Branding rural areas: motives, measures and management
Version April 20, 2013
Recent developments, such as the shrinking population, make the exposure of rural areas through branding more important. Local governments and professionals find it challenging to brand rural regions in such a way that the overall perception and professional exposure of these areas improve. The INTERREG project Vital Rural Area, and more specifically, five European rural regions that invest in rural branding, form the center of this study. The first purpose is to explore the potentials and barriers of rural branding. The motivations for rural branding are many,and the cases demonstrate that success may be achieved. Benefits, such as strengthening a region's identity, higher social cohesion, and attracting new residents, tourists and new businesses are recognized. The study also shows some troubles of rural branding, particularly connected to the fact that local stakeholders have different ideas and attitudes on the same issue. The second purpose of the paper is to identify who is responsible for rural branding and how power relations emerge between brand producers and the committed rural residents. Three different approaches are distinguished, namely atop-down, bottom-up or a combination of both, described as a horizontal leadership approach. All three types have advantages and disadvantages, but the results show that successful (cross-sector) relationships, including both local stakeholders and residents, create more motivation, which, in its own respect, attract people to work, live, and spend free time in rural areas.
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