by Fabiana Mariutti and Isabella Poiani*

Reviewed by Matheus Lucas Hebling

This manuscript expands knowledge about place branding, within the scope of a university (university place brand) following the line of research originated in ​​place branding management – which originated from the terminology called place marketing management discreetly discussed by Rein, Kotler, and Haider (1993). In Brazil, the place branding literature is stoutly expanding states Mariutti and Florek (2022) Both lines of research show robustness in the international literature in the last decade, however, place branding reigned in congresses and journals. In terms of contemporary marketing research and practice from a strategic point of view (Mariutti, 2019), in which geographically limited places are recognized as a unit of analysis in scientific publications with multidisciplinary approaches. It is understood that there is a fertile field for investigations based on conceptual evolution, logical rigor, and critical-analytical refinement of theoretical and methodological considerations for the development of studies on place brands or placemark. Also, universities, museums, squares, airports, among other ‘places’ are the object of study in the academic world and consultancies to advance in the understanding or measurement of their status quo and managing the place brand. “A place” can be represented by a municipal, regional, or federal geographic entity (community, neighborhood, city, region, country), or by its components, such as a store, gallery, shopping center, museum, theatre, square, church, hospital, street, avenue, stadium, airport, university, highway, road, inter alia. Perception variations on a brand’s reputation (Bastos & Levy, 2012; de Chernatory, 1999; Fill, 2013; Kapferer, 2018; Keller, 1998; Wheeler, 2008) can increase or decrease the value of the place brand (Florek, Hereźniak, & Augustyn, 2021; Kavaratzis, 2018; Mariutti, 2019) towards the target market of a higher education institution.
It is understood that the reputation of universities has generated interest as a construct in the literature, especially in international scientific production. (Alessandri, Yang, & Kinsey, 2006; Panda, Pandey, Bennett, & Tian, 2019; Parameswaran & Glowacka, 1995; Ressler & Abratt, 2009; Steiner, Sundström, & Sammalisto, 2013). In the case of a university, a campus or a logo can become representative in the decision-making process of residents of the city or country, based on their perception of the university’s reputation. Previous studies evidence this relevance of the reputation of a university brand in both researchers and university brand managers should seek to differentiate their offerings from the competition (Jevons, 2006) and the suitable strategies and competencies as well (Porter, 1999). It is understood that the reputation of universities acts as a construct of interest in the international literature (Panda et al., 2019; Parameswaran & Glowacka, 1995; Ressler & Abratt, 2009; Steiner et al., 2013), as well as in the scenario of reputation indices of higher education institutions (Federkell, 2009; Ressler & Abratt, 2009). The definition of reputation is understood as the result of brand perceptions, developed from different sources and circumstances; reputation is known to be more stable and influential than brand image, as it is formed by a robust set of images associated with a brand over time, in this case, a place brand or a placemark of the university.
Given this theoretical logic, the results of a survey (n = 266) were used to understand the attributes of a place brand based on the foundations of place branding by investigating the brand reputation of a Brazilian university, named @UNI University, in 2019-2020. In To advance the understanding of a place brand in the education market, Exploratory Factor Analysis (EFA) was adopted to reduce the variables’ loadings.
Thus, the evaluation of the reputation of a Brazilian private university was investigated from the perspective of theories of place branding management, with the application of Zenker, Peterson, and Aholt’s scale (2013) and Mariutti and Montanari’s measurement (2019). Regarding the respondents’ profile, most are residents in the city and have already been to an event on the @UNI University campus. Almost half of the respondents are currently students and more than half were @UNI students.
@UNI is seen as having a good reputation in Brazil, with the most significant dimensions being, in non-believing order: Nature and Recreation, Urbanization and Diversity, Employment Opportunities, and Cost-Benefit. Factor 1 is named University Reputation due to the fourteen variables with satisfactory factor loadings that compose it. The naming and retention of these factors are supported by the literature (Panda et al., 2019; Mariutti & Montanari, 2019; Zenker et al., 2013; Ressler & Abratt, 2009; Alessandri et al., 2006; Parameswaran & Glowacka, 1995). Factor 2 is named Regional Impact because of the prevalence of two distinct factors related to career and regional economy. Such indicators of the variables indicate how the respondents’ perception of the university’s reputation is evaluated, when separating the presentation of data by the dimensions studied, it can be noted that:
As predicted in a previous study, the possibility of finding work when studying or graduating from @UNI University was presented as a factor of greater relevance for this study. The recognition for a large number of undergraduate and graduate courses offered and the characteristics of being seen as an inclusive university, remunerating with adequate salaries, and charging a monthly fee in the average of private universities in the city – thus, such findings are close to towards the studies by Panda et al. (2019) and by Steiner et al. (2013). Regarding the importance of physical space (Vela, Nogué, & Govers, 2017; Oliveira, 2015) and infrastructure (Steiner et al., 2013; Bennett and Ali-Choudhury, 2009) as predicted in the literature – there is convergence in the results of this study when the university’s reputation was characterized by a quiet, tree-lined campus with good air quality and easy access to drinking water throughout the campus, as well as the diversity of sports spaces and the majestic @UNI University library, satisfaction with the availability of appropriate housing for on-campus students. In the integral domain of the study, @UNI University was perceived as having a good reputation, superior to the image, defining itself as dominant shaped by an image associated with the place brand over time. Such results demonstrate satisfaction with the university on the part of city residents (mostly) and the state, as it is perceived as a place to live, work, and have fun. However, it is suggested that the positive image in the state, which is located, be reinforced with place branding fundamentals.
Theoretically, as a limitation, we highlight the lack of inclusion of identity as a relevant dimension in the conceptual context of reputation in the university scenario, as well as the evaluation of social and cultural aspects related to the geographic region of the university’s placemark. Also, it is suggested to approach other stakeholders, including potential students, current students, alumni, and employees. Because of this, it is recommended that further research be carried out with a larger sample from other locations in Brazil. Also, to research the phenomenon post-pandemic or annually, for a comparative study and advance in methodological rigor.
Finally, it is expected that this academic study on university reputation will contribute to the literature, as a motivator for the development of the scope of works involving this theme. In the practical aspect, those university educational managements take advantage of such a scale to know their reputation as a place-mark with their faculty, students, employees and residents, locals, or Brazilians in general. These specific results, it is intended to contribute to the development of communications and actions of place marketing and place branding, in the competitive scenario of higher education institutions in Brazil in the last decade. The present recognizes the reputation construct of a university brand as multifaceted and interdisciplinary, which is underpinned by a developing line of research in the literature and corporate terms. However, when distinguishing the perception of various interest groups, it collaborates with the management of its place-brand from the strategic educational administration to maintain a favorable reputation as a market positioning.

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Fabiana Mariutti, Ph.D. USP Alumni. My main topics of interest are the following: branding, place branding; Brazil`s image; international business. E-mail: famariutti@yahoo.com.br

Isabela Poiani  is an administrator works in the marketing area and has a great appreciation for studies related to marketing and place branding. E-mail: isa.poiani@hotmail.com

Fabiana Mariutti and Isabella Poiani (2022) "University Brand Reputation from the Perspective of Place Branding: the Brazilian case". Brazilian Research and Studies Blog. ISSN 2701-4924. Vol. 3 Num. 1. available at: https://bras-center.com/university-brand-reputation-from-the-perspective-of-place-branding-the-brazilian-case/, accessed on: May 21, 2022.