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Branding the new city: exploring place branding in Saudi Arabia

Turki Shoaib (School of the Built Environment, Oxford Brookes University, Oxford, UK)
Ramin Keivani (School of the Built Environment, Oxford Brookes University, Oxford, UK)

Journal of Place Management and Development

ISSN: 1753-8335

Article publication date: 12 October 2015




This study aims to explore the development of a new city brand in Saudi Arabia. Place Branding theory is geared towards existing places and does not take into account newly developed cities. Here “Place Branding” takes on a new significance. How do we develop a brand for a city that does not yet exist? Who are the actors involved and how do they influence the process?


The study uses discourse analysis to investigate the interplay between actors and place brand development in King Abdullah Economic City (KAEC) for two separate branding scenarios. It is further structured through the theoretical lens of actor-network theory (ANT) to take advantage of relational aspects that can lend insight on how a brand is created and enacted.


Initial findings suggest that branding messages in KAEC are fragmented with little government or other stakeholder involvement leading to poor brand awareness and performance. The study also emphasises the importance of branding practices in the beginning stages of new city development. It further suggests that the message itself, the conceptual place brand, can represent a socially constructed idea or belief that can shape perceptions about the project before physical form is developed.


The case study in Saudi Arabia will highlight the opportunities and pitfalls associated with place branding in the Middle East while comparing the findings with traditional place-branding approaches in existing cities. By contextualizing discourse analysis research within an ANT-based exploration of the KAEC brand’s gestation in Saudi Arabia, the study highlights the meaningfulness of a place brand construct in the process of city creation.



Shoaib, T. and Keivani, R. (2015), "Branding the new city: exploring place branding in Saudi Arabia", Journal of Place Management and Development, Vol. 8 No. 3, pp. 254-265.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2015, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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