As a part of an economic development project in Eastern shore, we at the Office of Economic Development were interested in knowing more about “regional branding”, its definition, functions, pros and cons. Here, I try to share a gist of what we heard and learned during this process.
Regional branding is a popular strategy to enhance the sale of locally produced goods by “branding” them under a local or regional theme. It is one of several ways to promote rural regions and support their sustainable economic and social growth. Regional branding is especially functional in areas that are interesting due to their natural and cultural heritage. The brand is a way of addressing quality issues, coordinated marketing, product development, and product recognition. Local business people such as craftsmen, farmers, small and medium-sized enterprises benefit directly from these kinds of initiatives.
A number of advantages of regional branding are related to tourism industry since it:
- Enables tourists to find their bearing when shopping in tourist regions.
- Provides an alternative to the “consumer style” tourism, and focuses on local goods,
- Reduces environmental burden through encouraging buying local products and using local raw materials,
- And provides possibility to meet the producers in person and visit workshops or farms which strengthen the region’s attractiveness for tourists, form its character, and have a positive impact on the perception of the region as a whole.
More importantly, at the community level, regional branding can facilitate cooperation between businesses and local government with a shared goal of promoting the region. Often times these representatives have similar goals, rejuvenation of the local community, but fail to work together to achieve results.
All said, there are a number of disadvantages associated with regional branding most important of all being commodification of culture (i.e., making commodities out of rituals, customs or any other aspects of culture that were not used to be available for trade previously). Messely and colleagues (2015) through comparative analysis of successful regional branding cases demonstrate the importance of passionate initiators as ambassadors of the region and the advantage of a well-coordinated internal network in the region. Regional branding creates an opportunity for forces working towards a shared mission and goal to come together in new ways.
Messely, L., Dessein, J., & Lauwers, L. (2010). Regional Identity in Rural Development: Three Case Studies of Regional Branding. Applied Studies in Agribusiness and Commerce, 4(3–4), 19–24. https://doi.org/10.19041/Apstract/2010/3-4/3