Creation of a place brand - Involving residents in branding processes

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School of Business | Master's thesis
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OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY: The thesis has two main objectives. The first one is to shed light on the co-creative bottom-up processes of place branding by discussing the link between place brands, co-creation and the bottom-up approach. This is done through developing an understanding of how the residents of a place experience and perceive the place and consequently, how the place brand is developed through discursive practices. Looking at place branding this way, branding is seen as a co-creative bottom-up activity. Understanding the co-creative bottom-up processes is the theoretical contribution of this thesis to the current place branding discussion. The second objective of the thesis is to uncover what kinds of discourses of the specific place "Helsinki-by-the-Sea" are prevalent in order to find practical managerial implications, which can be used to create the place brand strategy of Helsinki-by-the-Sea further. METHODOLOGY: The study is qualitative and the data was gathered using in-depth interviews. Nine walk-along interviews in total were carried out in the southern seaside areas of Helsinki during a six-week research period. The research approach is discursive since most of consumers' experiences of and encounters with a place are processed through discursive systems and hence, discourses play a large role in building a place brand image. FINDINGS: The results show that place branding is a complex process, in which places are experienced and perceived in a certain way and ultimately co-created in a bottom-up manner. The creation of a place happens in various interactions between consumers and the place. By using co-creative bottom-up place branding strategies brand managers can construct a place brand identity that echoes the authentic perceptions of and experiences in that specific place. The findings of the study also reveal that the place brand Helsinki-by-the-Sea has both functional and symbolic attributes much like product brands. These functional and symbolic place brand attributes represent dimensions of the place's current brand image. They offer perspectives and dimensions to building an authentic place brand identity further.
place branding, place co-creation, resident involvement, discourse analysis, bottom-up branding, place brand image
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