Meet the IPM: Interview with Caio Esteves

caio estevesCaio Esteves, a fellow of the Institute of Place Management, is an architect by training and a specialist in branding. He began his career as a brand manager in the furniture industry, where he stayed for four years before establishing his own agency in 2006. In 2015 he founded the first company that specializes in Place Branding in Brazil, Places for us, the company that currently runs the first Brazilian start-up certified with the social impact seal BCORP (pending). Beside the practice of Place Branding, he divides his activities between lectures and lessons about Branding/Place Branding, coordinating the first MBA place branding in the country as well as writing a book on the subject, which launched this month.

Caio Esteves you are the founder and CEO of the company Places for us in Brazil. What does your company do?

Caio Esteves: Places for us is a company that specializes in Place Branding, the first and currently the only one in Brazil. We have developed Place Branding projects for public and private initiatives, while we struggle with enthusiasm to promote Place Branding in the country. We work with a multidisciplinary team and have a network of collaborators from other complementary disciplines.

“We understand Place Branding as a process that identifies vocations, strengthens identities and leverages the unique characteristics of places”

We have created a methodology that we call identity place-making, an overlap between Place Branding and Place-making. We believe it is possible to realize the ideas of Place Branding through interventions in the urban fabric. Place-making acts as a kind of “brand experience”. The advantages of this approach are clear: rather than disjointed urban interventions, places now have clearer guidelines, which put together, can consolidate and transmit the place branding ideas. We understand place branding as a process that identifies vocations, strengthens identities and leverages the unique characteristics of places. In this sense, community participation is essential, that is. Finally, we believe that place image is only one element, one of the consequences of the Place Branding process.

You published a book this month (in Portuguese) on Place Branding. Can you tell us more about it? What is the content? Aren’t there enough books about Place branding already?

Caio Esteves: No, not in Brazil and even if there many, there can never be too many books. We will be the first Brazilian publication on the subject. The book arises from the need to clarify basic questions about Place Branding – what it is really? How can contribute it to Place? And so on.

“We create a journey to be able to explain comprehensively and simply the process of building place brands”

For that I invited a large team with two academics responsible for the chapters, Place and City, a professional branding and branding MBA coordinator who signs the preface, one place-making researcher and developer, who talks about the importance of the subject in the market. This way, academia, practice and market are joined together, seeking the broadest possible view. Of course, I write the chapter on branding and on Place Branding myself. In addition to this team, many researchers and practitioners in the world sent me short texts answering questions, among them Malcolm Allan, Matthew Carmona, Magdalena Florek and Peter Kentie.

The book is introductory and aims to create a conceptual basis for discussion of the topic in Brazil. Thus we create a journey to be able to explain comprehensively and simply the process of building place brands.

Where does Place Branding stand in Brazil? Is it common practice for places or is it just starting? What is your assessment of the situation and the quality of work?

Caio Esteves: Place branding is still unknown, more than that, there is confusion with all kinds of stuff – advertising, communication, design or marketing. But that is not just our privilege, this confusion is everywhere in the world. In this sense, it is not enough to have many publications or academic papers on the subject, it is necessary to show that Place Branding may be more than a theoretical model: we need to apply and evaluate it.

None of our place brands are the result of planning or strategy. They were born organically or were imposed, without much similarity to reality. Our political problems also contribute to the difficulty of implementation of place brands, as there is still confusion between the place brand and the government brand. Brazil governments have the ‘brilliant’ habit of always stopping or changing everything that previous governments create, independent of quality or efficiency.

So I believe and advocate for a popular involvement in the place branding process, not only by contributing information, but also by participating in the process actively and continuously.

“Brazilian place brands were born organically or were imposed, without much similarity to reality”

Only popular legitimacy will make governments rethink the interruption of place brands. For that to happen authorship needs to be shared among professionals, community and government. After all, the government is incapable of coping alone with these issues. The World Cup 2014 and the Olympics 2016 are good examples where two events of enormous proportions and global relevance are now two missed chances to strengthen the country brand.

You are coordinating a new MBA on Place Branding, which you link with Place-Making. This has always been the content of the Institute of Place Management’s MSc in “Place Management & Leadership” from its inception 10 years ago. What was your motivation behind it and who do you expect will participate? What should we expect to see in its curriculum?

My motivation is precisely to popularize the concept of Place Branding and to qualify the market, both on terms of who hires and who is hired. The course is aimed at managerial or project level professionals, working in both in private initiatives and the public sector. It intends to serve both public managers as well as market professionals.

“After all nobody does place branding alone”

Students will get a comprehensive view on the issues surrounding Place Branding in a curriculum that has 17 subjects, divided into four themes: identity, experience, strategy and management, each divided into 4 other disciplines, plus an extra discipline on scientific methodology. At the end of the course they will present a feasible project of Place Branding. The faculty was also handpicked and matches a team of academic researchers with a group of market professionals. This contributes to a comprehensive view, creating a bridge between academic research and professional practice, thinking and doing.

Another important feature is the collaborative nature of course and projects carried out in class, a method already adopted at the MBA Branding Innovation at Rio Branco Integrated Colleges and now inserted into the Place Branding MBA. After all nobody does place branding alone and we take that thought seriously.

You are a member of several international organizations. Why the Institute of Place Management? What do you think it can do for you?

Caio Esteves: IPM was my first membership. I got to it through the MSc in Place Management, which will run from October. I was very well received and the benefits to members are great. I understood from the start that the institute would be a great endorsement and a great environment to exchange knowledge.

“The whole editorial process, the dialogue and exchange with as well as the very critical comments and questions contributed to the reflection on my own work”

I am much more a doer than an academic myself and I don’t have many people to talk about Place Branding here. This is a good way to share my ideas in a qualified environment like the one we are in now. With the opening of the Blog it got even better in terms of cooperation between members. I have published once and I confess that the whole editorial process, the dialogue and exchange with you as well as your very critical comments and questions contributed to the reflection on my own work. In my view this is something of great value.

The interview was conducted by Ares Kalandides