Academic journal article Business and Economics Research Journal

Exploring Brand Experience Dimensions for Cities and Investigating Their Effects on Loyalty to a City

Academic journal article Business and Economics Research Journal

Exploring Brand Experience Dimensions for Cities and Investigating Their Effects on Loyalty to a City

Article excerpt

1. Introduction

In an increasingly competitive global marketplace, it has become more critical than ever for places to create a unique identity to differentiate themselves from competitors (Hudson and Ritchie, 2009). According to Florian (2002), cities have to develop original identities, and to provide a unique experience in order to create a unique city image. A city's distinctive characteristics are built on a broad spectrum of cultural events and institutions, sporting activities, festivals, and a variety urban recreation (parks, café-culture), new residential areas, aesthetic upgrading of the city's public spaces and conservation of important building environment/architecture. These marketing activities help to create the positive image needed to attract and retain talented people, existing business and investment opportunities as well as tourists. In this context, cities seek to create and promote their own unique identity and to build and develop the experiences offered to tourists and residents alike. To ensure successful city branding, marketers should focus on the experience of both residents and tourists, and develop market messages based on these experiences. Warnaby (2009) indicates that "citizens and organizations reside in/locate to a particular city in order to realize a variety of experiences and benefits, arising from their use of the configuration of physical and social resources and attractions located therein".

The most valuable city assets are the residents themselves, who, through their creativity, attract further residents, workers, investors and visitors. Place brand management is customer-orientated and is related to perception management, the residents are seen as a target market, therefore the residents' perception plays a key role in the place branding process (Zenker, 2009; Zenker and et al.,2010; Zenker and Petersen, 2010; Zenker and Braun, 2010; Zenker and Beckmann, 2013). Braun, et al.'s (2010) study shows that sustainable place branding is impossible without the participation in all branding stages of residents, who are brand ambassadors for their places. The encounter between residents, who seek experiences, and cities which aim to offer these experiences, creates the "experience economy". The driving force behind this economy is actual experience, regardless of where it is created and communicated. This can be achieved via museums, theatres, festivals, and the creation of city identity, storytelling or branding. The sense of place is an experience created by physical and social contacts, and interaction between individuals and the particular environment or setting, and valuable attractions include cultural activities, entertainment and nightlife, the atmosphere of a city, degree of pollution, shopping opportunities, and a wide range of outdoor events (Lodge, 2002; Morgan et al., 2002; Evans, 2003; Baker and Cameron, 2008; Zenker, 2011).Tangible and intangible elements of cities are affected consumer's perception of a particular place (Parkerson and Saunders, 2004). Tangible elements involve a city's culture, history, nightlife, shopping, infrastructure, housing, or business zones; intangible elements are the personality, the emotional aspects and values of places. In this context, this study sets out to explore and understand residents' experiences and then use this knowledge to assist the strategic development of the city. In particular, city developers need to understand the associations that residents make with the city, and how these originate, and how they can be leveraged to further the city's development (Asplund, et al., 2011).

This paper investigates the applicability of a specific brand construct, i.e. brand experience, in place branding. There are three specific research objectives for this study: (1) to understand the residents' experiences of their own cities, which is critical for developing marketing strategies; (2) to explore dimensions of a city; (3) to explore the relationship between the dimensions of city experience and loyalty to a city. …

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