On June 10-11, 2021, the workshop on Territorial Brands in the Alpine Region took place. Territorial brands are collective promotional initiatives established with the aim to promote local produce, foodstuffs, crafts, and services from a specific area. Compared to other collective instruments such as geographical indications or destination brands, they are still under-studied and little-understood. The workshop, at its second edition, had the goal to bring together policy makers, experts, territorial brand managing organisations, NGOs, and interested parties to discuss together about the challenges of smaller-scale brands and their specific contributions to sustainable economic, social, cultural and environmental development in peripheral Alpine areas. The workshop was organized in the framework of the activities of Action Group 6 (natural and cultural resources) of the EU Strategy for the Alpine Region (EUSALP), by the Permanent Secretariat of the Alpine Convention, the Land of Carinthia, Eurac Research, and Polo Poschiavo.
Thanks to various excellent presentations and the discussion with the public, various important insights emerged from the workshop.
1. Territorial brands are still under-investigated. Academic work on territorial brands is limited and fragmented across different disciplines that do not share widely accepted terminologies or definition. These territorial development instruments are called in different manners (place brands, regional brands, local brands, etc.), operate at different geographical scales (e.g., municipality, province, region, canton, etc.), and are created by different actors with a mix of bottom-up and top-down approaches. Territorial brands, because of their collective nature, have peculiarities that make it difficult to manage them based on the insights developed in the context of individual brands such as Dior or Coke. More research is needed on how to run these initiatives effectively.
2. Territorial branding practices differ in the different countries constituting the Alpine Region. Territorial brands in Austria, France, Italy, Germany, Austria, and Slovenia can adopt very different legal forms and organizational structures and carry out different activities such as product certification, collective promotion, market research, new product or packaging development, training and consulting, etc. The creation of networking opportunities for territorial brand managing organisations and their stakeholders can be beneficial for knowledge transfer and the creation of an international community of practice.
3. Territorial brands coexist in a symbolic space with other brands providing quality signals to consumers. These include the individual brands of member firms, as well as other collective brands such as destination brands, geographical indications (protected designations of origins and protected geographical indications), organic farming certifications, and the optional quality term “mountain product”. Consumers often have limited awareness of these labels and often do not understand their meaning. From the perspective of producers, belonging in these initiatives or quality schemes generate costs and organizational effort – each is in competition with each other. More work is required to understand synergies and complementarities of these initiatives not only from the perspective of participating actors, but also in terms of their different potential for territorial development.
4. Territorial brands should listen more to their members as well as to consumers. Territorial brands have a dual market: consumers but also participating farmers and firms, who join for different reasons and can have different expectation. Sometimes, the latter do not feel sufficiently listened to from territorial brand managers. Better understanding the needs of participating firms can ensure their satisfaction and continuing participation in the territorial brand’s initiatives.
5. Territorial brands can help member firms increase their sustainability performances, particularly in the areas of adaptation to a reduction of climate change and transition to a circular economy. Territorial brands can set product specifications and rule of the games that do not only serve as a guarantee of local origin, but also accompany producers to improve on their environmental performances by favouring biodiversity, pesticide reduction, climate resilience, the transition to a circular economy, and resource sensitivity. Many speakers have shared best practices in this respect, as well as methodologies to anticipate the future impact of macrotrends or to quantify their possible positive external effect in this respect. Better measurements of these positive externalities can contribute legitimize territorial brands in the eyes of policy makers and consumers.
6. Territorial brands can and should be supported by policies and funding programmes at the EU, national, and regional levels. Territorial brands can be considered policy instruments to achieve various goals such as prioritised by the EU Common Agricultural Policy and the Farm to Fork strategies. Funding needs however to accelerate existing bottom-up territorial development processes, to ensure that territorial brands be sustainable once funding is over.