Origination explains the enduring global appeal of ‘British’ brands

By Andy Pike, Newcastle University

Canton Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong:  Source: Wikimedia Commons

Canton Road, Tsim Sha Tsui, Hong Kong:
Source: Wikimedia Commons

Caribbean cuisine, Danish furniture, Hollywood films… Where branded goods and services commodities are from and are associated with is integral to their meaning and value. ‘British’ brands are no exception. But their enduring yet fragile global appeal raises questions in an era in which globalisation has complicated the picture. Actors – such as brand owners, managers, marketers, buyers, and trademark authorities – are grappling with questions of origin(s), provenance, and authenticity. Where things are from and, crucially, are perceived to be from is integral to the meaning and value of goods and services brands. In what some describe as a ‘flat’ and ‘slippery’ world, brands are seen as somehow placeless vehicles of globalisation that are free from any geographical connections and connotations.

Longstanding research offers few clues to understanding the persistent meaning and value of brands with geographical associations to particular places in the wake of globalisation. For decades, work has been fixated with the ‘country of origin’ effect on consumer behaviour and purchasing decisions. It has failed to develop ways of thinking about the geographies of brands and branding that encompass and extend beyond this national frame.

The idea of origination – developed in a new book, ‘Origination: The Geographies of Brands and Branding’ – refers to the ways in which geographical associations are constructed for brands and branding by the actors involved that connote, suggest and/or appeal to particular spatial references that communicate meaningful and valuable things. Origination explains how these geographical associations are constructed by producers such as brand owners, circulators such as advertisers, consumers such as shoppers and regulators such as trademark authorities in their attempts to fix meaning and value in goods and services brands and their branding in the times and spaces of particular market settings internationally. In this interpretation, the world is seen as ‘spiky’ and ‘sticky’ and brands are understood as carrying and communicating the attributes and characteristics of geographical associations and places.

Actors involved with ‘British’ brands have sought to construct a ‘national’ origination, evoking a particular version of the nationally framed and rooted geographical imaginary of ‘Britishness’ in efforts to create and hold together the meaning and value in particular global market contexts. Especially in the fashion business, Britishness retains its worth and distinctiveness as part of differentiation strategies. The socio-spatial histories of British brands typically afford their owners and managers with pliable sources of discursive, material and symbolic geographical associations. Such connections and connotations have enabled constructions of meaning and value based upon distinctive and differentiated attributes of authenticity, quality and tradition. Reinvention and revitalisation of British brands, often under new and international ownership, has occurred through the reworking of their heritage assets and geographical associations to modernise brand image and market positioning for the contemporary zeitgeist.

Yet such configurations of meaning and value in brands and branding are only ever ephemeral and temporary accomplishments. Accumulation, competition, differentiation and innovation propel internationalisation and on-going transitions and disruptions in spatial and temporal market contexts. British brands have to face the conundrum of whether and how to maintain the meaning and value of the origination of ‘Made in Britain’ for their consumers especially when only the design, development, styling, detailing and advertising may actually be undertaken in the national territory of Britain.

Connecting geographically political and cultural economy concerns, origination provides a means to address critical questions about how, why, where and by whom goods and services brands are associated with specific and particular geographical attributes and characteristics of spaces and places, and why it matters for people and places.

About the author: Andy Pike is Professor of Local and Regional Develop and Director of the Centre for Urban and Regional Studies (CURDS), Department of Geography, Newcastle University, UK. Andy’s central research interest is the geographical political economy of local and regional development. His research is concerned with (i) concepts and theory of the meaning and governance of development regionally and locally in an international context, and (ii) with the intersections between local and regional development and Economic Geography.

books_icon Pike, A. (2015) Origination: The Geographies of Brands and Branding, RGS-IBG Book Series, Wiley-Blackwell: Oxford.

60-world2 Plimmer, G. (2015) Royal Mail ‘shop’ brings British brands to China The Financial Times

60-world2 Georgijevic, A. (2015) How three fabled British fashion brands have stayed relevant The Globe and Mail

60-world2 Rayment, S. (2015) 10 of The Best Made in Britain Shoe Brands Fashion Beans






Humanitarian mappers’ response to the Nepal earthquake

By Joseph J. Bailey (@josephjbailey), University of Nottingham, UK.

