The place branding bookshelf

Our understanding on place branding is rapidly evolving. Below are our top reading suggestions from the last few years for those looking to expand their own knowledge and insights…


An Insider’s Guide to Place Branding by Florian Kaefer

Who should read this:

If you’re just starting out and looking to build the foundation of your understanding of place branding, or you’re looking to get a top-line overview of thinking from the world’s leading experts and practitioners, this is a great place to begin.

 

Why it should be at the top of your reading list:

The concept of taking deliberate steps to shape the identity of your place is still a relatively new idea – and as such, there can be a lot of ambiguity in terminology and in the purpose and reason behind place branding. To counter this, Kaefer synthesises the perspectives of numerous experts from around the world to give a broad stroke perspective of place branding in the 2020s, before collating an anthology of interviews with place branding experts from around the world to offer a deep-dive into key topics and insights outlined earlier. A great reference book to have at your side to dip in to when you’re looking for more information on a particular topic or challenge.

 

Our favourite quote:

Being clear on how place branding differs from place marketing is a prerequisite for not falling behind due to the shift in focus which we are going to experience: from “mere” marketing to creating and protecting a place’s assets, which is where the funding will likely be. Consequently,

organizations which previously worked alongside each other but not necessarily together[,] will find themselves under pressure to collaborate[.] Place branding is predestined to become the common meeting ground.

Buy it here or listen to Florian Kaefer's podcast here.


Imaginative Communities: Admired Cities, Regions and Countries by Robert Govers

Who should read this:

If you’re looking to expand your place branding toolkit and focus your energies on symbolic actions instead of cut-and-paste marketing campaigns, this is the text for you.

 

Why it should be at the top of your reading list:

Globalisation has led to homogenisation. And place branding, Govers argues, has become overly focussed on gimmicks and trappings rather than creating a values-driven approach. Imaginative Communities is a fascinating exploration of how communities can create real change by creating experiences and personal connections rather than focussing on advertising and PR campaigns that lack the individuality and authenticity to truly change perceptions of your place.

 

Our favourite quote:

“External media image, reputation and stakeholder engagement / community pride should be the main measures of accountability for imaginative initiatives and mega-events. So it is shocking to see that more often than not, mega-events and other white elephants are presented as just another publicity stunt, a project of political prestige, often even ignoring the impact on the local populations and their relations. This clearly has to change.”

Buy it here

 

Nation Brand Builders by José Filipe Torres

Who should read this: 

Anyone looking to launch a new nation branding strategy – or who is looking for help explaining the importance of nation branding to their key stakeholders.

 

Why it should be at the top of your reading list:

Place branding theory has evolved rapidly over the recent years, but Torres argues – persuasively – that we’ve failed to keep up with the digital revolution. An accumulation of insights from 44 countries, regions, and cities around the world who have been proactively managing their reputation, Nation Brand Builders introduces us to Nation Branding 2.0 – an exploration of how places can adapt and evolve to successfully manage their digital place identity as part of their place brand strategy.

 

Our favourite quote:

“When I say the name of the country, what pops into your mind? The perceptions, feelings and emotions that you have whenever you hear the country’s name. That’s the Nation Brand.”

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Buy it here


Place Branding for Small Cities, Regions & Downtowns: The essentials for successful destinations by Bill Baker

Who should read this:

This is a must-read for cities in the USA and Canada, but despite the North American focus, there are clear lessons for anyone looking for practical insight, and affordable, proven techniques.


Why it should be at the top of your reading list:

Baker does a fabulous job of outlining the evolution from tourism marketing into the more complex place brand strategy. The book provides a comprehensive toolkit for readers who are looking for solutions to their core challenges, be it tackling the infamous tag line, revitalising your downtown, or reinventing yourself to overcome stereotypes.

 

Our favourite quote:

“A city’s most valuable real estate isn’t the most significant buildings that form a skyline. Instead it’s in the space in the hearts and minds of its customers where they store all their thoughts about the place.”

Buy it here


The Future of #Diplomacy by Philip Seib

Who should read this:

This book is a great read for anyone looking to understand how public diplomacy has risen to prominence as new technologies have empowered citizens around the world.


Why it should be at the top of your reading list:

We spent a little while discussing whether we should include this, as it was published in 2016. However, it provides a fascinating overview of how technological developments like the printing press, radio, and television all forced diplomacy into the public domain – and how social media is further encouraging governments to speak with the citizens of the world rather than at them.

At the same time, it’s remarkable how much has changed since the book was released. The book pre-dates the pandemic obviously, but also the Cambridge Analytica Scandal and the entirety of the Trump Presidency. Nevertheless, The Future of #Diplomacy provides a great grounding for public diplomacy in the 21st century – and a guide to what changes we might continue to see.


Our favourite quote:

“Traditional diplomacy is alive and well. It will remain healthy, but it will share the stage with a newer, more public-orientated diplomacy. It will be up to practitioners across the board not just to ensure peaceful coexistence between old and new, but also to take full advantage of their complimentary strengths.”

Buy it here


The Good Country Equation: How we can repair the world in one generation by Simon Anholt

Who should read this:

Anyone who wants to be inspired to move beyond marketing towards actions that can creating lasting change for your place image and for the world at large.

 

Why it should be at the top of your reading list:

Part travelogue musings, part incisive place brand theory, Simon Anholt’s latest book tracks his journey around the world – and interspersed through anecdotes that show Anholt trapped in a Bhutanese toilet, singing with the Icelandic president, and dining with Putin, he also tracks the evolution of his distinctive take on guiding a national image.

We won’t deny that that Anholt’s perspective can be controversial and challenging, but his calls for greater global collaboration, for better global citizenship, have come at a timely moment in human history indeed.

 

Our favourite quote:

“Bragging about your own country, which is what governments so often end up doing, is like a standup comedian who goes onstage and tells the audience how funny he or she is. Don’t tell them to laugh. Be funny. And likewise, for countries: Don’t tell them to admire you. Be admirable.”


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Please note: City Nation Place aren't receiving any profits or compensation from recommending these books - all of these recommendations are based off our own reading and interests.

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