Scotland's Premier Whisky Regions: A Comparative Case Study of Place Branding
Washburn University. School of Business
Kaw Valley Bank
Over the past two decades, tourism has emerged as among the most important economic sectors in the global marketplace and a key means by which social and cultural phenomena are diffused. Moreover, it is a sector that is expected to continue to expand substantially. Attendant to this growth has been intensified competition among nations, regions, communities, and other specific locales for finite and valuable resources. This has resulted in heightened sensitivity to competitive pressures, leading some places to seek marketing solutions beyond conventional tourism promotion. One such solution is the branding of places. Among marketing scholars, widespread interest in place branding has generated a significant body of work. This literature is rich and varied, reflecting both private and public sector perspectives, practitioner and academic interest, and diverse conceptual orientations. From a theoretical viewpoint, there is general consensus that places are amenable to branding but differ from products in important ways and, hence, place branding is a special case of branding that may differ from other areas of application (e.g., products and corporations), requiring additional theoretical development and development of unique branding processes. Pryor and Grossbart (2007) define place branding as a process of inscribing to a place symbols and images that represent that set of central, enduring, and distinctive characteristics that actor have ascribed to that place, thereby creating a focus of identity. they argue that an important characteristic of successful place branding is recognition of place brands as socially and culturally embedded and co-created and reified by a wide range of social actors. They reject conventional (product-oriented) branding models as largely incompatible with the notion of the branding of places in terms of product development, brand equity, brand building, and brand management. This paper presents a comparative case study of two branded whisky regions in Scotland to examine how both places and products may in fact reflect social and cultural influences and to begin to identify some of the processes through with co-creation and reification of brand meanings may occur. Findings suggest that Scotland's whisky regions shape--and are shaped by-- their natural and economic environments; these impact social relations and influence cultural interpretations. With the explosion of interest in Scotch whisky, these regions have emerged as important sites of subcultural activity, helping to define and position individual brands and regionally-prescribed brand clusters. Though these regions house natural competitors in a relatively crowded marketplace, whisky regions function in many respects like "family brands," providing consumers with information about cultural attributes of individual brands. Consumers and firms use specific processes, including consumption rituals and the development of brandfests and brand communities to create and reify the ideas and values that are associated with whisky, whisky brands, and whisky regions.