In the days since the earthquake in Nepal, thousands of humanitarian mappers have sprung into action to fill in gaps in the map in the affected area” (Mapbox article, dated 27th April 2015, two days after the Nepal earthquake).

The earthquake that occurred in Nepal on the 25th April 2015 is the largest quake to affect the region since 1934 and one of the most devastating natural disasters in recent memory, killing thousands of people. Aftershocks present an ongoing threat, including one on the 12th May killing over 100 people. Accessing the affected communities requires explicit and accurate knowledge of the area’s infrastructure.

The world’s population continues to grow, making natural disasters increasingly devastating. However, technology develops in parallel. Emerging technology can and is helping with disaster management. More people than ever across the world now carry in their pockets a very powerful tool; a smartphone connected to the internet and equipped with an inbuilt GPS unit. This can be used to quickly and accurately record spatial information not only on a day-to-day basis but also after a natural disaster where possible. Additionally, and often more realistically amidst the destruction where the event has occurred, people nowhere near the disaster itself can contribute towards mapping efforts using satellite information, providing an invaluable resource for those on the ground.

A recent paper in Geography Compass (Haworth and Bruce, 2015) reviewed volunteered geographic information (VGI) for disaster management (prevention, preparation, response, and recovery). VGI technologies allow for near-instant sharing of relevant geographic information for disaster management and the resource implications for generating these data are minimal. This article also assesses the associated challenges of these data, including: “lack of data quality assurance and issues surrounding data management, liability, security, and the digital divide” (p. 237), the latter referring to the lack of technology in some areas so that people can benefit from and contribute to VGI projects (this is improving every day, however). The authors stress the importance of VGI in disaster prevention as well as response, but response is the main subject of this post herein.

There are many examples of VGI, and one of the big projects where such data are used is OpenStreetMap, which I focus on here. Founded in 2004, driven by limits on access to spatial data and the dominance of proprietary software, and in response to the increase in affordable GPS and satellite navigation units, “OpenStreetMap (OSM) is a collaborative project to create a free editable map of the world” (Wikipedia). It uses data contributions from volunteers all over the world (Wiki – OSM Map Production). Such an open, editable geographic information system (GIS) based on crowdsourced data is an incredible resource. It has huge potential from making lives easier day-to-day, to saving lives in extreme circumstances like during and after a natural disaster.

This image shows the burst of mapping by humanitarian mappers after the quake struck on April 25th 2015. Source: article by Eric Fischer on Mapbox, dated 27/04/2015, last accessed 17/05/2015, available at: https://www.mapbox.com/blog/nepal-earthquake-animation/).

This image shows the burst of mapping by humanitarian mappers after the quake struck on April 25th 2015.
Source: article by Eric Fischer on Mapbox, dated 27/04/2015, last accessed 17/05/2015, available at: https://www.mapbox.com/blog/nepal-earthquake-animation/).

In the context of the 2015 Nepal earthquake, OSM has been invaluable, providing accurate and up-to-date maps that are used by aid organisations and local disaster response teams. Indeed, according to an article on Mapbox (by Eric Fischer, 27th of April), just two days after the quake struck, “more than 2000 mappers … recorded 13,199 new miles of roads and 110,681 new buildings” (see the image below from the Mapbox article). Naturally, these figures will have increased substantially since this article as mapping efforts continue. The OSM volunteers rapidly digitised satellite images after the earthquake, providing much-needed maps and data to humanitarian organisations (OSM Nepal Earthquake Wiki). The process is coordinated by the Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team (HOT), who communicate with relevant organisations to focus mapping efforts. Anyone can use the resultant maps and associated routing services for free.

