This PhD thesis brings together the strategic spatial planning approach and place branding, specifically at the regional scale. It critically scrutinizes the actual or potential roles of place branding as an instrument for the attainment of strategic spatial planning goals. This discussion is currently gaining particular momentum at a time when the application of branding techniques and principles to places has been firmly positioned on the agendas of local and regional governments. Place branding has also become an increasingly appealing topic for academic research.
The theoretical assumption postulated in this thesis is that place branding could and perhaps should be integrated into strategic spatial planning, independent of the geographical scale of application and whether the place branding initiatives are novel or a re-branding exercise. This thesis investigates the empirical significance of a regional branding strategy for northern Portugal, integrated into wider strategic spatial planning, and its ability to overcome the entrenched regional, economic and social difficulties and imbalances.
To achieve this aim, a qualitative methodology is employed, specifically involving a content analysis of strategic spatial plans, development plans, strategic initiatives, and online traveller-generated content. Sixteen regional actors with a stake and expertise in the region are also interviewed. By drawing the attention of readers – academics, practitioners, policy and spatial planners – to place branding as a strategic spatial planning instrument, this thesis contributes to the theoretical underpinnings of place branding, helping to make it more effective, efficient, and socially and environmentally responsible.