Kadembo, Ernest Musungwa (2014) The Narrative/storytelling approach in branding a place: an analytical study of Oldham. Doctoral thesis, University of Huddersfield.

The aim of the study was to determine the extent to which the narrative or storytelling approach shapes a brand with a focus on Oldham. The objectives of the study were to ascertain the nature of stories; understand the way stories are told; identify ways places shape their identity; determine the extent to which stories are mirrored in the unfolding re-branding or re-storying of Oldham; compare Oldham’s experience to Bradford; profile perceptions of the Oldham stakeholders; develop an identity matrix for Oldham; formulate a framework for conceptualising the Oldham brand; make recommendations on the way forward; and suggest an approach to story based branding (story-branding). The conceptual framework states that, This study is a research of the storytelling approach or the narrative in the development of a place brand focusing on Oldham. The four core elements of the theoretical framework of the study include branding, place branding, the case study approach, Oldham and the storytelling or narrative approach.

The researcher’s epistemological perspective is that of a phenomenological interpretivist engaged ethnographically in the study, i.e., grounded in the dynamics of Oldham as a social constructioninst. The methodology employed storytelling, using the narrative by thirty people familiar with Oldham, the Oldham historian’s perspective, eighty questionnaires and a focus group discussion rendering the methodology to a mixed method (triangulation). The literature review showed that the storytelling approach is central to human understanding.

The Oldham brand is diverse given its heritage and its multiple stakeholders. The Oldham story projects hard work leading to global industrial excellence “king cotton”, peaking in 1866 and then deteriorating into dilapidation in the 1970’s and chaos, culminating in the race riots of 2001. Rebranding Oldham is complex as various elements are considered. The researcher recommends consolidation of the story and the utilisation of the great sub-stories of Oldham. The study proposes the Adaptive Story branding Conceptual Framework where the main story is adapted for different stakeholder groups.

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