Purpose – The aim of the paper is to carry out a contemporary and concise “state-of-the-art” review of the city branding research domain, in particular how scholars have approached this field of study, what aspects of city branding have been studied, what cities have been chosen, and how the studies are designed.
Design/methodology/approach – Through an iterative search in multiple literature databases, 217 qualified research studies on city branding were identified and retrieved. Those studies were examined, analyzed and categorized according to six categories: bibliographical data, methodologies used, empirical foundation, conceptual frameworks, branding elements, and reported outcomes of branding efforts.
Findings – City branding is emerging as an internationally recognized research domain characterized by a high degree of multi-disciplinary, rapid proliferation in and between disciplines, and a somewhat fragmented theoretical foundation. On the basis of research interests, three perspectives were identified (producing, consuming, and criticizing city branding) emerging across academic disciplines
Research limitations/implications – The study is based on research articles in English, published in academic journals, which limits the international and professional scope of the study. Another limitation is the selected time period, which does not include studies prior to 1988 or later than 2009.
Originality/value – As a state-of-the-art review, the main contribution of this paper is a contemporary and comprehensive overview of the field as such. A methodological contribution is the attempt to run a multi-variate analysis of the branding elements in relation to the output and performance data reported in the studies. Another contribution is the identification of three cross-disciplinary research perspectives in the field today.
Emerald Group , 2011. Vol. 4, no 1, 9-27 p.