Place marketing in small towns: evidence from Main Street Program websites

Authors: Christopher Willer*, Kent State University
Topics: Urban Geography, Urban and Regional Planning, Qualitative Methods
Keywords: place marketing, small cities, Main Street Program, community development
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/4/2019
Start / End Time: 3:05 PM / 4:45 PM
Room: Stones Throw 3 - Mica, Marriott, Lobby Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The National Main Street program is widely heralded as a successful tool in redeveloping small cities and towns. Through the program’s Four Point Approach: design, organization, promotion, and economic vitality, places can follow a guide to revitalize their community and address issues that have plagued their downtowns and commercial corridors since the 1960s. Currently, there are over 1,000 communities in the U.S. adhering to National Main Street Center’s (NMSC) guide. Despite the program’s accolades and widespread usage, little empirical research exists on the Main Street program (MSP) as a promotional tool. Considering the renewed interest in local businesses and redevelopment of traditional downtowns across America, this study examines how small cities and towns following the program are marketed and branded. To address this question, I conducted a content analysis on approximately 800 websites using a Python script to scrape textual data from each website. The data was examined both on a local and aggregate level. Results show varied marketing messages in terms of the extent of the websites reflecting a local or generic sense of place.

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