Academic journal article Polish Sociological Review

Schemes of (Re)interpreting the Cultural Themes in the Process of Building the City Image

Academic journal article Polish Sociological Review

Schemes of (Re)interpreting the Cultural Themes in the Process of Building the City Image

Article excerpt

Abstract: A city marketing narrative consists in an attempt to provide a new city image or strengthen the existing one. The process of creating the city's image may affect (re)interpretation of the history, culture, and heritage of the city. In city marketing narrative, the most desired meanings and associations are sequenced as primary, while the most unwanted ones are supposed to be gradually forgotten and eventually eliminated. The presence or significant absence of certain topics, use and abuse of positive themes, and elimination of negative ones may result in disturbing cultural themes. The article explores how the city marketing narrative (re)interprets myths, stereotypes, culture, history, and heritage.1 The project2 was focused on the city marketing narratives of five Polish cities (Lublin, Poznan, Wroclaw, Katowice and Gdansk). A quantitative and qualitative research study was conducted (in-depth interviews, n = 48; content analysis of cities' marketing narratives; CAWI, n = 314). The research made it possible to name three schemes of dealing with history.

Keywords: city marketing, cultural heritage, cultural identity, stereotypes, simulacrum.

City Marketing Meanings Interpretation as an Inspiration for Urban Sociology

City marketing, as defined by Philip Kotier, is a social and managerial process, initiated by municipalities for creating values to exchange with their partners (Szromnik 2007: 18). In city marketing, a city is presented as if it was a product, thus managerial and creative actions peak at presenting an enhanced vision of a city. The city image marketing narrative is frequently dissolving the negative aspects and overwriting them with positive elements. Although the experts in marketing underline the need for authenticity and credibility (Godin 2006: 26), marketing itself bears the stigma of untruthful creation (Pogorzelski 2010). Reputation and trust cannot be induced, they need to be earned. To build a successful brand, it is necessary to be persistent and consistent, which includes strategy, substance and symbolic actions (Anholt 2010: 15-17). "Countries that aren't strong need to be interesting - they need to exercise some power of attraction [...], and the source of that attrac- tion can only be their unique, individual identity, their culture, their history, their land, their traditions, their genius and their imaginations" (Anolt 2010: 37). The authenticity of the message content should also strengthen the city image. An effective marketing narrative can succeed if the city image is consistent with the desired identity communicated by the place. "The image of a place is a result of complex, long-term activities, which can build the unique character of the place" (Rianisto 2009: 63-64). City image includes such components as knowledge about the city, emotional attitude towards the city and possible behaviours including the city space (Florek 2006: 95).

In between an organic image and an induced image, there is a major risk: for the sake of the narrative, the city can become a hyperreal simulacrum. Being more attractive than the reality, a vision of (re)invented city can become more real than the real city (Baudrillard 2005). Credibility is suspended as emotions take over logic. Hyperreality is perceived better than reality, even though it is a copy (Eco 1996). Simulacrum allies with major shifts in importance hierarchy effecting in cultural commodification (calculating the value of the uncountable) and folklorisation (instrumental use of heritage). The selectiveness of the process of transmission of cultural themes (choosing the desired and rejecting the unwanted elements) is thoroughly described in the literature (Szacki 1971, Kula 2003, Hobsbawm 2008), and so are the processes of remembering and forgetting which are the main tools of manipulation (especially purposeful lack of memory) and coping with the past (Auge 2009, Ankersmit 2004, Halbwachs 2008). All of these actions result in myth creation, become the source of the genius loci and stereotypes. …

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