Handbook of Cultural and Heritage Management


3.4. Branding and Marketing

Branding and Marketing are two notions often mixed in everyday language. However, this is wrong. Branding is the enhancement of specific characteristics of a place/product in order to shape its particular identity, whereas marketing is the use of elements and techniques in order to achieve economic goals (mainly to attract visitors or “sell” local branding to a broader audience). For both definitions see http://www.businessdictionary.com/definition/branding.html

 and http://www.businessdictionary.com/definition/marketing.html

Regional/local identity and its contribution to regional branding

The identity of a region or any wider local community is shaped by the set of features, physical, cultural and historical, which are perceived as distinguishing for that region or area. Landscape, archaeological and historical monuments (as part of the tangible heritage) and landmarks constitute an essential part of this set of features. On an intangible level, customs and rites, dialects, memories, social practices, traditional arts and crafts, music, gastronomy etc constitute the essential elements of the local identity fabric.

Local/regional identity as part of strategies for sustainable development on a local level is a trend closely interrelated with the broader developments of urban expansion and institutional strengthening of regions. In the context of globalization, the effect of “uniformization” has led to the emergence of a counterbalancing trend: that of localization. Regions and urban areas become the centres of a localized approach to economic and socio-politic life, and local identity (regional or urban) becomes the lever for political developments, such as the recent referendums for autonomy in Scotland or Catalunia.

On an economic level, marketing a city or a wider region has underwent important changes, from a simple place advertisement or promotion to an integrated local/regional branding procedure. The latter aims at the production and distribution of an entire area or region “image” (Kavaratzis and Ashworth, 2008). The outcome of the region branding procedure is the reconfiguration of a strong place identity, acknowledged by the target groups, both the local communities and the outsiders/visitors.

Branding local cultural identity

Regional/local branding that is based upon culture has gained ground, enhanced by the fact that a cultural image contributes to touristic growth. However, a balance has to be stricken always between maintaining cultural integrity and economic growth based on tourism. For example, “aggressive” cultural policies and massive cultural projects, such as the foundation of a Guggenheim museum branch in Bilbao (known as the “Bilbao effect”) can have magnifying results on tourism, but have nothing to do with local identities. The experience from such an “aggressive” region branding tactics have led to the enhancement of participatory planning procedures and bottom-up processes, emphasizing primarily on social capital.

Creating synergies

This social capital, comprising a civic engagement but also a strong institutional dimension, is manifested in the capacity of forging effective synergies on a local level, as individuals, groups, organizations and institutions engage in networks, cooperate, employ and use social relations for a common purpose and multilateral benefit (Tisenkopfs et al., 2008). In this perspective, local/regional identity becomes essential for enabling local synergies through the process of internal branding of a local area, be it rural or urban; at the same time, this process fosters trust and cooperation, eventually leading to a renewed and re-interpreted sense of shared identity (Aitken and Campello, 2011).


Cultural Tourism Marketing

Local/regional branding is an important tool for attaining sustainable local development, mostly through cultural tourism. However, it needs to be enhanced through effective communication and systematic marketing. Here are some proposals where the implementation of marketing strategies may bring positive results to promoting and enhancing local sustainability: 

➢      Targeted and coordinated marketing: development of itineraries that link local areas.

➢      Collaboration between authorities and entrepreneurs: New ideas should be embraced especially those that involve traditional services

➢      Promotion of sustainable tourism through national strategies: The idea of making tourism for profit has passed away. Following new trends and guidelines (Rio+20[AK1] ), tourism is important to follow sustainability principles. Training and the identification of good practices for tourism businesses are among the priorities.

➢      Economizing on marketing means

➢      Finding the right target group(s). Whether is a source market or niche, it is important to be carefully selected so as to unlock the potential and the added values. (OECD, 2016)

➢      Using technology for marketing purposes



Cultural and alternative tourism build on a region’s cultural and natural endowment. Key notions for successful implementation of these kinds of tourism are those of authenticity and ownership of local identities. Regional and local branding helps preserve and enhance these identities; in some cases it also helps build new identities, as cultural events and organizations may become emblematic in the course of a community’s life. Cultural branding should make use of local cultural identities and their tangible and intangible elements in order to achieve local synergies and a sound social fabric. In order to achieve financial goals it should also be combined with effective marketing.