Date of Award

January 2013

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Lana Rakow


Place branding is a growing practice in communities worldwide. While much academic research has been conducted on the subject, the majority is directed toward the study of tourist perceptions. Research on those living in a branded community is limited. Therefore, this study seeks to explore how a place brand could build or strengthen social capital among residents of a location through a shared representation of a community's identity. A case study was conducted in Grand Rapids, Minnesota where 30 residents were interviewed from diverse socio-economic backgrounds. Through the lens of the seven community capitals, discussed in Flora and Flora (2009), interview transcriptions were analyzed and five stages in the branding process were uncovered where brand decisions tipped the balance of the community capitals. Those stages are as follows: Defining the cultural sphere, producing cultural identities, funneling identities, creating a simplified representation, and restituting culture. By comparing interview responses of those who worked directly with the brand versus the average community member, it was found that social capital was strengthened during place branding, but only among members of the brand committee, whom I also refer to as community leaders. This was due to the model of community development selected. Approaching branding from a technical assistance model, the process strengthened social capital among members of the power elite due to their existing political capital. Interviewed community members not directly involved with the branding, on the other hand, were faced with a loss of cultural capital and did not experience strengthened social capital because of how they were perceived in the selected model of community development.