In the contemporary world, everything is becoming a brand: products, services and often places too. Just like consumer goods in saturated markets, cities, regions and nations are not only settings for business activities anymore, but they are finding themselves competing against each other. Place branding has been adopted by places of all geographic scales and contexts with the aim of improving local or regional competitiveness in the global market. Place branding is the realization, maintenance and development of a strategy which aim is to increase the attractiveness of an area as a place where working, living and spending free time is desirable (van Ham, 2001).
The project is framed in the selected area of Lake Garda, the largest Italian lake and its aim is to apply the principles and practices of place branding this region. Lake Garda is a popular holiday location in the northern part of the country about halfway between Brescia and Verona and between Venice and Milan. Unfortunately, the currently applied strategies imply a narrow set of homogenized policy initiatives characterized by low-end prescriptive activities (Malecki, 2004) which are driving in the opposite direction of portraying the lake area’s uniqueness.
As a result of Design Thinking method’s practices and Participatory Design’s principles, the outcome of this project is a ‘place service brand’. It derives from a rethink of place branding as a not strictly territorial discipline, but rather as a mindset. The interpretation of the research’s findings revealed that the lack of tangible participation to the local development and the scarcity of trust between generations constitute the main issues for the area. Instead of designing the brand in the region and then communicating it the world, the community place brand that this strategy draws is the product of the interactions of the citizens with the external environment. The inhabitants become the place ambassadors, speak the place’s unique values to the world while internally inspiring and converse with each other.
"Place branding as a driver of value for the area of Lake Garda" is my Master's Thesis. This project allowed me to build an expertise in the field of place branding while designing a strategy for the place I call "home" to enhance. Especially related to the fervently discussed trend of the "brain drain", this study presents a plan for the region to turn its challenges into opportunities. The place brand wants to foster the area to evolve into an environment which is able to adapt to its locals' needs, wherever they are living, by fostering a feeling of belonging.