Meet the IPM: Interview with Antonio Azevedo

Antonio Azevedo (1)

António Azevedo is a Fellow of the Institute of Place Management and an Assistant Professor at the School of Economics and Management at the University of Minho in Braga, Portugal. He teaches marketing strategy, tourism marketing and sales & retailing. Since 2003, after receiving the PhD with a thesis on branding advertising, he has dedicated his research to place marketing. He was one of the co-authors of a pioneering book in Portugal introducing city marketing and strategic planning issues in 2011. His studies and research topics included place attachment and quality of life and these have been presented in international conferences and journals, for example as published in JPMD in 2013. Currently he is coordinating the University of Minho’s team that was invited to develop a Place Marketing Plan for the territory of a four cities network (Braga, Guimarães, Barcelos and Famalicão) designated as “Quadrilatero” with a population of 600 000 inhabitants.

António Azevedo, Where does Place Marketing & Branding stand in your country?

António Azevedo: First let me make an introduction to emphasise that, from my experience, the words “place marketing” have a bad reputation among the majority of decision-makers and politicians and among specialists from other areas because these concepts are negatively associated to the “makeover” approach that sometimes leads to “disneyfication”, loss of place identity and unsustainable place degradation. In politics as in city governance “marketing” for the majority of citizens means a “promise that will not be fulfilled”. My diagnostic of this situation identifies several causes: lack of strategic planning and a lack of stakeholders’ participation; most of the time there is no CMO (city marketing organisation) with professional multidimensional expertise; there is a lack of an integrated approach in order to mitigate the latent conflicts between stakeholders/goals; and consequently there is also a lack of systematic monitoring of key performance indicators which provide the raw data for researchers like myself.

So place marketing experts have to face those who blame them for the unsustainable development of big overcrowded cities or instead they have to face smaller inland cities’s mayors claiming more “marketing actions” as if marketeers were magicians that have a miraculous solution for all of city’s problems.

“Place marketing has a bad reputation among decision-makers, politicians and among specialists from other areas because these concepts are negatively associated with ‘disneyfication’, loss of place identity and unsustainable place degradation.”

Place marketing has four primary goals: to attract investors/entrepreneurs; attract visitors/tourism revenues; attract qualified human capital; and promote the city’s quality of life, satisfaction for living in the place and ultimately the perceived happiness of residents. In Portugal we have some good examples of city break and cultural tourism development and some destinations like Lisbon or Porto have achieved high levels of awareness. But in most of the cases the success is not a result of a conscious strategic thinking. For the other three goals/targets, cities still need specific long-term marketing programs instead of short term actions ruled by electoral cycles. Based on the benchmarking of best practices I developed a “road map” for city marketing with 12 steps. I think that city marketing mix programmes including the integrated marketing communication must be implemented only after three conditions: 1) The mayor’s leadership and his (marketing oriented) strategic vision must be supported by a political legitimacy of the decision-making as act of participative governance; 2) development of the city strategic plan with the contribution of all stakeholders defining the city positioning; 3) definition of architecture of the CMO.

In your work you have dealt with the interconnection between quality of life and place attachment. Can you share some of your findings with us?

António Azevedo: I participated as author or co-author in several studies in three cities in Portugal (Portimão, Gaia and Braga). The findings of these studies either with adults or children, support the idea that if the city can start a virtuous cycle using place marketing programmes oriented for investors, tourists and residents, then the improvement in the city’s quality of life will attract qualified human capital and promote residents place attachment, satisfaction for living in the place and self-efficacy (defined as the feeling that all the personal life and business projects will be accomplished in that city friendly and controlled environment). These variables are also positively correlated with the residents’ self-esteem and they induce active citizenship behaviours such as voluntary work for city projects.

You have written about “the surprise” factor in tourism. What is that? And what is the role of surprise in the tourist experience?

António Azevedo: When I read the study of Mansfeldt et al (2008) titled “Experience Design in City Tourism” I decided to explore the concept of the experience economy and the grid of Pine & Gilmore complemented with recent developments in the experiential marketing theory.

“The tourist will be satisfied only if the experience mix overcomes expectations”

In fact, the differentiation of tourism destinations and products are increasingly based on intangible and emotional attributes at individual level such as the place atmosphere, the “aura”, the authenticity or the immaterial heritage. In short, tourism marketing has six steps: awareness, interest, effective purchase, satisfaction, loyalty and recommendation. The Expectancy-Disconfirmation Paradigm (EDP) tells us that the tourist will be satisfied only if the experience mix overcomes expectations. Here is where the surprise factor plays its role by introducing an unexpected meaningful disruptive event. For example, when a hotel guest receives an unexpected gift such as a bottle of champagne, a free massage or theatre ticket, even if it has a small economic value, there is a significant increase of his satisfaction compared with other optional or expected benefits. The positive e(WOM) is also a consequence of the satisfaction. You can apply this concept to the city scale and create a holistic experience in the city. Actually, the design of experiences and events is an area where Portugal’s tourism operators and city marketeers have been innovating considerably showing outstanding creativity.

What are you working on now? What does your most recent research include?

António Azevedo: Currently my most recent research is related to Phd and Master’s Thesis that I am supervising. Let me make a short synopsis of three research projects: 1) a PhD thesis titled “Development of a scale to measure innovation in restaurants” which also aims to assess the impact of innovative restaurants in city positioning as an attraction driver; 2) I am also co-supervising a student of the Master in Food Identity of ESA Angers (France) who is studying the contribution of local agro-food products with origin certification for the promotion of gastronomy and wine tourism in the North of Portugal; 3) With my colleagues at the University of Algarve (Maria J. Custódio and F. Perna) we are finishing a paper assessing the impact of the Rally of Azores (a hallmark event) for the residents’ quality of life, self-esteem and economic development of S. Miguel island.

As an international member-based organisation the Institute of Place Management wants to support its members’ work. What has your experience with the IPM been so far and what do you expect from it?

António Azevedo: Although I am a new Fellow member of IPM, I have been following many IPM activities and recently I participated in the IPM study trip to Berlin where I could learn by immersion several case-studies. I suggest that it will be very interesting if besides organising conferences, IPM could also provide information about fields of work/research of all members, thus allowing that the members with common interests to improve their networking capacity and build partnerships for futures projects namely for applying to H2020 calls. By the way, the “Meet the IPM” interview feature is an interesting initiative that also contributes to the dissemination of member’s research and consultancy projects.



The interview was conducted by Ares Kalandides

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