|Title||Branding post-conflict cities and nations: theory and cases|
Positive images have helped cities and nations attract investments, visitors, residents and talent. In contrast, a number of places are struggling with unfamiliarity and image problems based on inaccurate information or stereotypes. In other cases, a turbulent past, political instability, natural disasters, violence and economic downturns are to blame. Brand management is here particularly challenging but needed for many emerging, newly industrialised and transitional nations. A strong sense of national identity has the power to be a productive and enabling force in a society, providing positive social capital – improved cooperation within society, information flows, resilience and better functioning institutions.
This thesis develops an understanding of how the process of branding may be used to help recreate an image of a post-conflict city or nation. It evaluates the potential, context and rationale of models designed to aid the branding process in environments defined by war residue. To do so, an interdisciplinary approach has been developed to identify the relations between the effect of national image and nationalism on brands, the built environment, and the image as a destination.
The thesis draws on topics, experiences and questions from four different themes: conflict, tourism, marketing and architecture.
Overall, it contributes to ongoing debates about branding and expands on them by exploring the unique post-conflict setting of Serbia, where discourses around urbanism, cosmopolitanism, the rural and local, as well as tensions between neighbouring countries are played out. The thesis examines the data relating to the case study of Serbia through a critical discourse analysis of printed media and interviews with key experts from the region. The research acknowledges literature on political or destination branding of other post-conflict countries, however, these are usually considered from a singular aspect – political science, implementation of a social programme or destination marketing. The thesis’ contributions are exploring the role of residents in a post-conflict environment and identifying it as a most important factor to consider when creating a branding strategy. It argues cities cannot carry the weight of a country’s brand, even though this is often an “ad hoc” solution, nor can national identity be interchangeable with the brand. The thesis argues First World branding models largely overlook the question of whether a place is post-conflict at all, and what form the conflict has taken. It provides a theoretical framework to analyse the construction of post-conflict national identities by drawing upon tourism, architecture, theories of national identity, and brand management.