Giannina Warren is a Senior Lecturer in Place Branding and Promotional Culture and the Programme Leader for BA Advertising, PR and Branding and MA Place Branding.
An international thought leader in Place Branding, she has spearheaded and launched the world’s first MA in the discipline, as well as a series of validated training tools, short courses and masterclasses.
Her research sits at the intersection of promotion and policy; identifying ways in which private sector discipline in consumer research, marketing, branding and PR can help guide cultural public policy and urban planning for competitive places in the 21st century. She is an expert in the ‘professionalisation’ of the place branding practice and has developed a new framework for understanding the occupational resources and responsibilities that place marketers perform in their work.
Prior to embarking on her postgraduate studies in the UK, her career spanned 17 years in Toronto, Canada as a specialist in visual identity, branding, advertising and public relations in high-impact sectors such as finance, energy, legal, tourism, festivals and economic development. She spent six years at Toronto City Hall, managing city branding strategies, international promotional campaigns for public cultural events, resident engagement programmes and tourism initiatives.
Her recent consulting work includes Sidewalk Labs LLC (a subsidiary of Alphabet/Google Inc) on their recent ‘Smart City’ innovation in Toronto, Canada; developing an Ambassador Engagement Programme in conjunction with Tourism Thessaloniki, Greece; and training agency staff on place branding tools and practices for a successful bid representing Destination Canada.
'Academic of the Year', Faculty of Arts and Creative Industries (2023)
PG Certificate (Advertising Management) - Schulich Business School, York University, Toronto, Canada
PG Certificate (Graphic Design & Desktop Publishing) - George Brown College, Toronto, Canada
PG Certificate (Public Relations Management) - Ryerson University, Toronto, Canada
MA (International Communications) - Leeds University, Leeds, UK
PG Certificate (Higher Education) - Fellow of the UK Higher Education Academy, Middlesex University, UK
PhD: 'Cultural Intermediaries and Place Branding: A Framework for Understanding their Impact and Influence' - Faculty of Business and Law, Middlesex University, UK
Research: Place branding, public diplomacy, promotional culture, cultural intermediaries, city building, cultural policy, public sector promotional occupations.
MED1020 Advertising and PR in Context
MED2020 Promotional Practice
APM1002 Public Relations Practice
APM2053 Promotional Cultures
APM3005 Place Branding and International Diplomacy
PLB4000 Place Branding Theories and Concepts
PLB4001 Implementing a Place Brand Strategy
PLB4002 Stakeholders, Sustainability and Social Cohesion
PLB4003 Competition, Creativity and the Central Idea
PLB4005 MA Place Branding Major Research Project
PROFESSIONALISATION OF PLACE BRANDING
From a research perspective, I was always most concerned with the profession of place branding, since that’s the angle from which I entered the space. It struck me in my job at City of Toronto, that despite the little formal training I had, I enjoyed a great deal of power over a broader narrative - the stories, PR, press releases, speeches, marketing copy, pitches, policy briefings and social media that floated through the public realm, influencing decisions, visit intentions and the experiences of people in the street. This was a form of ‘symbolic power’ that was achieved through a series of unofficial, non-systemic and largely unseen activities that were invisible, and yet highly influential. Developing a better understanding of the nuances of the practice of place branding - that’s always been my fascination, and the research helps me stay connected to the active practitioner community.
I believe the talents, networks, backgrounds and unique skillsets of place branding professionals are the key drivers of the process. While there is a great deal of literature on the theory and practice of place branding and its outcomes, there is relatively little attention paid to the experiences, perspectives, and motivations of the individuals who are responsible for implementing branding strategies. My research seeks to fill this gap by exploring the everyday practices and challenges of place branding practitioners, as well as the personal and professional factors that shape their work. Through this research, I have gained insights into the complex and often messy realities of place branding, and the importance of understanding the human dimension of this process.
I am particularly interested in uncovering the largely ‘invisible’ work performed by influential promotional intermediaries in place branding, and position them at the heart of cultural urban policy and planning endeavours. My work seeks to highlight the organisational collaborations that occur at various levels of government and among many different stakeholders that anchor a city’s promotional efforts over the long term.
CLIMATE CHANGE AND CITY BRANDING
Cities are increasingly acknowledging the importance of aligning their brand strategies with the goals of sustainability and climate change mitigation. This can take many forms, such as promoting sustainable transportation options, highlighting green spaces and natural attractions, and showcasing local initiatives and innovations in sustainability. However, there is still a long way to go in terms of fully integrating climate action into place branding strategies. In many cases, sustainability is treated as a separate issue from branding, rather than being seen as a core component of a city's identity and reputation. I believe that there is a need for more research and practical guidance on how to effectively combine place branding and sustainability, in order to create more resilient and equitable cities for the future.
I’m working with an esteemed team of collaborators, including Dr. Evan Cleave (Geography, Toronto Metropolitan University) and Dr. Chad Walker, (Urban Planning, Dalhousie University) on a project that includes focus groups in the UK and Canada, linking climate activists, energy transition actors and environmentalists with Destination Marketing Organisations (DMOs), place branding practitioners and local officials responsible for city marketing.
We’re finding that while cities are quick to make policy announcements regarding Net Zero targets, often adequate funding, strategic planning and resources allocated to properly communicate these policies are not forthcoming. Further, professionals are met with audience resistance to reception due to socio-economic disparities, competing priorities, and message fatigue.