The use of VGI will only grow alongside technological development and, importantly, so too will accessibility to this technology through projects such as OpenStreetMap. There are known issues of data quality and so on, as discussed by Haworth and Bruce (2015), but ultimately this technology can only be a good thing. Hopefully it will mean that populations at risk of large-scale natural disasters, like those in Nepal most recently, will be able to be helped more quickly and effectively, thus mitigating the impact.

books_icon Haworth, B. and Bruce, E. (2015). A Review of Volunteered Geographic Information for Disaster Management. Geography Compass, 9 (5), 237–250

60-world2 Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Wiki available at: http://wiki.openstreetmap.org/wiki/2015_Nepal_earthquake (last accessed 17th May)

60-world2 Mapbox article and animation image available at: https://www.mapbox.com/blog/nepal-earthquake-animation/ (dated 27th April 2015, last accessed 17th May)

Against tough opposition: the local impacts of sports stadia

Kate Whiston, University of Nottingham

The City of Manchester Stadium Source: Wikimedia Commons

The City of Manchester Stadium
Source: Wikimedia Commons

Our nation is one transfixed by sport; be it the climax of the Premier League season, or the impending Rugby World Cup, sport is on a lot of people’s lips at the present time. But have you ever stopped to think about the implications of our great (and not so great!) stadia on their surrounding areas? Sport is complexly entwined with contemporary society, both socially and economically, and the fortresses in which they are played are certainly no exception.

Two examples in the news recently – FC United of Manchester’s proposed new football ground and the Cornish Pirates’ proposal for a rugby stadium – have highlighted the complications of building new sports stadia, and the importance of considering their impacts on the local community. They also ring true with some of the issues raised in Davies’ (2005) article, which, although a decade old, is still relevant today.

Residents living in close proximity to proposed sports stadia often protest, highlighting potential negative impacts; team NIMBY can be tough opposition to beat! Davies (2005) considers the use of sports stadia as catalysts for socio-economic regeneration in declining areas. A sports stadium development brings with it pros and cons. Firstly, there may be positive economic outcomes; jobs may be generated and commercial activity increased, as well as potential for tourism and interest from businesses. There may also be improvements for the community in infrastructure, communications, and transport links. Stadium 1 – 0 NIMBYs. Whether these outweigh the cost of building stadia is, however, often debateable. Stadium 1 – 1 NIMBYs. Secondly, there is potential for positive social impacts; stadia may generate civic pride, increased community identity, and an improved image of the area. Thus, both the external and internal perception of place can be enhanced. Stadium 2 – 1 NIMBYs. On the other hand, there are potential negative social implications, such as traffic congestion, graffiti, vandalism, noise, and litter. Stadium 2 – 2 NIMBYs. Davies’ main focus, however, is on house prices. Contrary to much research previous to her study, Davies argues that sports stadia do not reduce real estate values. In fact, she observed quite the opposite in the cases of the City of Manchester Stadium and the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff. Stadium 3 – 2 NIMBYS. The verdict? A close match, with little separating the two sides; by no means a convincing victory.

Now to turn to current stadium debates. FC United of Manchester’s proposal for a new football ground in Moston was approved by the local council after they received 5,635 letters in support of the application as opposed to 2,226 letters objecting to it. The development is predicted to bring in £4m of investment to the area. The benefits to locals appear to be extensive; the club – itself owned by local fans – has raised £2m from community shares to build the stadium, which will also provide community sports facilities.

On the other hand, the Cornish Pirates’ application for a new stadium is yet to be converted. Initial plans by Cornwall County Council were for a new community stadium on the outskirts of Truro, to be shared by the Cornish Pirates rugby union team, Truro City football team (who themselves have submitted plans for a new ground elsewhere in the city), and the local college. The stadium would provide facilities for concerts, conferences, businesses, and catering, as well as a community sports hub and leisure facilities. Whilst the new stadium would bring jobs and wealth to the county, the local council are not onside, and there are concerns that all the other residential and commercial development that it may bring would be too much for this small city to cope with.

This is clearly a difficult one to call. There are many positive impacts of sports stadium developments for their local communities, although it is not clear whether they outweigh the potential negative impacts and, indeed, the initial financial cost of building them. It seems extra time and penalties may be needed to decide this one!

books_icon Davies, L.E. (2005). “Not in my back yard! Sports stadia location and the property market”, Area, 37(3): 268-276.

60-world2 http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-manchester-29759774

60-world2 http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-manchester-31653461

60-world2 http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-cornwall-31753504

60-world2 http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-cornwall-32049073

An Uncomfortable Encounter for David Cameron in the ‘Auditory Space’ of Radio 1

By Ashley Crowson, King’s College London.

