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Through the Looking Glass: An Identity-Based View of Place Branding
Luleå University of Technology, Department of Social Sciences, Technology and Arts, Business Administration and Industrial Engineering.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-9628-3599
2023 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Places of today face intense global competition for crucial resources. Attracting visitors and retaining residents is vital especially for post-industrial cities and rural places facing a loss of traditional industrial jobs, and urbanization and centralization of the population and economy. To attract resources and target groups like tourists and residents, place managers and authorities are increasingly turning to place branding. 

A recent stream of literature has adopted an identity-based view of place branding building on an understanding that like the formation of the place itself is an open-ended process, constantly renegotiated and socially constructed so is that of place branding. It depicts place branding as an identity construction process, an ongoing process of multilogue between different place stakeholders involved as active participants in the co-creation of the place brand experience, expression, and communication. In this light, effective place branding strategies must be based on a brand identity that reflects the perceptions of its stakeholders, communicated to and with key stakeholders. This highlights the need for place managers to understand place stakeholders’ perceptions to be able to mirror, articulate and reinforce them in the brand identity and place brand communication. There is however a lack of focus in extant research on the perspective of residents, a primary stakeholder group. Furthermore, questions remain regarding the drivers behind this process, especially regarding the role of person–place bonds in relation to place-related behavioral outcomes.

Therefore, the purpose of this thesis was: To investigate place-related identity concepts within an identity-based view of place branding. The current research sought to deepen the understanding of the identity-based view by 1) developing the understanding of how place-related identity aspects can be leveraged to influence the place-related behavioral intentions of key place stakeholders, focusing specifically on residents as a primary stakeholder group, and 2) to contribute to further conceptual and operational clarity regarding the elusive concept of place identity and related concepts underlying this process. Drawing on identity-based place branding literature in combination with identity, congruity, and attachment theory four research questions (RQs) were formulated: 

RQ1: How can the identity perspectives expressed in residents’ place image be characterized? RQ2: What is the relationship between place image, place attachment, self-congruity, and positive place word-of-mouth (WOM) across different stakeholder groups? RQ3: What is the relationship between place image, place attachment, self-congruity, and likelihood to stay in a place across cities of different sizes? RQ4: How can the concept of place identity be measured? 

To answer the research questions four studies were conducted, one qualitative, two quantitative and one conceptual, the results from each study presented in a research paper. In response to RQ1 the qualitative study highlights the different identity perspectives manifested by residents when describing their place perceptions. The place identity perspectives expressed in residents’ place image descriptions evidence both subject identity perspectives - through personal and social identity perspectives, and object identity perspectives – in terms of person, people/social (in-/out) group, and place object identity perspectives. These perspectives influence the content of place image descriptions both in terms of what residents describe – in terms of object identity, and how they describe it – depending on which identity lens is applied and from whose point of view. The results highlight the need for priming to activate a specific stakeholder identity when gathering place image perceptions and designing place branding campaigns.

Quantitative findings in response to RQ2 applicable across two cities of different size indicate that affective place image influences positive WOM and that this relationship is mediated by place attachment for both residents and visitors. Interestingly, while the connection between affective place image and place attachment is stronger for residents, the connection between place attachment and positive WOM is significant also for visitors. Contrary to previous studies, the findings suggest that self-congruity with residents’ image may not offer sufficient symbolic value to inspire WOM behavior. Results however support that self-congruity plays a mediating role between affective place image and place attachment which is stronger for visitors than for residents. The findings highlight the need to successfully reflect the self-concept of key stakeholders in communication messages to strengthen emotional brand connections and consequently WOM behavior. When targeting residents, communication is best centered around aspects reflecting the place’s identity while, additionally, communication reflecting residents’ image may be targeted towards visitors to increase the probability of positive WOM.

Findings concerning RQ3 show a positive relationship between place image and residents’ likelihood to stay, mediated by place attachment. The relationship between place image and place attachment is mediated by resident self-congruity. Implications include that perceived resident image fit may not offer any direct influence on residents’ likelihood to stay but is important to instill place attachment which impacts resident retention. Implications highlight the multifaceted nature of place self-congruity, the importance of careful consideration of constructs when operationalizing identification with a place, and that place attachment should not be used to measure residents’ likelihood to stay. Future research is encouraged to include images of both place and place consumers when studying residents’ place self-congruity. Implications highlight the capacity for place branding policies supporting inclusive community practices to unify and retain residents. 

Results from the conceptual study related to RQ4 show a range of elements and sub-dimensions relevant to measure the place identity/identification construct. Findings show how different labels have been applied to identify what appears to be conceptually equivalent constructs and vice-versa. A framework is presented of the cognitive, affective, and conative and evaluative elements of place identity/identification including their sub-dimensions. Results highlight the need to exert stringency when applying the terms in research and to carefully define and delineate concepts when gathering data and reporting results.

