CMS 2015


Place Marketing and Branding Track at the 9th International Conference in Critical Management Studies, Leicester, UK, 8-10 Jul 2015; Deadline 31 Jan

Call for papers: Critical perspectives on place marketing and branding: beyond elitism – where to?

Stream at the 9th International Conference in Critical Management Studies
University of Leicester, 8-10 July 2015

Place marketing and place branding seem trapped in a recklessly managerial approach that sees it as a panacea for all sorts of problems. Particularly, it is suggested as an effective response to inter-place competition, the fundamental laws of which – we are told again and again by politicians, consultants and scholars alike – places have no alternative but to submit to. Place branding is often discussed as if it operates in vacuum and only addresses the needs of external audiences, regardless of the needs of local communities. The discipline has clearly followed a “there is no alternative” approach to managerialism having the exact same methods (e.g. catchy slogans, colourful logos, presumptuous identity claims, ‘starchitects’, biding for ‘city of culture’ status etc.) applied as quick-fix solutions in very different geographical and socio-political contexts. This managerial perspective sees place marketing as a pragmatic, objective, and apolitical activity and has led to dubious results, gentrification and homogenisation of city centres across every continent. On the other hand, critical views of place branding have been raised in cognate disciplines such as human geography and sociology, focusing on its unexplored consequences on the physical and, in particular, the social fabric of places. These more critical approaches reveal place marketing as an essentially political activity tied to the neoliberal agenda and, accordingly condemn place marketing as a purely commercial practice that serves hidden agendas and marginalises particular social groups. The most common criticism sees place marketing and branding as instruments used by urban elites to legitimise their own strategic decision making in the wider context of the hegemonic project of neo-liberal urban governance. Neoliberal ideologies and place marketing practices are then linked in a mutual relationship of being each other’s sidekicks. Such qualms remain prevalently underrepresented within the marketing literature nor have they been converted into constructive inputs for theory advancement. Marketing scholars can no longer be indifferent to a clear democratic pressure for more socially sensitive approaches to places that cater for the needs of the weaker. It should be the task of contemporary place marketing to acknowledge more rigorously the role of resident participation in decision-making about the future of the place. This would mean to discuss, encourage and facilitate the process of place brand co-creation, co-development and, more importantly, co-ownership. And yet, is current place branding thinking up to the job? Are the self-claimed place branding consultants in the business of assisting place development or in that of selling slogans? Is serving the interests of elites an intrinsic characteristic of place marketing itself or of the people who put it into practice? And what are the alternatives, if any? Is there a chance to recognise its drawbacks, learn from them and transform place marketing into something more beneficial for a wider array of stakeholders?

This stream of CMS 2015 will explore and debate possible answers to such questions. Its double aim is a) to consolidate the critique of place marketing/branding and establish it within the marketing theory area by articulating it with clarity and b) to explore the possible alternatives and the preconditions necessary for a constructive turn towards more socially responsible practices. We are inviting scholars and practitioners to submit articles that help in these aims. We welcome conceptual papers and empirical research or case studies on the following indicative topics:

  • Managerialism and its expressions in place development
  • Market ideologies and the marketing of places
  • Place marketing impacts (e.g. on local communities, landscapes, and cityscapes)
  • Place marketing and its role in gentrification
  • Alternatives to neoliberal governance within place development
  • Alternative conceptualisations and representations of place
  • Rethinking the nature of place competition
  • Alternative perspectives on place brands (e.g. community building, place identity construction, place narrative enhancement)
  • Theoretical insights from other disciplines (e.g. critical theory, critical geography, environmental psychology, organisational studies, cultural studies etc.)
  • Critical reflections on tourism destination marketing
  • Tourism advertising and its effects on places
  • The transformative potential of place marketing critique
  • Narrative approaches to place marketing
  • Methodologies for critical place marketing research
  • The governance and discipline of place marketing and place branding – e.g. role of institutions, editors, journals, publishers, universities, research councils, consultants etc.

Papers are invited that explore the above themes and/or others not mentioned here but related to the main theme of the stream. The stream of paper presentations will be supplemented by an ‘experiential illustration and inspiration’ guided walk in the city of Leicester focusing on major place-branding and cultural-industries related sites.

Abstracts (maximum 500 words) must be submitted by 31st January 2015. Please attach your abstract to an email to all three co-convenors: Mihalis Kavaratzis (; Massimo Giovanardi (; Maria Lichrou (

Authors of abstracts will be notified by 16th February 2015. Final papers (maximum 6,500 words including references and tables/figures) will be required by 15th June 2015.

Further details: