Published on May 10, 2021

AHMEDABAD: As one thinks about Paris, the first thing that comes to mind is the Eiffel Tower, the imposing Colosseum beckons visitors in Rome and the Opera House is synonymous with Sydney’s identity internationally.

It would be four years for the city to have received the coveted UNESCO World Heritage City tag – the first in India – in 2021. But has the city been successful in branding itself? What would it take for the city to get that identity? A paper by MICA faculties delved into these questions and argued that the flow of process must be bi-directional – it must not only be pushed by the authorities, but also be accepted and adopted by local stakeholders including residents.

The paper ‘Introducing bi-directional participatory place branding: a theoretical model with multi-stakeholder perspectives’ by Varsha Jain, Preeti Shroff, and Subhalakshmi Bezbaruah from MICA and Altaf Merchant from University of Washington Tacoma from The US got published in the Journal of Product & Brand Management recently.

“Place branding is becoming increasingly important for collective heritage brand strategy as the stakeholders create an aura of a geographic location. It’s not just about marketing, but also a conscious effort by the stakeholders to make the city or spot unique,” said Prof Jain. “We thus proposed bi-directional participatory place branding.”

The team interviewed residents and stakeholders in the Walled City and found that heritage has as much as an intangible aspect (life stories, experiences, feelings and aspirations) as the tangible aspects (buildings, monuments, etc.) that can make the residents brand ambassadors of local heritage. The researchers argued that this potential has remained untapped in the city.

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