Thinking about place branding: Ethics of concept
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This article introduces a critical theory-induced approach to the concept of place branding to expose the ethical drawbacks within the field. The author argues that the dominant approaches and definitions of place branding limit the thinking of scholars to market-driven subjects, such as measurement, effectiveness and strategies. It is difficult even to discuss ethical issues at a conceptual level within these approaches. With an attempt to further investigate these widely ignored issues, place branding is redefined through a communicative action framework, and a two-step model of place branding is devised – composed of domestic communicative action (Step 1) and international communicative action (Step 2). Step 1 highlights (i) legitimacy and (ii) inclusion as ethical concerns, whereas Step 2 brings in the question of (iii) consistency between the messages in the domestic and international arena. Critical theory makes it possible to take an analytical look at the mainstream approaches and present ethical issues at the conceptual level. Future studies should aim to integrate this theoretical approach to the practice of place branding.
Keywordsethics relationist communicative action critical theory place branding
The author would like to express his gratitude to Dr Craig Hayden of American University, Ms Erica Seng of COTELCO and two anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments and feedback.
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