People and Society

Junichi Uchida

Power of Branding to Create Appeal for Countries, Cities, and Regions

Junichi Uchida , Associate Professor

Center for Advanced Tourism Studies (International Media, Communication, and Tourism Studies)

High school : Kanagawa Prefectural Yamatominami High School

Academic background : raduate School of Economics and Business Administration, Hokkaido University

Research areas
Tourism Management
Research keywords
business administration, marketing theories, brand, regional industry

What made you start your current research?

At first, I would like to know if you like Hokkaido. I think students aspiring to study at Hokkaido University are attracted not only to the university but also to Hokkaido.

Figure 1. Heart of the IT city Bangalore, India

I started to work on research focusing on locations such as countries, cities and regions after asking myself a simple question: “Why do I like this place? (for example, Hokkaido)” Special appeal makes the place a destination for overseas tourists and adds value to products made there. Hokkaido also has many such places and specialty brands. Historical factors may contribute to the attraction of a place, but attractions are not always fixed. Sometimes a place can suddenly gain or lose attention. The starting point of my research is wanting to know the mechanism behind the formation and decline of attraction of places in order to help local revitalization and promote tourism.


Power of made in “XX”

In an American movie titled “Back to the Future Part III,” there is a symbolic scene where the protagonist, Marty, who traveled from 1985 back to 1955 meets his best friend Doc while he was young. Looking at the components of the broken time machine, Doc sneers, “No wonder this circuit failed; it says ‘Made in Japan.’” Mystified, Marty replies, “All the best stuff is made in Japan.” Doc is surprised to hear this. The scene suggests that the meaning of “made in Japan” in 1955 was clearly different from that in 1985. At the time of the movie’s release, made-in Japan had become synonymous with high quality (especially for home electronics and automobiles). The country name influenced the evaluation of products made in the country.

In the brand study of marketing, which is a branch of business administration, the concept of “endorsed brand.” This is about assuring quality of new products by an established brand. Similar effects are found also between the country of origin and the products and between region / city and products made there. When I was studying IT industry in India, I visited Bangalore (Figure 1) that had been an area of IT subcontractors but gradually built a reputation as a region with sophisticated technological strength. There, I felt that the approach of endorsed brand was applicable also to cities and regions.


Regional brand study

With the help of graduate students and collaborators outside the University my laboratory observed the process of formation of brand value at a certain place and participated in a project to launch a local specialty brand in a short period of time.

Figure 2 Result of a text-mining of word-of-mouth information about restaurants in the Maruyama Area

Figure 2 is the result of a text-mining analysis of word-of-mouth information about restaurants in the Maruyama Area that is known as an exclusive residential district of Sapporo. Lines connecting the key words in the figure indicate the strength of the connection: the stronger the connection is, the thicker is the line. I think this helps you to imagine how people perceive meals provided in high-end restaurants in Maruyama. The image of the endorsed brand that exists in the place called Maruyama is expressed as connected words.

Figure 3 “Sarasara Red” project organization

Figure 3 illustrates the organization of the local branding project that was set up by a company named Plant Breeding Institute based in Kuriyama Town, Hokkaido, in 2006, in order to launch a new functional onion variety “Sarasara Red.” I took a part in supporting public relations of the project. Based on a research hypothesis that outstanding goods is necessary for establishment of a local brand, the project aimed to build Sarasara Red into a brand representing Kuriyama Town with cooperation of various organizations involved in the region. I believe that the onion has become a brand representing the town though it is not as strong as the Yubari Melon of Yubari City. This way, I am advancing my local brand study through efforts to empirically shed light on the appeal of regions and obtain practical information through participation in a project to build a local brand.


What is your next goal?

Originally I started from studying development process of local industries and competitive advantage of a country, and then entered into studies of tourism industry and local brands. Through studies of tourism and local brands I keenly feel that it is important to dispatch information to the outside in order to nurture an appeal of a country, city and region. However, for people to wish to “make their abode and live in” a country, city or community and put this into action, there must be an attractive workplace, namely an industry that continues to grow. My next research task is to survey a comprehensive place branding theory by fusing industry studies with tourism promotion and local brand studies.