Are city-brands resilient (as brands) post-crisis?
Economic crisis' and other categories such as crime, terror, political, or natural disasters are considered anathema in branding discourse (Glaesser, 2006; Vanolo, 2015). In fact, so much so that theories related to prolonged crisis impacts on city-brands or image restoration studies related to place are minimal (Avraham, & Ketter, 2013; Avraham, 2020; Vanolo, 2015). In part, this may be because brands as perceptions are fleeting and suffer from temporal subjectivity (Avraham, 2020). However, the very impetus for urban branding often depends on or is a built-in response to a crisis to- or stem from - media sensationalization of the crisis (Avraham, et al.,2013; Coaffee, & Rogers, 2008).
Place brands are long in the making, show remarkable stability and elasticity, and they have the ability to revert to pre-crisis global perceptions, yet at the same time; they are performative, vulnerable to place-brand substitutions (Kelowna for wine tasting vs a trip to Spain to do the same), fragile to media casting (Avraham, et al.,2013; Bloom Consulting, 2020; Coaffee, et al., 2008; Knowles, Ettenson, Lynch, & Dollens, 2020; Pasquier, & Zumofen, 2015; Vanolo, 2015). They have faltered due to negative stereotyping or brand imaging. If the crisis is prolonged and highly intense or impacts the city's identity and cultural fabric, the likelihood of gloomy perception development is more significant (Bloom Consulting, 2020).
Negative brand perceptions have a more significant impact on place images than position perceptions; negative perceptions are dominant and are difficult to change unless the consumer or perceptor has a value-based reason to change their perception (Bloom Consulting, 2020). The media, and now, user-generated content, reinforce these negative images as they morph from image to stereotype, which can be long-lasting (Anholt, 2006). An excellent example of this stems back to the Spanish Flu, which began in the United States, not in Spain, but the media attention first began in Spain, leaving Spain's image tied to that crisis even today (Gössling, et al., 2020). Negative perceptions are major economic obstacles for neo-liberal cities hoping to attract investment and promote tourism (Coaffee, et al., 2008).
City brands in the recent crisis' have shown previous recovery and resiliency strategies that focus on root causes and strategic approaches such as promoting second-tier attributes, changing public policy, reinventing public spaces, or rebuilding negative stereotypes by focusing on local promotion first (Avraham, 2020; Vanolo, 2015). In cases of crisis, cosmetic repairs such as advertising and marketing efforts have shown to have little effect and masquerading with spectacles and events only show a short-term rebound (Avraham, et al.,2013; Avraham, 2020; Pasquier, et al., 2015).
The future of place branding, at least those post-crisis, is in policy not in marketing. Or perhaps future marketers are policy folks not creative types. #newskillsrequired
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Avraham, E. (2020). Nation branding and marketing strategies for combatting tourism crises and stereotypes toward destinations. Journal of Business Research, 116, 711–720.
Avraham, E., & Ketter, E. (2013). Marketing Destinations with Prolonged Negative Images: Towards a Theoretical Model. Tourism Geographies, 15(1), 145–164.
Bloom Consulting. (2020). The Covid-19 Study – The Impact on Nation Brands. https://www.bloom-consulting.com/journal/the-covid-19-study-the-impact-on-nation-brands/
Coaffee, J., & Rogers, P. (2008). Reputational risk and resiliency: The branding of security in place-making. Place Branding and Public Diplomacy, 4(3), 205–217.
Glaesser , D . ( 2006 ) ‘ Crisis management in the tourism industry, Burlington MA ’ , in Mansfi eld, Y and Pizam, A. (eds) (2006), ‘ Tourism, Security and Safety; from Theory to Practice ’ , Butterworth Heinemann, Burlington MA .
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Knowles, J., Ettenson, R., Lynch, P., & Dollens, J. (2020). Growth Opportunities for Brands During the COVID-19 Crisis A Shock to the System.
Pasquier, M., & Zumofen, R. (2015). Image Resilience after Multiple Crises. The Case of Switzerland in the United States. Die Unternehmung, 69(2), 182–192.
Vanolo, A. (2015). The image of the creative city, eight years later: Turin, urban branding and the economic crisis taboo. Cities, 46, 1–7.