The UK election campaign has, so far, been a rather dull, stage-managed affair, with political leaders tending to opt for speeches to the party faithful and heavily choreographed photo opportunities over grillings from well informed, forthright and inquisitorial journalists.

In this context, it was incredibly exciting to hear David Cameron subjected to a ‘mauling’ at the hands of a panel of young people during a Q&A for BBC Radio 1’s ‘live lounge’.

In what was arguably the toughest media appearance the Prime Minister has faced during this campaign, Radio 1’s young audience quizzed Cameron on, among other subjects, his record on homelessness, his refusal to rule out a coalition with homophobic political parties, and whether he would like to see the introduction of a living wage.

The PM’s handling of these questions does not make for comfortable listening.

The public service remit of Radio 1 is to “engage a broad range of young listeners with a distinctive mix of contemporary music and speech” and to “reflect the lives and interests of 15-29 year olds”. In the March edition of Geography Compass, Catherine Wilkinson explores radio that fulfils a broadly similar role, arguing that it offers “crucial spaces of development for young people’s identities, and a space of creative learning outside of a more formal environment of school.” (p. 127)

Wilkinson’s focus is youth engagement with ‘community’ radio, i.e. radio with a public function serving geographic, ethnic, cultural or social communities. Reviewing literature dealing with community radio, Wilkinson contends that programming created both by and for young people in an urban context allows them to “listen to discussions by their peers about how they resist the social restraints erected for them by their families and the wider society. In this scenario, radio functions as an alternative space for those young urbanites who have limited public spaces to meet and share stories about their social and cultural interests” (p.131).

Such broadcasting creates “genuine potential for community radio stations to provide young people with a space for the exploration and exhibition of voice, and a space that has inclusionary potential.” As such, “community radio… is a means of agency for young people and of negotiating marginalisation, and… is affectively central to disenfranchised urban young people in attaining civic participation.” (p.135)

The Radio 1 Live Lounge encounter with David Cameron does appear to be an example of meaningful civic participation fostered by youth-centred radio. The panel of young people articulated a political vision attentive to LGBTQ rights, and the rights of migrants and society’s most vulnerable; priorities that have not always been so prominent in less youth-centric election coverage. This encounter, then, raises some interesting questions about the capacity of youth radio’s auditory space, in the absence of the availability of traditional public spaces for young people, to act as a catalyst in the formulation and projection of a distinctive ‘youth voice’.

More broadly, Wilkinson’s paper represents a small shift within geographical research from the visual to the aural. As Alasdair Pinkerton (2014) notes, “it is important to recall that prior to the development of textual communication, human experiences of space was largely conditioned through shared oral traditions.” (p.64)

 Catherine Wilkinson, 2015, Young People, Community Radio and Urban LifeGeography Compass, DOI: 10.1111/gec3.12197.

 Alasdair Pinkerton, 2014, ‘Radio‘ In: Paul Adams, Jim Craine and Jason Dittmer, eds. The Ashgate Research Companion to Media Geography. Ashgate, pp. 53-68.

Gridlock: GIS in transport planning

By Joseph J. Bailey (@josephjbailey), University of Nottingham, UK.

It is not hyperbole to state that we are witnessing a revolution in the human sciences … fuelled by a stunning advancement in capabilities to capture, store and process data, as well as communicate information and knowledge derived from these data” (Miller and Shaw, 2015; p. 180)

We have all been there, haven’t we? Powerlessly sitting in a vehicle amidst of a sea of pollutants. I am of course referring to the traffic jam. They are often the result of rapid urban expansion around city centres that were simply not designed with such volumes of traffic in mind. It is something that people the world over can relate to. Indeed, Statista (with TomTom data) recently released a graphic that identifies the world’s worst cities for gridlock (also see: IB Times, Forbes). Drivers on a thirty minute commute (with no traffic) in Istanbul, Mexico City, Moscow, Saint Petersburg, Bucharest, and Recife (Brazil) could expect to spend more than 100 hours a year in gridlock; that’s over 4 days a year just sitting in a car stationary in traffic! The sheer volume of waste that traffic causes (fuel, money, time) has hugely negative effects on the environment, economy, and human wellbeing. Environmentally, of course, pollutants are also a significant problem, posing risks to both the natural world and human health.

