administration.
Having lived and worked in Japan, South Korea, the Netherlands and now the UK, are there any differences in how nation branding is approached in those countries, in terms of research and practice? Yes, there do seem to be differences in the approaches to place branding in those countries. In Japan, the level of region branding is more highly developed than in other countries, though it tends to be aimed at a domestic rather than an international audience.
In the Netherlands there is an exceptional level of interest in place branding, particularly at city level where many skilled professionals are working to promote their city brands. I would say there is a much higher level of antagonism towards the concept of place branding in the UK than in any of the other countries mentioned in your question. Your favorite place branding book at the moment? Everyone who has an interest in place branding should read it. Why did you decide to join Middlesex University in London?
A couple of reasons: first, in the Department of Marketing, Branding and Tourism at Middlesex I am surrounded by several colleagues who are active in the field of place branding, which makes this a stimulating work environment to be in; and second, Middlesex University is based in London, one of the great world cities.
Your key insights from your time in Japan? This was a great example of region branding, a tangible representation of prefectures in the form of shops stocking products from those prefectures.
In you edited a book on City Branding: Which are the main differences regarding the branding of cities vs. The challenges are similar, i. The key difference is that the decision makers are different in cities compared to countries. Also, at national level countries have at their disposal a network of embassies that in theory can assist in projecting the country brand, whereas cities generally do not have such a network, although some do.
Your research focuses on the application of strategic brand management techniques by national governments — do you have best or worst! Their strategy has sought to be as inclusive as possible and has also made good use of marketing expertise within that country.
Sweden has been willing to engage in brand co-creation by giving an official platform to citizen voices in a way that less egalitarian nations would be very uncomfortable with. Your thoughts on the Good Country Index? How do you think will it influence nation branding practice?
I hope that it influences nation branding practice, but influencing policy is evidently much harder than designing a communication-focused branding strategy. In the top positions of the ESI you see some countries that will never feature high up in the standard country brand indexes.
Such countries should make more efforts to communicate their good performance in the domain of environmental sustainability as a key element of their nation brand. If a country has done the right thing, it should let the world know.
Judging by your experience as place brand adviser, which issues do city and country brand managers struggle most with? For city brand managers the biggest problem is often lack of budget, allied with a lack of willingness of various municipal departments to accord importance to city branding. At a country level, often there is actually no one who is playing the role of country brand manager.
That is a key problem. I would also recommend that such an individual should be a citizen of the country rather than a foreign consultant. Your advice to students looking for place branding study programs?
Once they have decided that, they can search for appropriate degree programmes that may allow an opportunity to do a dissertation that is specifically about place branding, even if the degree programme itself is not limited to place branding. Thank you, Keith. Connect with Keith Dinnie on LinkedIn.
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Interview with Keith Dinnie, Place Branding Scholar and Advisor
The final prices may differ from the prices shown due to specifics of VAT rules About this book The practice of city branding is being adopted by increasing numbers of city authorities around the world and it is having a direct impact on public and private sector practice. The author captures this emerging phenomenon in a way that blends a solid theoretical and conceptual underpinning together with relevant real life cases. This book sets a major benchmark in the development of branding as a field of knowledge and will inform urban management research agendas and policy making worldwide in this new millennium. By drawing upon a range of contributors from diverse theoretical backgrounds, it provides a holistic view and makes a significant contribution to the emerging field of city branding. This book is set to become a must-have for anyone involved in place branding. This book not only offers an original approach to city brand theory, but also provides illustrative examples through a showcase of cities across the world as a means to better understand this novel form of branding.
Interview with Keith Dinnie
Dr Keith Dinnie