May archaeology and cultural heritage contribute to creating a memorable nation brand image?

Helena Nobre, University of Aveiro and Ana Sousa, University of Minho

Keywords: Nation Branding; Cultural Heritage Image; Community Engagement; Visitor Experience

This study aims to explore how archaeological and cultural heritage knowledge leverage country branding and contribute to developing a competitive nation identity. Additionally, it purposes to identify co-creation activities involved in building a heritage country image. More specially, we try to understand the role of visitor experiences and the community’s engagement in this dynamic process.
Simon Anholt coined the term nation branding in 1996 (Dinnie 2008). The notion of nation branding has been applied in the last years by academics and policymakers as if the reputations of countries could be approached in the same way as companies and products brand images. Anholt (2008) considered there was an abusive commercial appropriation of the term that excluded other important aspects of a national identity that also contributes to the formation of a country brand image. Thus, the author adopted the notion of Competitive Identity to approach nation brand, since it best represents the interactions and dynamics between the political and economic competitiveness contexts. These interactions can be accessed into six dimensions – exports, government, tourism, culture, people, and immigration & investment – which constitute the “Nation Brand Index” developed by Anholt in 2005. The Anholt’s Nation Brands Index approaches a country’s image by examining these six dimensions of “national competence” (Nation Brands Index Report for Scotland, 2018). Each dimension contributes equally to the formation of a country brand reputation. In particular, the cultural dimension includes several aspects, namely global perceptions of a nation’s heritage and the country contemporary culture. The dimension of tourism captures essentially the motivations to visit the country, more specifically, its natural beauty, historic buildings and environment, and cities atmospheres.
While country branding research focuses on what public institutions and businesses (supply side) do to improve the images of countries, as producers, exporters and tourism destinations, country image research has been carried out on the demand side. That is how consumer and other stakeholders’ perceptions contribute to creating a nation brand. It is widely recognised that country image influences consumer behaviour and plays an important role in a dynamic identity building process. A place’s general image, product image, and tourism image interact with each other in several ways. Thus, country image/place image and country branding/nation branding are often used interchangeably (Papadopoulos and Hamzaoui-Essoussi 2015).
In times of globalisation, the competition among countries to attract foreign investment, business, tourism and talented workers is fierce. Therefore, a strong, favourable, and unique image (see Keller 1993) represents a competitive advantage for the nation brands. Several factors might contribute to the development of a country image. For instance, the economic system, political stability, people, place, culture/language, history, food, fashion, celebrities and global brands. It is essential that policymakers and companies’ managers access whether this image is strong or weak, current or outdated, clear or vague, and understand the internal and external image of the country held by domestic and foreign individuals (Fan 2010). “Yet, what really seems to make a difference to the images of countries is when they become dedicated to developing new ideas, policies, laws, products, services, companies, buildings, art and science… the place produces a buzz, people pay attention and prepare to change their minds” (Anholt 2008, 23).
Given the challenges that archaeology and heritage management are facing, this new-dominant business logic (Vargo and Lusch 2004), service marketing based, might represent a ground to understand the dynamics that connect archaeologists and cultural heritage-related professionals, in general, with the commercial actors, public supporters and regulators, and indigenous communities in pursuing sustainable practices that benefit all parties involved. Vargo and Lusch (2016) introduced and recognised the role of institutions and institutional arrangements in the value co-creation. “Actors cannot deliver value but can participate in the creation and offering of value propositions” (p. 8). In sum, “the narrative of value cocreation is developing into one of resource-integrating, reciprocal-service providing actors cocreating value through holistic, meaning laden experiences in nested and overlapping service ecosystems, governed and evaluated through their institutional arrangements” (p.7).
In an experiential approach to the brands (see Prahalad and Ramaswamy 2004), Payne et al. (2009) state that brand interactions, brand experiences, and brand relationships, can be a source of brand meaning co-creation. Thus, the experiences that citizens, communities, visitors or archaeological tourists develop with archaeological, historic sites and other cultural heritage can be a source of brand meaning and value in terms of community identities and nations’ narratives (see Gould, 2017).
This study used Portugal as the nation brand stimulus. In-depth interviews with policymakers, academics, and tourism entrepreneurs have been carried out to gather their perceptions on: (1) how cultural heritage contributes to create a competitive identity domestically and abroad; (2) how to engage visitors and locals in archaeological practices, other particular experiences with cultural heritage, and co-creation of cultural heritage knowledge; (3) the role of social media in these processes; and (4) the interdependence between tourism and cultural heritage knowledge production.
Based on the content analysis of the interview scripts, study offers exploratory findings regarding the roles performed by public entities and other institutions and the means used to attract visitors to sites and encourage the engagement of the different “actors” in cultural heritage experiences. A first level of categories emerged from the codifying process: (1) the importance of public investment and policies; (2) the UNESCO endorsement; (3) the involvement of local communities; (4) the role of social media as a mean for cultural heritage identity building; (5) and the impact of high skilled and talented people of the local tourism industry. At the level of visitor motivations, the authenticity, antiquity, exclusivity, and preservation, in particular for foreign visitors, of the sites and historic buildings emerged from the codifying process, representing also drivers of tourism economic activity. The UNESCO recognition was referred to as one most important factor in leveraging the country heritage branding. In respect to the co-creation activities and experiences with citizens and local communities, their participation and collaboration with institutions, including, universities and research centres, in the preservation and classification of heritage emerged as one important dimension to build an heritage identity.
This study presents limitations. Firstly, the research setting is limited to one country. A cross-nation study would improve the capacity of the generalization of results. This could also help to identify elements for a European competitive identity. Secondly, a larger sample of in-depth interviews with different policy makers and other managers and academics with distinct backgrounds, representing different cultural heritage areas (tangible and intangible), would improve the contributions of the study.


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