The research so far points to some unique and innovative ways of bridging the gap that are both internal (unofficial and non-systemic ways of working within the bureaucracy) and external (creative message strategies, campaigns and citizen engagement initiatives).
I’m also working on a hyper-local project with my colleague Dr. Johan Siebers (Law) at Middlesex University, partnering with the local Barnet Council in Greater London on their BarNET Zero Climate Action strategy. We are embedded in their Citizen and Youth Assembly process and working with the local government to develop an action toolkit for small cities and boroughs. It is fascinating to watch the deliberative community engagement process at a local scale, and reflect on the impact it might make as smaller places begin to enact their climate action plans at ground level.
By utilising an international and interdisciplinary approach to the research that includes marketing, media and communications, geography, and urban planning, we’re hoping we might offer a better understanding of how cities can overcome sustainability communication challenges and catalyse behavioural change that will have a lasting local and global impact, at every scale.
Warren, G. (2023). The Network Constellation: A Social Capital Framework to Understand the Particularities and Power Dynamics in City Branding.' Marketing Theory (Under Review)
Warren, G. and Grigaliunaite, S. (2023). Leveraging Social Capital to Catalyse Post-Pandemic Anti-Fragility: The 'Vilnius Model'. Journal of Place Management and Development (Under Review)
Warren, G. (2023). Soft Power, Through a Professional Lens. Brand Finance Global Soft Power Index 2023. London, UK
Warren, G. (2022) ‘From Inferiority Complex to Smug Superiority: The Case of Brand Canada.’ In Dinnie, K., 2021. Nation Branding: Concepts, Issues, Practice, 3rd ed. Routledge, Oxford.
Warren, G., Dilmperi, A., Dinnie, K., (2021). Power struggles and playing politics: An application of Bourdieu’s cultural intermediation theory to place marketing. Annals of Tourism Research 91, 103276.
Warren, Giannina and Dinnie, Keith (2018). Cultural intermediaries in place branding: who are they and how do they construct legitimacy for their work and for themselves? Tourism Management, 66. pp. 302-314.
Warren, Giannina and Dinnie, Keith (2017). Exploring the dimensions of place branding: an application of the ICON model to the branding of Toronto. International Journal of Tourism Cities, 3 (1). pp. 56-68.
Warren, Giannina and Allan, Malcolm (2016) Funded report for the British Hospitality Association (in collaboration with Place Matters Ltd): The Potential Contribution of Coastal Tourism to the Regeneration of Seaside Towns
Warren, Giannina and Fenton, Natalie (2014) Funded report for MeCCSA: The impact of higher education policy on the work, practices and constitution of departments offering undergraduate and postgraduate degrees in the areas of media, communication and cultural studies
Conference & Keynote Presentations
'Overcoming policy platitudes and political paralysis to catalyse climate action in city communications: A comparative study of UK and Canada.' “Sustainability Communication in Local Are(n)as: Towards a Better Understanding of Culturally Diverse Strategies and Practices” ICA post-conference, Metropolitan University Toronto, (30 May 2023)
'Self-Branding to Stand Out' Speaking Tour of Various Universities in Vietnam and Malaysia (November 2022)
'Emotional Labour: Exploring the Particularities of the Place Branding Profession,' International Place Branding Association Conference, Institute of Public Management and Territorial Governance, Aix-Marseille University, Aix-en-Provence, France (10 October 2022)
'The Network Constellation as a Catalyst for Post-Pandemic Anti-Fragility.' Academy of Marketing Conference, Huddersfield University (05 July 2022)
‘The Personal is Professional: Exploring the Particular Challenges of Place Brand Practitioners.’ Emotional Labour in Media Work: Trends, Challenges, and Opportunities, Middlesex University, London (22-23 April 2022).
‘The Network Constellation: A Framework for Catalysing Post-Pandemic City Resilience and Recovery.’ International Place Branding Conference, Universitat Pompeu Fabra, Barcelona, Spain (8-10 December 2021).
'Toronto's Cultural Renaissance: In Pursuit of the Broader Applications of a Place Brand.' University of Leicester, Leicester UK (05 January 2018)
‘Place Branding and Cultural Policy: An Exploratory Analysis.’ International Place Branding Association Inaugural Conference, Middlesex University. London, (09 December 2016).
‘Exploring the Dimensions of Place Branding: The ICON Model.’ Bangor University Consumer Research Summit: Place and Marketing in a Dynamic World. London, (22 April 2016).View more publications
Knowledge Frontiers Symposium BA CIFAR 2022 Seed Funding: 'Exploring local engagement and participatory place branding through the roll-out of Local Smart Grids in cities within the UK and Canada' (2022-3)
Senior Academic Advisor (Bloom Consulting) (2021-)
Senior Consultant and Keynote Presenter: Canada in Context: Cultural Sensitivity Training for U.S Companies Doing Business in Canada(Sidewalk Labs LLC, A Subsidiary of Google Inc., Toronto, Canada) (2018)
Consultant and Workshop Facilitator: Building a Brand Ambassador Program (Thessaloniki Tourism Organisation, Thessaloniki, Greece) (2017)
Senior Consultant: Destination Canada: Nation Branding Insights to Win New Business (Bensimon Byrne, Destination Canada, City of Toronto) (2016)
Senior Researcher, Workshop Facilitator: The Potential Contribution of Coastal Tourism to the Regeneration of Seaside Towns (British Hospitality Association, UK) (2015-16)
Academic Director, Bloom Place Academy
Principal, GForce Consulting