Further theoretical and managerial contributions and suggestions for future research are discussed in the final chapter of the thesis. The four papers are presented as Appendices, three of which have been published and the fourth is being revised to be submitted for review in a scholarly journal.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Luleå: Luleå tekniska universitet, 2023.
Series
Doctoral thesis / Luleå University of Technology 1 jan 1997 → …, ISSN 1402-1544
Keywords [en]
Place branding, identity-based place branding, place identity, place’s identity, places' identity, places' identities, place brand identity, place image, place brand image, self-congruity, self-congruence, place attachment, positive word-of-mouth, word-of-mouth, place advocacy, place ambassadorship, likelihood to stay, intention to stay, resident retention, stakeholders, residents, citizens, inhabitants, visitors, co-creators, co-creation, place brand
National Category
Business Administration
Research subject
Industrial Marketing
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:ltu:diva-96627ISBN: 978-91-8048-309-4 (print)ISBN: 978-91-8048-310-0 (electronic)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:ltu-96627DiVA, id: diva2:1751206
Public defence
2023-06-12, A109, Luleå tekniska universitet, Luleå, 10:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2023-04-17 Created: 2023-04-17 Last updated: 2023-09-12Bibliographically approved
List of papers
1. An image worth a thousand words? Expressions of stakeholder identity perspectives in place image descriptions
Open this publication in new window or tab >>An image worth a thousand words? Expressions of stakeholder identity perspectives in place image descriptions
2021 (English)In: Journal of Place Management and Development, ISSN 1753-8335, E-ISSN 1753-8343, Vol. 14, no 3, p. 315-330Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Purpose

This paper aims to explore how place identity can be expressed in residents’ place imagedescriptions, addressing differences and similarities in place identity expressions between residents’descriptions of the image of their place and the image of the place as described to others.

Design/methodology/approach

In-depth interviews were conducted with residents of a Swedish city.Place image descriptions were analyzed through thematic analysis.

Findings

Different types of identity perspectives manifest in the place image descriptions of residents. Respondents’ associations reflect place, person and social group identity perspectives, including their ownperspective as residents, but also as visitors, or a combination of both. Priming is needed when gatheringplace image perceptions, to establish which underlying identity perspective is expressed.

Research limitations/implications

This study offers a Nordic perspective on the organiccommunication of place image. The scope and qualitative nature of this study is a limitation to itsgeneralizability but also suggests a rich ground for future cross-cultural studies on the topic.

Practical implications

Results point to the importance of accurately formulating questions to catchstakeholders’ place image. Insights are offered into how stakeholders communicate Nordic place imageperceptions when engaging in communication about a place and into the effects of identity on organic placebrand communication.

Originality/value

To the best of the authors’ knowledge, this study is among the first to explore how key stakeholders’ lenses to interpret a place brand are activated in the communication of place image, andhow this influences their descriptions of the place.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Emerald Group Publishing Limited, 2021
Keywords
Place branding, Place identity, Stakeholders, Residents, Identity theory, Social identity theory
National Category
Business Administration
Research subject
Industrial Marketing
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:ltu:diva-86478 (URN)10.1108/JPMD-07-2019-0059 (DOI)000674412400001 ()2-s2.0-85111153183 (Scopus ID)
Projects
Attraktiva varumärken i besöksnäringen
Note

Validerad;2021;Nivå 2;2021-09-01 (johcin);

Forskningsfinansiär: R&D Fund of the Swedish Tourism and Hospitality Industry (48314)

Available from: 2021-07-28 Created: 2021-07-28 Last updated: 2023-09-05Bibliographically approved
2. Places in good graces: The role of emotional connections to a place on word-of-mouth
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Places in good graces: The role of emotional connections to a place on word-of-mouth
2020 (English)In: Journal of Business Research, ISSN 0148-2963, E-ISSN 1873-7978, Vol. 119, p. 444-452Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

The role of emotional connections to places has largely been studied with a focus on place visitors. However, while residents are considered integral to the place brand, their perspectives generally have been overlooked. This study aims to increase the understanding of the relationships between place image, self-congruity, place attachment, and positive word-of-mouth among residents and visitors of a place. A conceptual model is advanced from identity and attachment theories. Responses from 654 residents and visitors in two Swedish cities were collected through an online survey, and the conceptual model was tested across the two city samples using structural equation modelling. Findings indicate that affective place image is positively related to positive word-of-mouth and that this relationship is mediated by place attachment for both residents and visitors. The results further show that self-congruity acts as a mediator between affective place image and place attachment for visitors but not for residents.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Elsevier, 2020
Keywords
Place image, self-congruity, place attachment, positive word-of-mouth
National Category
Business Administration
Research subject
Industrial Marketing
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:ltu:diva-76759 (URN)10.1016/j.jbusres.2019.11.044 (DOI)000600367400016 ()2-s2.0-85076238439 (Scopus ID)
Conference
4th International Colloquium on Corporate Branding, Identity, Image and Reputation (COBIIR 2018), 3-4 September, 2018, Calabria, Italy
Projects
Attraktiva varumärken i besöksnäringen
Funder
The R&D Fund of the Swedish Tourism & Hospitality Industry (BFUF), 48314
Note

