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    Place brand co-creation through storytelling: benefits, risks and preconditions

    Stoica, Ioana S ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0003-1286-5944, Kavaratzis, Mihalis ORCID logoORCID: https://orcid.org/0000-0001-5933-0651, Schwabenland, Christina and Haag, Markus (2022) Place brand co-creation through storytelling: benefits, risks and preconditions. Tourism and Hospitality, 3 (1). pp. 15-30. ISSN 2673-5768

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    Co-creation in place branding is used as an umbrella term for the complex brand meaning emerging through stakeholders’ participation in place activities, their contribution, collaborations and interchange of ideas and resources. Co-creation is often an aspiration for places to create and promote their brands collectively. In this context, storytelling—an old technique used in corporate marketing to instigate brand stakeholders’ participation—serves as a method which facilitates place brand co-creation through shared place stories. With the rise of online interactions, the chances of place stakeholders’ participation in brand meaning creation increase, and place stories are effective in allowing diverse place meanings to emerge from various stakeholders. However, when storytelling emerges as a marketing tactic, mostly from a top-down campaign, the stories are not always accepted by all place stakeholders, and they create contrasting brand meanings. The paper aims to investigate the benefits and risks of participation in “Many Voices One Town” (2018), a top-down campaign from Luton, UK, which used storytelling to instigate place brand co-creation. The campaign was created by the Luton Council with an external advertising agency. The campaign attempted to tackle the town’s segregation issues and foster community cohesion through the promotion of seven selected Lutonians’ stories about their diverse and multicultural experiences of living in Luton. The study employs a qualitative methodology to analyse the MVOT case study. Interviews with the council and participants in the campaign and netnographic data from Twitter, Facebook and Instagram were used to gain an insight into residents’ participation in a top-down approach and examine the outcomes of co-creation. Residents’ participation in such a campaign shows numerous benefits but also risks for the place brand. The findings show that participation can sometimes intensify disputes about the town if people’s needs are not properly addressed. The study highlights the importance of open communication between all parties involved in the process, bringing into focus the need for careful coordination of top-down initiatives in line with stakeholders’ needs. It also demonstrates the ‘power of the people’ in the sense that stakeholder engagement with the shared stories led to negative outcomes that were not predicted by the Council.

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