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The inevitability of essentializing culture in destination branding: the cases of fika and hygge
Journal of Place Management and Development  (IF),  Pub Date : 2021-08-21, DOI: 10.1108/jpmd-12-2019-0114
Laura Caprioli, Mia Larson, Richard Ek, Can-Seng Ooi


This paper aims to focus on the re-presentation of the cultural phenomena hygge in Denmark and fika in Sweden in destination branding and address the inevitability of their essentialization through the branding process.


Three relevant semi-structured interviews with destination marketing organisation’s employees were conducted, as well as a content-based analysis of three social media channels (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram). A total of 465 posts in total were analysed (140 Facebook posts, 109 Twitter posts, 216 Instagram posts).


This study demonstrates how, when communicated through social media, intangible cultural assets are transformed into tangible elements. It explains why the re-presentation and place branding processes necessarily simplify and essentialize the destination.


Destination branding scholars have traditionally criticised the flattening and essentialization of culture in destination branding and have called for a more nuanced approach to presenting a destination. This paper situates destination branding as a process that necessitates the manipulation of the presentation of the destination, which inevitably essentializes the place; this is intended. Critical destination branding researchers need to rethink their criticisms and acknowledge the inherent essentialization goal of destination branding.