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Essay: Investigating the interrelations between the concepts of time and place brands

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  • Investigating the interrelations between the concepts of time and place brands
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Abstract

The proposed research project aims at investigating the interrelations between the concepts of time and place brands. Place branding is a widely implemented approach to place development, initially based on the ideas of product marketing and branding. It implies considering places (countries, regions, cities, towns, etc.) as specific brands, i.e. as networks of associations in people’s minds. A range of theories rationalizes the idea of place brands and place branding as a multidisciplinary approach. The concept of time is widely studies in other fields of knowledge – philosophy, management, geography, urban studies, etc. However, according to the literature review, there is a research gap in the place branding theory regarding time-related issues of place brands.

The goal of the research is to validate the hypothesis about the influence of time on place brands. The main research questions are the following: How does time influence place brand (each of the time aspects – past, present and future)? Does a brand life cycle exist? How do place stakeholders perceive time in the place brand? To answer the research questions, mixed methods based on case studies will be applied. The research design will be implemented at the example of the town Uriupinsk in the Volgograd region of Russia. The results of the research might contribute to the place branding theory and give practical insights into place branding practices.

Context

I see a beautiful city and a brilliant people rising from this abyss. I see the lives for which I lay down my life, peaceful, useful, prosperous and happy. I see that I hold a sanctuary in their hearts, and in the hearts of their descendants, generations hence. It is a far,  far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known.

Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

Introduction

Place, where people live or travel, can be considered as a general category providing all the range of resources to satisfy consumers’ needs. Places, namely countries, cities, towns, villages and municipalities of different kind, where people exist become important constructs of their lives (Baker, 2012). Places can be categorised by different criteria: by a scale, recourses, type of economic activity, specialisation, geographical location, investment rating, touristic attractiveness, quality of life, etc. (Florida, 2005; Bechtel, 2016). Nowadays people choose places as they choose goods and services. From this point of view, the marketing approach has been applied to places, considering them as a specific type of products with their own markets and consumers (Kotler et al, 1993; Kotler and Gertner, 2002; Morgan et al, 2004, Kotler et al, 2002). Basically in the literature there are different categorisations of place brand’s stakeholders (Stubbs and Warnaby,2015). In my research, I would focus on citizens (current and former), tourists, businesses and authorities. For the last decades a significant number of places of different scale – from nations to towns and villages – have made more or less successful attempts to implement place marketing tools and programs. Some of them have had the form of coherent development programs and strategies. Others focused mainly on the “promotion” component of the marketing mix, narrowing marketing to communication techniques and place promotion.

Place marketing and place branding

Marketing is a widely implemented demand-based concept and practice aiming at meeting the needs and requirements of consumers as a basic principle of gaining market success for companies (Saren, 2009). Consumers are recognised as main actors, whereas companies are competing for their attention and positive attitude that, in essence, result in making a purchase. The marketing approach, though emerged initially in the production and industrial field, has been applied and spread dramatically to numerous spheres and areas, from marketing services to marketing personalities and celebrities (Kotler and Armstrong, 2016). Due to global processes in international economies, territorial competition between places has all over the world increased (Baker, 2012). It has resulted in searching for marketing instruments and solutions and influenced the development of place marketing and place branding techniques. A large number of regions implement place branding strategies in order to attract people or businesses to the place or to prevent migration out of regions (Mikulcak et al, 2015).
Today, literature links place marketing, place promotion and place branding (Boisen et al, 2018). In some research the definition and terms of place branding is studied with the emphasis on the capacity of the brand to be differentiated and creating and promoting an external image aimed at attracting tourists, investors and creative people (Kavaratzis, 2005). There is a discussion in literature about frameworks and interconnections of place marketing and place branding concepts. It is argued that place branding is a much broader as long-term strategy, while place marketing is only a part of it (Baker, 2012). Place marketing is usually seen as a demand-based approach to place development, while place branding is regarded to be identity-driven and reputation-focused, which makes it more advantageous and strategic compared to place marketing (Boisen et al, 2018).

However, as a significantly interdisciplinary field, place branding accumulates contributions from different academic disciplines and practical areas (Dinnie,2009). A wide variety of place branding research and practical questions requires using the principles and instruments of urban studies, place marketing, place making, geography, public diplomacy, management, finances, tourism, media and communications, economics, ethnography, sociology, and even arts and literature. Place brand is considered as a network of associations connected with the place (a country, a region or a city). People construct place brands in their minds and make sense of places Kavaratzis and Kalandides, 2015). The process of place branding formation is seen as the interaction between associations connected with places in people’s minds, that are based on materiality, practices, institutions and representations (Kavaratzis and Kalandides, 2015).

The review of the relevant literature on place marketing and place branding proves a variety of models and approaches to place branding. Kavaratzis and Kalandides (2015), considering place brand as a network of associations, introduced a model of a place brand based on 4 key elements:

1) associations with materiality

2) associations with practices

3) associations with representations

4) associations with institutions.

