Place Branding: Theories, and Academic Literature Review

What are place brands? What is place branding? What is the difference between place and national brands? How is place branding linked to public diplomacy? Find answers in below collection of theories, concepts and definitions linked to the image, perception, reputation and branding of places – cities, countries, regions, destinations, nations.

Definition of place branding

For place branding to be successful, it needs to be understood as a strategic, holistic concept which goes beyond creating logos, slogans and marketing. Robert Govers and Frank Go (in their 2009 book) put it as follows:

Place branding: The process of discovering, creating, developing and realizing ideas and concepts for reconstructing place identities, their defining traits and ‘genius loci’ and subsequently building the sense of place, by efforts and investments in hardware (e.g. infrastructure, buildings), software (e.g. events, stories), orgware (e.g. co-operative organisational structuring) and virtual ware (e.g. symbols and symbolic actions, websites).

We have written extensively on place branding since then, and the field of research has continuously evolved. Still, this definition is as valid now as it was in 2009.

Want a more detailed overview of place branding definitions? Check out An Insider’s Guide to Place Branding – the Professional Handbook by TPBO (2021, Springer).

Place branding principles

Get to know five place branding principles for successful brand development or management for cities, regions, destinations or nations.

In a nutshell: key concepts explained

Browse our collection of place brand theory posts:

Reading lists for students and researchers

Those lists might be a bit outdated now but still a good start when researching nation branding and public diplomacy in particular. They were kindly made available to us by Professor Oliver Zöllner of Stuttgart Media University in Germany.

Literature reviews

Note from publisher: I compiled those literature reviews when preparing for my phd thesis, which is now over 10 years ago. You may still find those interesting as an introduction and to know about earlier research on those topics. Just make sure to search for latest research as well, for example in these specialist journals covering place branding research.

Brands and branding

Theories, concepts and definitions of the terms brand and branding, their meaning and functions – as discussed in academic literature. View literature on brands and branding

Nation branding perspectives

Why are some people so convinced and optimistic about nation brands, and others so critical and disapproving of only the thought that one could brand a nation? This page introduces the different perspective on nation branding – from market-oriented, functional, to political (public diplomacy), to cultural-critical – as discussed in academic literature. View literature on nation branding perspectives

Differences between nation branding and place branding

Review of academic literature on the differences and similarities between the concepts of place branding and nation branding. View literature on nation vs. place branding

Place image and reputation

Theories, concepts and definitions of place perceptions, their image and reputation, and the factors influencing them – as discussed in academic literature. View literature on place image and reputation

Places and destinations

What is a place? Or a tourist destination? How come our perceptions of the same place or destination can differ considerably? Some thoughts on our perceptions of destinations and places, and how they are constructed, influenced by discourse, for example, the ways in which they are portrayed in the media. View literature on places and destinations

Media representations of places

What role does the mass media play with regard to our perceptions of certain places, and how do news coverage or social media representations influence the image and reputation of places such as countries, cities, regions or destinations? Here is what academic literature has to say about media representations of places. View literature on media representations of places

Nations and national identity

Introduction of nations as ‘imagined communities’ and national identity as influenced and constructed by discourse, language, the media – as discussed in academic literature. View literature on nations and national identity

Green brands and sustainability branding

Review of academic literature on green brands and branding based on environmental and sustainability credentials; functional and emotional components of green brand positioning, reasons for increase in green branding, and a mild warning not to succumb to greenwashing. View literature on green brands and sustainability in branding

Brand integrity, credibility, authenticity

Review of academic literature on the importance and meaning of place brand integrity, credibility, and authenticity. View literature on brand integrity, credibility and authenticity

Brand legitimacy and the role of political and business leadership

Some thoughts in academic literature on what legitimacy is, why perceived brand legitimacy is so important, and the role political and business leadership plays in maintaining brand legitimacy. View literature on brand legitimacy and leadership

Academic literature not your thing? Try our guides or catch up on best practice with our place branding tutorials.