Balancing between thick and thin regional identities: The case of De Achterhoek, The Netherlands

Henk Hofstede*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose – The aim of this paper is to assess the thinning notion in a case study while acknowledging the hybrid nature of regional identities with the past. In The Netherlands, a process can be observed in which regions actively claim their uniqueness to ensure their development and relevance. It seems that regions adopt similar modern labels in their regional marketing, suggesting a so-called thinning of identities away from traditional thick identities. Design/methodology/approach – The paper is based on a content analysis of promotional texts and interviews with politicians to analyse the context, aims and perceptions of the regional marketing. It stresses an approach which sees identities as balanced between the present and the past. Findings – In line with the thinning notion, this case study shows indeed a creation of new thin elements and an exclusion of traditional thick elements in the regional marketing. However, it was also found that the marketing entails creative links between both characteristics, which suggest a tempering of the thinning notion. Practical implications – The results show that linking traditional with utilitarian elements might capacitate traditional regions to allocate the resources for regional marketing more effectively. Originality/value – Despite the fact that studies acknowledge identities as neither thick nor thin, the thinning notion seems to examine both elements as a dichotomy within regions, which does not follow the nature of identities as interconnected in time. Then, the value of this study must be found in the way it goes behind such a dichotomy by presenting an integrative analysis of thin and thick characteristics.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)126-140
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Place Management and Development
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 8-Jul-2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Competitive state
  • Declining regions
  • Regional marketing
  • The Netherlands
  • Thin and thick regional identities

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