Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Philosophy




Arku, Godwin


For cities in advanced economies, the past three decades have been characterized by a steady increase in the use of place branding, with it becoming an integral part local economic development policy. In the context of this study, place branding goes beyond the traditional understanding of logos and slogans, and instead is understood to be the culmination of intentional and unintentional actions by cities that help create and attenuate the network of connections of the place held in the mind of target audiences.

Place branding is now viewed by local policymakers as a necessary undertaking to respond to local issues that emerge (i.e. the decline of traditional economic sectors, changing demographics and population decline, the rise of the knowledge and creative economies changing position of cities in regional and global competitions for footloose economic resources). Indeed, local governments are now pinning their hopes on place branding as a way to counter many of the ills that their city faces.

Despite the increased attention that place branding has received as a local economic development policy, there is considerable uncertainty over whether it is effective in meeting the hopes and aspirations of the cities that employ it. In short, does it work? To address this question, this dissertation considers place branding’s role in the attraction of three mobile economic resources (talent, immigrants, and businesses) to examine whether it is able to effectively influence these target audiences. Within this dissertation, influence is measured in several ways: place brand awareness, place brand equity, and decision-making of the target audiences. A key contribution of this dissertation is that it reframes the concept of equity to align with the geographical concept of sense-of-place.

Using the Province of Ontario, Canada as the study area, the effectiveness of place branding is quantified through multiple surveys of talent (n = 3951), immigrants (n = 739), and businesses (n = 659). The influence is examined across eight studies through a series of quantitative approaches (i.e. descriptive statistics, ANOVA, regression, exploratory and confirmatory factor analysis, conjoint analysis, and Hierarchical Bayesian estimation). Overall, this dissertation demonstrates that place branding does have an influence on attracting mobile economic resources, and as a result has the potential to be an effective local economic development strategy. However, cities and other local governments need to be strategic in their branding efforts, and consider the brand to more than logos and slogan, to ensure it promotes the correct feature of the city that are meaningful to the target audiences being pursued.