Governments increasingly use place branding strategies to position their cities and urban regions on the inter-territorial competitive stage. Next to spatial planning, it also offers them a new means for setting frameworks and principles to guide the location of development and physical infrastructure and for promoting social, economic and ecologically sustainable development. In recent years, encounters between planning and branding have thus increased in theory and in practice. However, a number of questions about opportunities, threats and implications for spatial governance are yet to be investigated. We discuss here the relationship between spatial planning and place branding. We specifically argue that assessing the planning–branding nexus requires attention to the many ways in which these fields of enquiry can cross-fertilize each other and to the embedding of both in evolving governance systems. Our line of reasoning is that planning and branding have potential to be allies in contributing to integrated socioeconomic development and environmental sustainability. We argue, however, that planning and branding can only effectively contribute to spatial development if they are not isolated from the broader realms of decision-making, and from each other. We conclude by sketching future research domains expanding the understanding of the linkage between planning and branding and how they can join forces in promoting sustainable spatial development.
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