‘GIS’, or ‘Geographic Information Systems’, is now ubiquitous in geographical research and beyond. It refers to an array of processing and analysis techniques that use spatial data and theory (see the QGIS introduction to GIS online). GIS can be used across an enormous range of research from natural disaster management and monitoring deforestation, to biodiversity science and geomorphology. This post considers GIS in transport planning.

Rgoogin at the English language Wikipedia [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/), GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], from Wikimedia Commons. Available at: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:New_York_City_Gridlock.jpg

New York in Gridlock. Source: Rgoogin at the English language Wikipedia [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/), GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), from Wikimedia Commons. Available here.

Miller and Shaw (2015), writing in Geography Compass, recently discussed GIS-T (GIS for Transportation), providing an update update on their previous work from 2001. The quote at the top of this post says a great deal in itself and, while people referring to data volumes and computing power is so common it is bordering on a cliché, it really is true and we need intelligent systems to make both sense and use of it. The heart of GIS-T projects is identified as a georeferenced transportation database, probably using a spatial network in which locations, nodes (e.g. junctions), distances, and directions can all be represented in a model. With this spatial network in place, mobile objects (e.g. people, vehicles, freight) can then be incorporated and modelled. Terrain (e.g. if somewhere is very steep) and human-imposed features (e.g. congestion zones, toll roads) can also be considered where they may affect traffic flow and peoples’ decisions.

We are now comfortably into the 21st century, and new technologies can help provide information for GIS-T models. Most notably, GPS technology is widely available in most vehicles and on most individual people (via a phone or tablet). Such mobile tech means that “it is now feasible to collect large amounts of data from a wide range of mobile sensors in real-time or near-real-time at high spatial and temporal granularity” (Miller and Shaw, 2015; p. 185). A better understanding of how people move should help with urban planning, in terms of both policy making and infrastructure design, by allowing scenarios of certain decisions (e.g. creation of a congestion zone where people have to pay to drive into the city centre) to be incorporated into the GIS-T models.

GIS is a fantastic geographical analysis and problem-solving tool that needs to be fully harnessed and applied to a range of problems (from traffic management to conservation planning) if we are to cope in our increasingly busy and complicated world. As we have seen here, GIS-T has enormous potential in urban planning, utilising quantities of fine-scale data that we have never had at our disposal before. Hopefully this will be able to make for more efficient and sustainable cities, towards improved environments, economies, and human wellbeing.


books_icon Miller, H. J. and Shaw, S. (2015). Geographic Information Systems for Transportation in the 21st Century. Geography Compass, 9 (4), 180 – 189.

New in Area – Issue 2 Editors’ spotlights, & the 2014 Area Prize recipient announced

By Fiona Nash, Managing Editor RGS-IBG

Area new issue

Issue 2 of Area is now available on-line; the Editors’ highlights include:

This issue of Area also officially announces the 2014 Area Prize recipient . Part of Area’s mission is to be accessible to new researchers, including postgraduate students and academics at an early stage in their careers. The purpose of the Area Prize is to encourage submissions from new researchers and to reward excellent geographical research. The winner receives a cash prize of £500. The field of eligible papers were of a very high quality.

This year, the prize was awarded to Rory Horner (University of Manchester) for his paper ‘Postgraduate encounters with sub-disciplinary divides: entering the economic/development geography trading zone’ (Area 46 435–442). Rory’s paper is free to access for the next 12 months.

Honourable mentions go to Hannah M Chiswell (University of Exeter, UK) for ‘The value of the 1941–1943 National Farm Survey as a method for engagement with farmers in contemporary research’ (Area 46 426–434) and Saskia Warren (University of Manchester, UK) for ‘ “I want this place to thrive”: volunteering, co-production and creative labour’ (open access) (Area 46 278–284).

To find out more about the Area Prize, visit the journal’s Wiley Online Library.