By materiality we can understand historical objects and landmarks, production, industries, city environment and infrastructure. Practices – events, daily routines, activities at the place. Representations – a range of narratives, stories, toponims, logos and visual attributes of the place. Institutions – planning, authorities, investment, social norms and values, brand values. This model, though represents all of the aspects of place, is static and does not take into consideration time issues in place branding. However, it is mentioned, that “place associations are interactive and they constantly change as the place brand is experienced” (Kavaratzis and Kalandides, 2015, p. 1375). This constant change appears, apparently, with time. However, it is not evident, how long and continuous this time period can be. A relevant research question could deal with investigating the influence of time on the mentioned above aspects of place brands. Thus, this conceptual model needs to be to be converted into a dynamic domain.

In place branding the idea of time can be mentioned indirectly. For example, brand valuation is defined as the calculation of future incomes from the brand over a particular period of time – lifespan converted to present value (Forbes, 2006). However, there is an evident research gap in the existing literature in terms of considering time as a category, which is relevant to place branding.

Time and place

Time has always been a matter of interest for researchers in different fields of study since the ancient periods. The concept of time and various approaches to understanding and explaining its nature have been scrutinised in philosophy, physics, literature, arts, urban studies, management, economics and a large number of fields. Meanwhile, there is a logical question, that can be addressed in this context. If time has been studied in approaches dealing with spaces and spatial characteristics of the social world, how the issue of time is connected with place brands?

In place marketing and branding the term used for defining spatial characteristics of cities, regions and countries is usually put as “place”. However, in philosophy this category is describes as “place” or “space”. In the recent publications there is a discussion about differences between these terms and special characteristics in marketing (Giovanardi and Lucarelli, 2018). Analyzing place and time categories has always been one of the most popular and challenging philosophical problems. It has been debated if time and place exist independently of people’s minds. One more issue discussed was the possible interdependence of these categories and how to identify them. In the ancient atomism theory time was considered as a specific substance. Place (space) is considered to be a fundamental concept of a human mind, reflecting the multiple character of the existing world and its heterogeneity. A range of objects and data reflected in human mind build a complicated image of the world. In the ancient philosophy Plato described time as the period of motion of the heavenly bodies and sees past and present as forms of time (Brumbaugh, 1984). Aristotle defined time as the number of changes with respect to before and after, and the place of an object (Madanipour, 2017).

According to traditional realist position in ontology, time and space are objective and exist apart from the human mind. Idealists, on the contrary, claimed that time and place depend on people’s minds. Kant suggested that time and place are not substances, but elements of a systematic framework used by people to structure their experiences. Measurements of place were used to justify how far apart thongs were, and temporal measurements were used to quantitatively compare the interval between (or duration of) events. Einstein proposed that the laws of physics should be based on the principle of relativity. This means that the laws of physics are the same for all observers, and do not depend on the frame of reference that is used, and that light propagates at the same speed in all reference frames (Madanipour, 2017).
Lefebvre (2004) combines place and time in the concept of “rhythmanalysis”, making it the main idea of urban development (Lefebvre, 2004). In human geography it is argued that dimensions of time and place (space) are interconnected and do not exist independently (May and Thrift, 2001). Relations between time and place arise as a significantly interdisciplinary issue. In language studies M. Bakhtin applied a term “chronotop” to describe the configuration of time and place in literature (Bakhtin, 1981). He gave “the name “chronotop” (literally, “time space”) to intrinsic connectedness of temporal and spacious relationships that are artistically expressed in literature”. Thus, chronotop is considered as a category of literature that combines time and place and admits their unconditional interconnection. According to Bakhtin, chronotop in literature is influenced by historical conditions and defines the genres of literature.

Thus, looking at my research topic through linguistic philosophy, it seems possible to apply the term “chronotop” to place branding. It is approached in the literature that place brand is a range of characteristics, connected with place (associations, attitudes, attributes etc.).
If we consider time as a linear process consisting of the past, the present and the future, we can assume the possible meaning of time for place stakeholders. Possibly, the past might be associated with their previous experiences connected with this particular place. It can be living and working at the place, travelling, running business, spending free time, etc. For the present it might be reflections on their current attitudes to the place, their perception of the present moment. If residents are planning to stay, it might imply that they associate their future with the place. Place branding management and strategies can be considered as a time-related process.

As a result of the literature review, a list of possible indicators, reflecting time for place brands can be summarised.

1) Time since the beginning of a branding campaign. This is relevant to the places, where an official branding campaign is being run. Here might be interesting to study the dynamics of different macroeconomic and brand-related indicators since the beginning of the campaign.

2) Time as a certain season of a year. This idea might be relevant to small and rural places, as well as to touristic destinations. For such kind of places time of the year affects the supply and demand equilibrium, employment and consumption.

3) Brand image in time.

4) Past, present and future. This is relevant to the linear idea of time.

5) Speed of time, rhythms of place. This idea might be studies through the concept of rhythm analysis (Lefebvre, 2004).

6) Time for activities and daily routine. It can be relevant for the stakeholders to evaluate their time for daily routines at the place, which can have impact on the quality of life.

7) Time in terms of investment attractiveness. This aspect is relevant to businesses in the city, who might see time as the investment horizon.

