Branding residential areas: A comparative analysis of two new living areas

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School of Business | Master's thesis
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Place branding has been recognized as a powerful tool for creating competitive advantage (Rainisto, 2003) in the time of place wars (Kotler et al., 1993) when places are fiercely competing for people, resources and attention. Hence, it is argued that today the question is not whether to brand, but how to brand (Hanna & Rowley, 2011). Several contexts of place branding, such as nation, city and destination branding, have been studied in the gradually emerging place branding literature, whereas the residential area context has remained scarce. Consequently, the goal of this master's thesis is to explore residential area branding and the related process. To accomplish this, a theoretical framework was established, based on the literature on theoretically discussed product and corporate branding as potential types of branding for places, studied contexts of place branding and the place branding process. The findings of the branding processes of the case locations were then reflected to the framework. The thesis studies the residential area branding process of the Finnish construction company YIT. The study was executed through a qualitative longitudinal comparative case study analysis on two residential areas in Finland, Kivistö in Vantaa and Niemenranta in Tampere. The set of primary data consists of 12 semi-structured interviews with involved experts. A wide range of secondary data sources, consisting of meeting memos, marketing plans, press releases and newspaper articles was examined. Together, these data sources enabled the formation of a common understanding of the branding processes of the areas over time. As a result of the comparative analysis, it was found that the theoretical model was well applicable to the residential area branding process, as similar to the suggested in literature process phases existed. The suggestive model proposes the following steps to be taken in the residential area branding process: formation of planning group, place audit, setting vision and goals, strategy formulation, action planning and implementation and control. The findings implicate that, although residential area branding is found extremely important to put up with competition, the phenomenon is still taking its early steps in both the public and private sectors. Challenges and targets for development exist in both the organizational structure of the planning group and the course of events in the process flow. The long life cycle of the brand is found challenging to manage as strategic long-term brand leadership is lacking. Residential area branding requires a multitude of stakeholders to be involved, which sets the challenge of finding the right mindset, when branding skills are scarce. The complexity of the required branding organization also challenges group formation, as having and selecting the correct responsible people is not self-evident. Therefore, a systematic approach to the branding process is required to standardize the quality of the processes and decrease dependency on certain individuals. The study makes a theoretical contribution by contributing to the scarce focal point of the place branding process and the context of the residential area, as well as a managerial contribution by offering recommendations for place branding practices.
brands, brandit, region, alue, marketing, markkinointi, living conditions, elinolosuhteet, processes, prosessit
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