Introduction and position in the current literature
With an employment population decreasing from 64% in 2010 to an expected 52% in 2050(1), there is a realization in the European Union that the way the population is composed, and consequently, the way the economy functions, will undergo a radical change in the coming years. This phenomenon is accompanied with a threat of regional population decrease(2) and results in a need to attract and maintain investments and inhabitants in diverse cities, regions and countries(3). These developments create the need to cultivate the place as a brand(4). Place brands have an increased level of complexity as compared to products and services brands which is based on the large number of stakeholder groups involved in the brand as well as the need for participation in the brand creation by these stakeholder groups(5). Inhabitants are one of the stakeholder groups that are most important for the identity of the brand, as they create and live the brand(6) and consequently influence the brand equity and image of a place(7) by talking about the brand. Thus, integrating residents in place branding leverages the power of brand advocacy and through this, can make place branding more effective since positive messages from residents create positive experiences for other people(8).
Research questions and hypothesis
The purpose of this research is to uncover in which way positive brand advocacy messages related to different places develop in order to increase the possible amount of control over the place branding process.
The data are collected by means of questionnaires in cooperation with the city of Maastricht. With the data obtained from this questionnaire, we examine the effects of identification and identity management strategies on the development of brand advocacy, both related to the place of origin as well as the new place of residence.
Results and follow-ups
Results indicate that identification with a place is related to brand advocacy towards both the same place as well as brand advocacy towards other places. The level of identification with a place is partly determined by the use of identity management strategies. This research has also resulted in the thesis of Katja Sillen.