Territorial Brand in Regional Development: Interdisciplinary Discussions: History
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Almost half of the world’s countries, including cities, have strategically adopted the territorial brand. This essay proposes an interdisciplinary reflection on the relationship between territorial brands and territorial and regional development theories. It discusses how the brand relates to the territory, making it a social actor mediated by a distinctive signal, the territorial brand. The intersection between the concepts of territory and brand reveals the legitimation strategies of social actors in producing a collective space delimited by power relations. Beyond the economic and tourist spheres, this context brings new debates to politics, theory, and social sciences in interdisciplinary regional development.

  • regional development
  • territorial brand
  • cultural studies
  • place branding
  • interdisciplinarity
  • territory
  • social actors
  • territorial assets
The territorial brand is a global development strategy. It has been utilized by over 50% of countries worldwide since the 1980s. Spain was the pioneer in creating its first brand. This process involves establishing an association between a territory and a brand. The brand serves as a distinctive sign and provides recognition. It also acts as a mediator for the social actors engaged in the production and development of the territory. This scientific essay discusses the state of the art of territorial brands. It is based on interdisciplinary theories of territorial and regional development. The goal is to analyze the contributions of territorial brands to policy, theory, and development analysis in multiple dimensions.
Creating brands for countries, regions, and cities is part of place branding, as proposed by Anholt [1]. Place branding aims to establish a reputation for places in different spatial settings [2][3][4][5]. The concept revolves around unifying a core set of ideas that drive and differentiate these places [5][6][7][8][9][10]. Place branding is often associated with economic and tourism development and encompasses a complex process involving various strategies. According to Cleave et al. [11], place branding has gained increasing importance in economic and regional development due to global competition for business investment. Territorial brand, an integral part of this process, serves as a strategy for legitimizing social actors’ discourses, as Almeida emphasized [12]. This implies that the theme extends beyond exclusive associations with business investments, economic growth, and tourism development. Instead, it encompasses multiple dimensions of regional development.
Several authors have made significant contributions to place branding to emphasize the importance of place as a source of identity and competitiveness. Mihajlović [13] explored the role of discourses in shaping regional identity and formulating regional development strategies. The study concluded that discourses play a crucial role in regional identity formation and provide valuable frameworks for regional policies. Oliveira [14] emphasized the need to consider collaborative branding strategies to build regional advantage. These strategies aim to position regions, increase visibility, and incorporate discourses. An example of such an advantage is recognizing artisan products as a form of social capital in territorial and regional development [15]. Bowen and Miller [16] highlighted the economic impact of craft products, like beer, on local economies through the concept of “social terroir”. This concept fosters social and economic sustainability by connecting local social actors and utilizing marketing strategies to stimulate tourism. It also extends to terroir-based products, such as wines and sparkling wines, which receive brand through geographical indications.
Almeida and Cardoso [17] introduced a novel classification for territorial brands, citing examples such as the Vale do Vinhedo in southern Brazil and the Champagne region in France. Both examples utilize territorial brands to promote various forms of development, including social, economic, regional, and sustainable development. Pinheiro et al. [18] highlight that regions experience economic complexity and tend to diversify as they evolve. The authors note that the diversification process has positive aspects in terms of economic development. However, it can also have negative consequences, contributing to regional inequalities. Goodwin [19] and Harrison [20] emphasized delineating regions based on a hierarchical structure of ‘territorially rooted’ socio-spatial scales.
On the other hand, the relational view regards the region as open and discontinuous, shaped by a network of connections. The authors considered the need for interaction between these elements in different contexts and moments to ensure the overall coherence of social and capitalist formations. Therefore, with the growing demand for sustainability and the constant transformations in cities, regions, and countries worldwide, complex scenarios arise where the territorial brand becomes increasingly prevalent.
Notably, there is a significant need for more scientific research to understand the importance of territorial brands for regional development, especially considering the rapid transformations occurring in urban society [12]. Previous research has outlined various perspectives on place branding [2][3][4][5][6][7][8][9][10][21][22][23][24][25], but few have specifically focused on the link between the theme and regional development. The study primarily relied on Almeida’s [12] research on territorial brands as a cultural product in regional development. It highlights the complex relationship between brands and territories, sometimes resulting in a marketing logic.
This study raises an important issue about using terminologies from other areas in specific contexts, which can lead to misunderstandings and misinterpretations of their meanings [17]. It is important to note that terms such as “brand” and “logo” have distinct meanings in the specialized literature on branding and marketing [26][27]. Therefore, considering that creating a logo for a city or country will automatically result in a territorial brand is inadequate. In this case, the action would be merely an isolated advertising promotion initiative by governments aiming to boost the local or national economy for a short period. Moreover, differentiating the government brand, which can change every two or four years, from the territorial brand is essential. When examining the territorial brand as a cultural product, it becomes evident that multiple social actors play a crucial role, including the territory itself. This involvement encompasses various dynamics, territorialities, interests, strategic collaborations, conflicts, and partnerships, contributing significantly to regional development.
