Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


School of Management, Operations and Marketing


This thesis recognises the need to understand and manage the complex network of perceptions between internal and external place stakeholders. These perceptions are termed identity and image, and are central to the development of effective brand strategy. Generally, identity is how we see ourselves, while image is how others see us. These concepts have relevance to individuals, organisations and places, with the concept of place identity being the focus of this thesis. Taking an interdisciplinary approach, this thesis combines marketing, social-semiotics and urban planning literature to characterise place identity. Pivotal to this thesis, is the argument that place managers should examine identities as the starting point of developing a brand strategy. Despite the characteristics of place identity being acknowledged, existing approaches to reveal identities do not holistically address all characteristics. Typically, studies take a static snapshot to reveal an identity or identity set, but do not consider the communicative, fluid and multi-sensory character of place identity. This thesis addresses such shortcomings and answers the question, How to research place identities? Guided by communication theory, a Systemic Functional Participative Multi-modal Framework (SFPMF) is designed and validated in this thesis. The SFPMF facilitates reflexive and participative process consisting of three phases, orientation, narration, and reflection. With the aim of enabling participants as co-researchers, they assist in collection and analysis of spatial, audio and video data. Due to the relevance of communication, systemic functional linguistics techniques were used to analyse the data, including appraisal, reference, transitivity, and speech function analytics. Using a design-apply-learn process, the methodology was developed with residents from Wollongong, a regional Australian city. Once no more changes were required, the final version of the SFPMF was tested again with residents of Wollongong, demonstrating its ability to holistically operationalise place identity. Uniquely, this framework enables a participative inquiry and offers tools to confirm such. The value of this method to authentically include residents in place management strategies is also addressed. The thesis concludes with a discussion of these contributions, as well as suggests opportunities to further develop the SFPMF methodology within place branding, and its potential in other domains.

FoR codes (2008)




Unless otherwise indicated, the views expressed in this thesis are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the University of Wollongong.