Silence of the Lambs? Farm animal subjectivity in welfare research

Kate Whiston, University of Nottingham

Lambs: a typical Spring scene Source: Wikimedia Commons

Lambs: a typical Spring scene
Source: Wikimedia Commons

It’s that time of year; fields are bursting with prancing lambs, cows graze on the lush Spring grass, and cute chicks are as abundant in incubators as they are on Easter cards. What better time than to remind ourselves of the ongoing debates surrounding farm animal welfare that proliferate scientific, political, and public realms, and – more importantly to the geographers amongst us – the relevance of geography to these debates.

Johnston’s (2013) article in Geography Compass identifies two areas of geography that contribute theoretically to animal welfare research. Firstly, the geography of science, part of the broader field of Science and Technology Studies (STS), views scientific knowledge production as spatially, culturally, and historically grounded. That’s to say, research in animal welfare is constituted by spatial, cultural, and historical factors. Secondly, animal geography views animals as active political agents, and engages with animal subjectivity, the spaces they live in, and their moral rights.

This consideration of subjective well-being is a relatively new addition to the previously physiologically-orientated assessment of farm animal welfare. Animal subjectivity is not directly measurable, although it may be indirectly measured through an animal’s cognitive capacities. Animal scientists believe cognitive capacity to be linked to animals’ ability to suffer emotionally and to be consciously aware of their experiences. Needless to say, farm animals are cleverer than we think, not quite to the extent that George Orwell portrays in Animal Farm, but they still have mental and emotional capacities far greater than is accredited to them.

A recent article on Dairy Herd Management’s website discusses the practicalities of implementing this idea of farm animal subjectivity. According to the article, there are three main measures for evaluating dairy cow welfare; ‘biological functioning’ (animal health and productivity), ‘affective state’ (emotions), and ‘natural living’ (ability to behave naturally). Farmers strive to optimise the biological function of their dairy cows, whilst trying to avoid compromising their subjective welfare. A further farming article, this time on Farming UK’s website, has illustrated the subjective welfare of free range chickens. Farmers with chickens emphasise the welfare benefits of letting them roam free outdoors. ‘Natural living’ – interacting with other chickens and their environment – farmers argue, allows chickens to live happier, more ethical lives.

Productivity v subjectivity: dairy farming is not without its moral issues Source: Wikimedia Commons

Productivity v subjectivity: dairy farming is not without its moral issues
Source: Wikimedia Commons

Further emphasising geography’s relevance, Johnston also identifies and investigates three ‘spaces’ of knowledge production in farm animal welfare research. The first is geopolitical ‘space’; animal welfare is often part of the public agenda and parliamentary reform, meaning that farm animals are enrolled in human political systems. All farm animals are political subjects; in true Animal Farm style, they actively shape farm infrastructure, research agendas, and policies. The second ‘space’ is the research environment itself. Making use of Actor Network Theory (ANT), geographers have suggested that the production of knowledge in farm animal welfare research is tied up in networks of people, animals, and institutions. The third and final ‘space’ of knowledge production is the most complex; animals’ spaces, or the ‘location’ of their subjective experience. These spaces are two fold; animals’ bodies (in their nervous system) and animals’ environments (the spaces that they inhabit). Thus, farm animal subjectivity is relational, produced through their interactions with their environments. The production of knowledge in animal welfare research is, therefore, complexly linked to politics, science, and the animals themselves.

So next time you see farm animals blissfully frolicking in a farmer’s fields, remember that all is not as it seems in this typical Spring scene. The animals may seem passive and content, but they are, in fact, active political subjects with cognitive capacities strong enough to feel emotional and physical suffering, and to be consciously aware of their experiences. Along with scientists and activists, farm animals themselves are fighting an inherently geographical battle to improve farm animal welfare.

Cute and cuddly (and politically active!) Source: Wikimedia Commons

Cute and cuddly (and politically active!)
Source: Wikimedia Commons

books_icon Johnston, C.L. (2013). “Geography, Science, and Subjectivity: Farm Animal Welfare in the United States and Europe”, Geography Compass, 7(2):139-148.

60-world2  http://www.dairyherd.com/news/successful-animal-welfare-planning-your-farm

60-world2  http://www.farminguk.com/News/Egg-producers-promote-a-million-reasons-to-choose-free-range-_30965.html