By creating a territorial brand, social actors form a vast network of internal and external relationships that influence the production of the territory. In this sense, Almeida [12] addresses regional development through the territorial brand, highlighting that social actors create narratives that build and strengthen the identities of places, promoting different types of development, including regional development. The discussion also involves reflecting on the centrality and protagonism of cities [28] that have a territorial brand, configuring themselves as strategically marked spaces.
How regional development theories are applied to the discussion of territorial brand is the central question of this study. The territory is a social and collective product “branded” like a commodity. However, this “branding” is more complex due to the complexity of the territory itself. When a brand is assigned to a territory, regardless of its geographical scale, this act influences the territorial and regional dynamics, requiring efforts for its operationalization. Thus, the territorial brand uses strategies that confer the status of the protagonist social actor to the territory, although this dynamic is not readily perceptible.
According to this argument, the territorial brand provides the territory the role of social actor and protagonist, suggesting that it is the territory itself, not the actors who occupy it, who seek to realize their interests in the produced space. This perspective leads the “branded” territory to become the voice of all social actors in the discourse when it only represents the interests of a specific group of social actors. Territorial brand is a stratagem social actors use to legitimize their interests in each territory. This stratagem can be subtle, efficient, and effective if used correctly.
This study aims to explore the conceptualization of the territorial brand from two approaches to regional development: cultural studies and urban studies. This theoretical debate seeks to understand why social actors create a brand for a particular space and the relationship that unites the brand and territory. Almeida [12] argues that the creation and management of a brand expose the existence of a power structure to legitimize the interests of social actors through the discourse contained in the territorial brand. In this sense, the discussions proposed in this study seek to expose different perspectives on the territorial brand as a cultural product within the framework of regional development. Moreover, branding has a sociocultural approach that extends to territorial brands, making them dependent on a plurality of social actors [29] and their narratives [1][2][3][30][31][32].
Understanding territorial brands implies understanding their capacity to influence the production of space and territorial dynamics. However, understanding these brands also demands understanding their territorialities. In this sense, Almeida [12] says that for a territorial brand in the scope of regional development, there must be dual territorialities (that of the social actors and that of the brand), one territoriality being intrinsic to the other. The literature discusses that branding a territory can generate the construction of narratives that promote the place, stimulating different types of development, including regional development. Moreover, territorial brands are more than their logo, as they subjectively convey the ideologies and beliefs of social groups. The dynamics of these brands diffuse discourses that naturalize implicit interests of social actors, influencing the representations, identities, and power relations of and in the territory. The sociocultural approach to branding implies a plurality of social actors involved in creating and managing territorial brands, reflecting the narratives and ideologies of these groups [1][2][29][30][31][32]. The analysis of these aspects is fundamental to understanding the relationship between territorial brand and regional development.
The article contributes to the existing debates, placing place branding in the field of academic and scientific investigation of regional development through territorial brand. Thus, the area of place branding studies is expanded, encompassing an area of knowledge not usually associated with the theme. When one leaves the local scope and enters the regional, territories can only sometimes identify and value their internal potential. The discussion extends to how a territory is transformed into a territorial brand and becomes part of the management through place branding. By thinking and articulating branding as a development strategy (territorial and regional), the territory’s identity and dynamics become stronger, stimulating a sense of regional unity. Moreover, the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the role of place branding, but in addition to places, regions also need to be prepared to adopt a brand that represents them. Otherwise, there will be isolated marketing or advertising actions applied in each geographical space.
Thus, place branding plays a vital role in a region’s development if the internal character of the region is maintained. In turn, regional development promotes the local, allowing regions to be considered a set of territorial brands articulated by an endorsing brand, that of the region. This research paper provides an expanded understanding of place branding, further exploring its role in regional development through the territorial brand. The facets identified in this research can provide practical and valuable constructs for place branding practices. Therefore, they can become the basis of a proper place branding framework with a more generic application in terms of regional development.

1.1. Methodology

The methodology relies on bibliographical research encompassing discussions on the theories of regional development (such as cultural, urban, and regional studies) and place branding. Consequently, this study does not employ case study details, focusing on the theories that shape the concept of “territorial brand in regional development”.
Bibliographical research is an appropriate methodology for investigating the theme proposed in this study. This methodology provides an overview and a deeper understanding of the topic. Thus, the methodology adopted in this research consisted of a review and critical analysis of the main theories about regional development (cultural, urban, and regional studies) and place branding in the scientific literature. As a result of these sources’ analyses, knowledge will advance regarding the theme of a territorial brand in the context of regional development.

