Geographies of Place Branding : Researching through small and medium sized cities

Abstract: Place branding is commonly conceptualized with a focus on big cities, such as London, New York and Singapore, building from concepts and models from mainstream branding theory. In contrast to such conceptualizations, this thesis focuses on place branding in small and medium-sized cities. The present thesis aims to study place branding from a geographical perspective. It starts with debates theoretical and empirical understandings of place branding; what it is and how it is affecting the places where it is introduced. The thesis develops and argues for a perspective of territoriality and relationality to place branding discussing concepts, methods and empirical approaches to carry out place branding research using geographical perspectives. Empirically, this thesis focuses on in-depth studies of place branding in small and medium-sized cities in Sweden. By analyzing the development of place branding over the course of time, nuances and aspects of both territorial and relational origin emerge, situating place branding practices within a wider spatial contextualization. Four individual papers are presented, which taken together contribute to the aim of the thesis. Paper 1 introduces the place branding research field in geography and how it has developed; Paper 2 investigates the phenomena of flagship buildings located in small cities and towns; Paper 3 discusses the relationship between policy tourism and place branding; and Paper 4 analyzes how local environmental policies are affected by green place branding. The thesis demonstrates the complex and continuously interchangeable spatial structures and place contexts that create and re-produce the geographies of place branding. Here, research models and methodological examples are presented to illustrate how place branding can be studied from a geographical perspective and thus improve theoretical understandings of place branding.