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Place branding in strategic spatial planning: A content analysis of development plans, strategic initiatives and policy documents for Portugal 2014-2020

Eduardo Henrique da Silva Oliveira (Department of Spatial Planning & Environment, Faculty of Spatial Sciences, University of Groningen Groningen, The Netherlands)

Journal of Place Management and Development

ISSN: 1753-8335

Article publication date: 9 March 2015




This paper aims to firstly depict the theoretical links between place branding and strategic spatial planning to provide further theoretical and conceptual foundations. Secondly, it aims to explore the roots of place branding theory and practice in Portugal, as well as how place branding has been approached (or not) in spatial development plans, strategic initiatives and policy documents by stating the territorial, spatial-economic and sectoral development trajectories for the country and its northern region.


A content analysis of 20 spatial development plans, strategies and policy documents (of 30 identified), published by Portuguese authorities, the European Union (EU) and the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, mainly for the period between 2014 and 2020, has been used.


Empirical evidence shows that tourism-oriented promotion initiatives, investment-oriented marketing campaigns and communication strategies uniquely supported by visual elements and aesthetic values (e.g. logos and slogans) deserve more attention from authorities in charge of spatial planning and policy-making. Place branding is an absent term. Moreover, there is inconsistency between current research and practice on place branding and how it has been incorporated in strategic spatial planning at EU, national and regional levels.

Research limitations/implications

Whilst some of the research findings are place-specific (Portugal and its northern region), this exploratory paper aims to present a better understanding of the way in which places and branding can be conceptually addressed, primarily by assigning a spatial dimension to the idea of branding places and its alignment with strategic spatial planning and spatial plan-making.


This paper critically explores the actual or potential roles of place branding as an instrument for the attainment of strategic spatial planning goals through its integration in plan and policy-making. By guiding the attention of academics, practitioners and policymakers towards a strategic spatially oriented approach to place branding, the paper brings an alternative view to the scholarly and professional debate on place branding.



The author thanks Professor Cathy Parker, Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of Place Management and Development, Professor Gregory Ashworth and two anonymous reviewers for helpful comments on earlier versions of this article.


Oliveira, E.H.d.S. (2015), "Place branding in strategic spatial planning: A content analysis of development plans, strategic initiatives and policy documents for Portugal 2014-2020", Journal of Place Management and Development, Vol. 8 No. 1, pp. 23-50.



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