1.1.1. Method

The inductive content analysis allowed the identification and interpretation of the information collected (even if scarce) from the available literature on the concepts of regional and territorial brand development and the relationships between them [33][34]. Almeida’s [12] study was the only one that addressed this issue, providing the basis for this study. Thus, two broad concepts guided the theoretical discussion to achieve the study’s objective, arriving at the interdisciplinary discussion of a territorial brand in the scope of regional development.
In addition, three questions originating from the objective supported the study:
What are the theoretical discussions on territory that serve as a stage for the territorial brand?
What territorialities are involved in the territorial brand?
What theoretical discussions have recently been involved in the territorial brand?
Finally, the paper answers the central question of how the territorial brand discusses regional development theories. Thus, the objective is met, through theoretical arguments, allowing the exploration and conceptual discussion of the territorial brand from primarily three theories of regional development: cultural, urban, and regional studies. Cultural studies are an interdisciplinary field of research that explores how meanings are produced, created, and disseminated in society [35][36]. Urban studies are based on the study of city development, considering everything related to life in the city and to the individuals who inhabit it, except the rural [37][38]. Regional studies investigate regional logic to act and modify the territory concretely and abstractly, according to what target interests someone or a social group. It appropriates space as a form of regional planning through representation [39][40].
In addition, the paper adopts the theoretical essay format, which, according to Jones [41] and Jaakkola [41], makes it possible to explore findings and deepen interpretations on a topic. Supported by illustrative cases arranged in the discussions in Section 4, the study exposes the theories that support the relationships between territorial brand and regional development. The existing literature on place branding needs to address regional development, and this study is an opportunity to introduce new theories to the observed gap.

1.1.2. Data Collection

The data collection originated from articles published in the Scopus platform that presented, even minimally, relationships with the theories investigated in the study. Thus, from the keywords “territorial brand” AND “regional development”, three results emerged [8][17][42]. Furthermore, through the snowball technique [43], the Scopus articles led to other articles used in the research. Acting in this way was necessary because, except for Almeida [12], no publications referred directly to the relationships between territorial brand and regional development, and its use in this study was appropriate.
The study was conducted based on two keywords related to a previous study [12]. To be selected in this research, the articles published needed to have a relationship between the two topics. If a study focused only on economic development, it was discarded because it focused on regional development. The title and abstract of the manuscript were considered in the initial phase to establish this relationship. In the second phase, the selected articles were read in their entirety. Only three studies were considered among the Scopus publications because they presented a clear connection between the keywords.
The snowball technique was used to broaden the scope of the publications. Thus, the references used by the authors of the selected studies led to other articles and so on if there was a connection with the keywords mentioned. This approach resulted in 13 studies included in Table 1, showing the contributions and limitations of each one.
In addition, Table 1 presents the correlations between place branding and regional development. This strategy was adopted because territorial brand is present in both theories but in different ways.

1.1.3. Data Analysis

The research employed an inductive content analysis to interpret the data collected from recent publications by comparing them with illustrative cases.

1.1.4. Rigorous Study Selection, Data Analysis, and Interpretation of Results

The rigorous selection of the studies included in this study was ensured through clear and objective criteria. The keywords “territorial brand” and “regional development” were used to identify relevant studies on the Scopus platform. From the results obtained, we applied selection criteria that considered the direct relationship between the topics and the approach to the concepts investigated. The small number of selected articles does not invalidate the study, but makes it clear that the theme has not been explored in depth in the specialized literature. This fact is already a result of the research.
After the studies were selected, an appropriate analysis of the collected data was performed. The articles were read in their entirety to obtain a comprehensive understanding of their contributions and limitations. Special attention was given to how the studies addressed the relationship between territorial brand and regional development.
The interpretation of the results was based on the theories discussed in the literature review and the information collected in the selected studies. Inductive content analysis was applied to identify patterns, trends, and insights relevant to the study’s theme. Interpretations were based on the data collected and supported by relevant theoretical references.
Thus, a rigorous selection of studies, an adequate analysis of the data collected, and a reasoned interpretation of the results were key aspects considered in this study to ensure the quality and reliability of the conclusions reached.

1.1.5. Organization of the Study

Three parts organized the study. The first part introduces the theme of the territorial brand. The second part discusses the concepts of territory, territorialities, and territorial brands, crossing urban and cultural studies. Finally, final considerations appear.

This entry is adapted from the peer-reviewed paper 10.3390/encyclopedia3030062


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