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Deadline: 15 November 2021

Regions have long leveraged their reputation in several ways, from promoting local culture and products to framing place distinctiveness strategies so as to attract investors and promote internationalization. Some regions have turned to formal appropriation tools like geographical indications and (collective) trademarks, others have resorted to more informal but not less effective geographical associations. With globalization and digitization, geography-focused branding has become ever more salient for regions to differentiate themselves in a landscape of increasing competition.

This special issue seeks to draw attention to the reality of alternative forms of competitiveness for regions and, in particular, to the soft power of marking historically built place-based intangibles for the future. This is particularly relevant now amidst policy conversations framing regional strengths mostly in terms of ever smarter technological innovation. Places can also thrive by converting perceived weaknesses and undervalued softer forms of innovation into development tools to leverage authenticity. As such, we seek to understand how places, including peripheral ones, can leverage place-based intangibles through, branding, framing and building reputation-based networks. At the same time, major shocks like the pandemic crisis and its paralysis of mobility flows, but also climate change and its effect on the physical properties of territories, are laying bare some of the pressing challenges of regional strategies focusing on place-based intangibles. How regions can respond to these challenges with resilient solutions is an urgent open question for regional studies.

The aim of this thematic issue is to stimulate and synchronize efforts towards conceptual and empirical work on the ways in which geography has become intimately connected to building place-based intangibles, constructed upon cumulative local experience and identity-driven affordances. As such, we will stimulate and collect contributions helping to understand how firms and places leverage place-based intangibles through branding, framing and building reputation-based networks. This agenda is likely to be of interest to scholars, policy-makers and business communities alike.

Envisioned topics

Topics might include but are not limited to the following:

1. Place-based intangibles and regional resilience

  • Studies investigating place-branding as strategies targeted at attracting talented individuals and frontier corporate ventures;
  • Works framing regional innovation systems into notoriety-seeking labels (i.e. entrepreneurial eco-systems, high-tech clusters);
  • Challenges of relying on place-based intangibles during crises that paralyze mobility, like during the recent pandemic crisis, in particular for peripheral regions;
  • Adaptation to climate change where ecosystem-derived value is under stress;
  • Research on global commercial positioning through local rooting of rare and difficult to imitate resources.

2. Reputation and notoriety of regions

  • Studies on regional, urban- and territory-oriented marketing strategies and related intangible assets;
  • Intellectual property and local appropriation of value through collective brand and/or geographical indications;
  • Heritage strategies and collective marking approaches to catch-up through authenticity and identity-based resistance;
  • Studies on how cities, rural areas, regions and their firms, new ventures, business associations overturn geographical reputation liabilities (like liability of foreignness and country of origin biases)

3. Branding as a claim on geographies

  • Studies investigating how organizations build branding strategies with geographical associations;
  • Works disentangling local-global trade-offs in geography-empowered strategies of intangible assets building;
  • Research documenting and dissecting how institutional governance solutions can be built on labelled geographies;
  • Studies capturing unintended, dysfunctional or even toxic consequences of place branding strategies by public institutions (e.g. city marketing and rampant tourism).

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