University of Oulu

Participatory place branding in the municipal sector

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Author: Happo, Anna-Elisa1
Organizations: 1University of Oulu, Oulu Business School, Department of Marketing, Marketing
Format: ebook
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 1.6 MB)
Pages: 63
Persistent link:
Language: English
Published: Oulu : A.-E. Happo, 2020
Publish Date: 2020-05-25
Thesis type: Master's thesis
Tutor: Komulainen, Hanna
Reviewer: Nätti, Satu
Komulainen, Hanna


The purpose of this thesis is to study participatory place branding in the municipal sector. The aim is to find out the benefits and challenges of participatory place branding in the municipal sector, to examine the current practices and find out possible aspects for development. Three Finnish municipalities — Pori, Vaasa and Järvenpää — are chosen as case studies for this study, as they have conducted their place branding in a participatory way in recent years. Place branding has been a topic of interest in the academic literature for several decades, but participatory place branding is still a rather new phenomenon, and not much research has yet been done on that field. There is lack of research on participatory place branding especially in the municipal sector.

This research is conducted as a qualitative multiple-case study and the empirical data is collected via three semi-structured interviews, one interview from each case municipality. The interviewees had been closely involved in their municipalities’ participatory place branding, allowing them to give a comprehensive overview of their processes. The theoretical framework of this study is conducted by studying earlier research on the topic. By examining the empirical data and reflecting it against the existing academic literature, an extensive view has been formed as how participatory place branding is used in the municipal sector, and what its benefits and challenges are. Based on this examination also matters of development have been found.

The findings of this study emphasize that with participatory place branding a genuine, more authentic brand can be formed. The participatory approach also reduced criticism towards the new brand. Furthermore, the continuous feedback from the stakeholders throughout the process was seen very valuable. The main challenge of participatory place branding was considered to be the fact that it takes up more time and resources. A challenge is also a certain attitude-change that is required; in the process all the power is given to the stakeholders. The findings show that participatory place branding is rather similarly used in municipalities, and the process can roughly be divided into five stages. For future development, it is essential to take the participatory approach into account already in the competitive bidding stage, and a well-though inclusion plan needs to be drafted already in the beginning of the branding process.

This study provides a thorough understanding of how participatory place branding is used in the municipal sector. This allows for municipalities planning their own participatory process to take into account the benefits it will bring and what challenges may be ahead, and to prepare better for the process. This study also acts as a basis for future studies examining participatory place branding in more detail.

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Copyright information: © Anna-Elisa Happo, 2020. This publication is copyrighted. You may download, display and print it for your own personal use. Commercial use is prohibited.