8) Interruptions of time. Time can be interrupted by both positive and negative events (catastrophes, mega events, festivals, wars, etc.).

Russian context

Russia is the country with a diverse culture, polarised economic development of regions and cities. In Russian Federation there are 222327 municipalities that includes 1784 municipal districts, 527 urban districts, 19 internal urban districts, 267 internal urban territories, 1589 urban settlements and 18101 rural settlements. One of the features that can characterise the specificity of regional development in the country is highly polarised economic structure. Due to global processes, large cities attract resourced and different types of capital, whereas places of a smaller scale have to struggle in the competitive environment suffering from high migration out from places, demographic and social problems. However, these big cities also act as leading actors at the global arena competing as centers of innovations, finance and main touristic destinations as well. To succeed in these competitive games places need to apply contemporary instruments and approaches to their development strategies. Place branding in Russian towns and cities has become a popular approach to regional development since the 2000s (Britvin et al, 2016). Almost every 5th town or city in the country has tried to maintain a branding campaign in different ways. However, many of them have failed due to different reasons (Dubeykovsky, 2015). Therefore, place branding in Russia is a significantly expanding field of knowledge and practices, which can provide a relevant research context for investigating the idea of the dynamic nature of place brands.

Research questions

In accordance with the research context and the research gaps identified by the literature review, the following research questions are elaborated.

1. Do different stakeholders’ perceptions of time affect their associations with the place brand and how?

2. Do these perceptions affect stakeholder’s place-related decisions and how?

Indeed, stakeholders are the main actors in place brands. In fact, this is one of the reasons, that forms the complexity and interdicilinarity of place brands. People, work, socialise in place, construct and co-create them (Stubbs and Warnaby, 2015). Place brands’ stakeholders can be categorised as residents, politicians, government organisations, promotion agencies, infrastructure and transport providers, cultural and sports organisations, businesses, academic organisations and schools, religious organisations (Stubbs and Warnaby, 2015).

Methods

‘When I use a word,’ Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, ‘it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.
Lewis Carroll, Through the Looking Glass

Taking into consideration the heterogeneity and complexity of the concept of time especially in its relation to the concept of place brand, special attention should be paid to the choice of methods appropriate to answer such a diverse research question. As place branding is a multidisciplinary domain, it allows to apply a range of different research methods from various fields. The most common ones include interviews, observations, surveys, and a range of quantitative methods.

To answer my research question, qualitative and qualitative methods will be applied.

Fore the first research question “Do different stakeholders’ perceptions of time affect their associations with the place brand and how?

Qualitative

For this part of the research I would apply a range of qualitative methods.

1) Semi-structured interviews.

The interview method is a widely used sociological instrument in place marketing and branding studies (E. g., Kavaratzis, 2008, Rainisto, 2003). Interviews can be used to “analyse consumers’ interpretations of their behavior and relationships with brands” (Lunt,2017). My data will consist of interview’s transcripts analysed with the NVIVO. NVIVO is a popular software used for analysing different types of rich data. The Program allows the user to apply a set of various tools to provide detailed analysis of texts and visual data, such as pictures and photos. NVIVO is able to manage data and ideas, query data, visualise it and report from the data (Bazeley and Jackson, 2013).
From the interpretative point of view, the aim of the research is explaining the understanding and perceptions of time by different place’s stakeholders. Interpretive researchers assume that access to reality (given or socially constructed) is only through social constructions such as language, consciousness, shared meanings, and instruments” (Myers, 2008).

Experiments.

Behavioral economics is a field of contemporary economic theory that applies psychological insights into human behaviour to explain economic decision-making. Behavioral economics applies a range of experimental methods to study consumers’ preferences and decision making. Moreover, much attention is paid to time-related aspects of decision making (Thaler, 2015). It is considered, that “people’s preferences appear to change for no reason other than the passing of time” (Angner, 2012). In behavioural economics there is a number of papers devoted to studying public goods (Dragouni et al, 2018). A public good in economics is a good that available to everyone and free. In this terms place brands can be considered a kind of a public good. Public goods are described by non-excludability and non-rivalry, which means everyone has free access to these goods and people can increase their consumption of a good without reducing the availability of the good for others (Samuelson and Noedhaus, 2010). Place brands meet these criteria, because they are not made to be sold, but to fulfil a variety of important social functions (Stubbs and Warnaby, 2015)Moreover, places do not belong to brand managers or corporations, compared to product brands, thus, they can belong to anyone (Dinnie, 2009).

From the behavioural economics point of view, “most decisions have consequences that occur at different points in time” (Angner, 2012). Thus, very often time is considered as a factor. Therefore, applying methods of behavioural economics seems to be appropriate to answer my research question about time and place branding. These experimental methods would be applied as a part of the mixed complex methodology.

2) Photography and visual data analysis.

All the above mentioned methods will be summarised in a case study of a town Uriupinsk in Russia. Reasons for choosing this single case are the following: a) the story of the place branding campaign is relevant to the research questions, b) for such a diverse range of methods, one case would be enough to answer the research questions, c) accessibility of the place and data.

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