Godkänd;2020;Nivå 0;2020-12-03 (alebob);Konferensartikel i tidskrift

Available from: 2019-11-19 Created: 2019-11-19 Last updated: 2023-09-05Bibliographically approved
3. Let's stay together – The mediating role of self-congruity and place attachment on residents' likelihood to stay
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Let's stay together – The mediating role of self-congruity and place attachment on residents' likelihood to stay
2023 (English)In: Journal of Environmental Psychology, ISSN 0272-4944, E-ISSN 1522-9610, Vol. 87, article id 101989Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Residents are integral to the place image. They are a component of the place, and ambassadors of its brand, yet their perspectives have generally been overlooked when it comes to the role of person-place bonds in place branding. This study evaluates the mediating role of self-congruity and place attachment on the relationship between residents' positive place image and likelihood to stay among 350 Swedish residents. A conceptual model building on identity, congruity and attachment theories is tested using structural equation modelling. Findings, applicable across two cities of different size, show a positive relationship between place image and residents' likelihood to stay, mediated by place attachment. The relationship between place image and place attachment is mediated by resident self-congruity. Implications include that resident image may not offer a direct psychological bond influencing residents' likelihood to stay but is important to instill place attachment which in turn impacts resident retention. Implications highlight the multifaceted nature of place self-congruity, the importance of careful consideration of constructs when operationalizing identification with a place, and that place attachment should not be used to measure residents' likelihood to stay. Future research is encouraged to include images of both place and place users when studying residents' place self-congruity. Implications highlight the capacity for place branding policies supporting inclusive community practices to unify and retain residents.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Elsevier, 2023
Keywords
Place image, Self-congruity, Self-congruence, Place attachment, Resident retention, Likelihood to stay
National Category
Business Administration
Research subject
Industrial Marketing
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:ltu:diva-96318 (URN)10.1016/j.jenvp.2023.101989 (DOI)000951049000001 ()2-s2.0-85149460682 (Scopus ID)
Funder
The R&D Fund of the Swedish Tourism & Hospitality Industry (BFUF), 2015–163
Note

Validerad;2023;Nivå 2;2023-04-05 (hanlid)

Available from: 2023-04-05 Created: 2023-04-05 Last updated: 2023-04-17Bibliographically approved
4. The multidimensionality of place identity: A systematic concept analysis and framework of place-related identity elements
Open this publication in new window or tab >>The multidimensionality of place identity: A systematic concept analysis and framework of place-related identity elements
2024 (English)In: Journal of Environmental Psychology, ISSN 0272-4944, E-ISSN 1522-9610, Vol. 95, article id 102257Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

This article offers a systematic concept analysis of place identity, a concept central to place branding, suffering from conceptual confusion. The study provides an overview of related terminology, theoretical foundations, conceptualizations, and associated operationalizations of place-related identity concepts. Building on identity theory and a thematic analysis of measurement items gathered, a framework conceptualizing place-related identity elements is proposed, distinguishing between different dimensions of identification. Results show a range of cognitive, affective, and conative and evaluative elements of place identity/identification and applicable testable sub-dimensions. Findings show how different labels have been applied to identify what appear to be conceptually equivalent constructs. Potential links between elements, outcomes, and related concepts are discussed and recommendations for measurement approaches, construction of measurement scales, and future research are presented. Results highlight the need for research in the area to exert stringency when applying the terms in their research and to carefully define and delineate concepts when gathering data and reporting results.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Elsevier, 2024
Keywords
Place identity, Environmental identity, Resident identity, Community identity, Place image
National Category
Social Sciences Interdisciplinary
Research subject
Industrial Marketing
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:ltu:diva-96625 (URN)10.1016/j.jenvp.2024.102257 (DOI)
Funder
The R&D Fund of the Swedish Tourism & Hospitality Industry (BFUF), 48314
Note

Validerad;2024;Nivå 2;2024-03-05 (signyg);

Fulltext license: CC BY;

This article has previously appeared as a manuscript in a thesis

Available from: 2023-04-17 Created: 2023-04-17 Last updated: 2024-04-04Bibliographically approved

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