Place Branding and Public Diplomacy

, Volume 14, Issue 2, pp 115–124 | Cite as

Place branding strategies in the context of new smart cities: Songdo IBD, Masdar and Skolkovo

  • Olga KolotouchkinaEmail author
  • Gildo Seisdedos
Original Article


The expanding networks of information and communication technology (ICT) enabling the connection of places, people and objects shape the reality of urban development nowadays. Although the spread of digitally led urban innovations remains uneven around the world, some places have started a progressive transition towards smart city format. Two dimensions are usually highlighted among the main features of smart urban development. The reliance on the intensive use of ICT to address the most challenging issues of urban planning is emphasised from a technological perspective. On the other hand, a more holistic scenario enhances citizens’ inventiveness, collective intelligence and knowledge-based urban development. The impact of ICT on urban development and representation is particularly remarkable when an entire new city is built following a smart city approach. Three relevant examples would be Songdo International Business District (Songdo IBD) City in South Korea, Masdar City in Abu Dhabi and Skolkovo City in Russian Federation, built to challenge the status quo of urban dynamics. Through a case study approach, this paper explores the most salient features of the place branding strategy of these new smart cities, focussed on creating an exclusive and technology-led business innovation ecosystem for highly skilled residents.


Place branding Smart city Songdo IBD Masdar Skolkovo 


  1. Anholt, S. 2010. Places: Identity, Image and Reputation. London: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  2. Aurigi, A. 2016. No need to fix: Strategic inclusivity in developing and managing the smart city. Amayo Caldwell G., Smith C.H., Clift E.M. (eds.) Digital Futures and the City of Today. New Technologies and Physical Spaces. Bristol/Chicago: Intellect.Google Scholar
  3. Benedikt, O. 2016. The valuable citizens of smart cities: the case of Songdo City. Graduate Journal of Social Science. 12 (2): 17–36.Google Scholar
  4. Blume, T., and G. Langenbrinck. 2004. Relational urbanism and new media. Berlin: Jovis.Google Scholar
  5. Burd, G., S.J. Drucker, and G. Gumpert (eds.). 2007. The Urban Communication Reader. Cresskill, NJ: Hampton.Google Scholar
  6. Calzada, I., and C. Cobo. 2015. Unplugging: deconstructing the smart city. Journal of Urban Technology 22 (1): 23–43. doi: 10.1080/10630732.2014.971535.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Capdevila, I., and M.I. Zarlenga. 2015. Smart city or smart citizens? The Barcelona case. Journal of Strategy and Management 8 (3): 266–282.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Carrillo, F., et al. 2008. Rising knowledge cities: the role of urban knowledge precincts. Journal of Knowledge Management 12 (5): 8–20.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Castells, M. 1996. The rise of the network society. The information age: Economy, society and culture, vol. 1. Chichester: Wiley.Google Scholar
  10. Cisco. 2017. The City of the Future: Songdo, South Korea., accessed 17 July, 2017.
  11. Chadwick International. 2017. History-Mission., accessed 17 July, 2017.
  12. Cugurullo, F. 2013. How to build a sandcastle: An analysis of the genesis and development of Masdar City. Journal of Urban Technology 20 (1): 23–37. doi: 10.1080/10630732.2012.735105.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Curators of Sweden. 2017., accessed 5 March 5 2017.
  14. Dinnie, K. (ed.). 2011. City branding. Theory and cases. London: Palgrave MacMillan.Google Scholar
  15. Fernández, M. 2013. Smart cities of the Future? Hemment y Townsend (eds.) Smart Citizens. Manchester: FutureEverything., accessed 16 September 2016
  16. Florek, M., and M. Kavaratzis. 2014. From brand equity to place brand equity and from there to the place brand. Place Branding and Public Diplomacy 10 (2): 103–107.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Florida, R. 2002. The Rise of the Creative Class and How It’s Transforming Work, Leisure, Community and Everyday Life. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  18. Forsberg, T., and H. Smith. 2016. Russian cultural statecraft in the Eurasian space. Problems of Post-Communism 63 (3): 129–134. doi: 10.1080/10758216.2016.1174023.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Fundación Telefónica. 2015. La Sociedad de la Información en España 2015. Report (in Spanish)., accessed 10 October, 2016.
  20. Graham, S., and S. Guy. 2002. Digital space meets urban place: Sociotechnologies of urban restructuring in downtown San Francisco. City 6 (3): 369–382. doi: 10.1080/1360481022000037788.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Graham, S. (ed.). 2004. The Cybercities Reader. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  22. Go, F.M., and R. Govers. 2011. International Place Branding Yearbook: Managing Reputation under Competing Pressures. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  23. Gonçalves C.S. 2016. Information, communication and the digital city. Amayo Caldwell G., Smith C.H., Clift E.M. (eds.) Digital Futures and the city of today. New Technologies and Physical Spaces. Bristol/Chicago: Intellect.Google Scholar
  24. Govers, R. 2015. Rethinking Virtual and Online Place Branding. In Kavaratzis, M. et al. (eds.), Rethinking Place Branding. Springer International Switzerland. doi:  10.1007/978-3-319-12424-7_6.
  25. Greenfield, A. 2013. Against the smart city. New York: Do.Projects.Google Scholar
  26. GSMA Intelligence. 2017., accessed 5 March 2017.
  27. Gumpert, G., and S.J. Drucker. 2007. The city and the two sides of reciprocity. In The Urban Communication Reader, ed. G. Burd, S.J. Drucker, and G. Gumpert. Cresskill: Hampton.Google Scholar
  28. Hajer, M. A. and Dassen, T. 2014. Smart about cities: Visualising the challenge for 21st century urbanism. Rotterdam: nnai010publishers/PBL publishers.Google Scholar
  29. Hanna, S.A., Rowley J. 2015. Rethinking Strategic Place Branding in the Digital Age. Kavaratzis, M. et al. (eds.), Rethinking Place Branding, pp: 85-100. Springer International Switzerland. DOI  10.1007/978-3-319-12424-7_6.
  30. Hartmann, M. 2009. The changing urban landscapes of media consumption and production. European Journal of Communication. 24 (4): 421–436. doi: 10.1177/0267323109345521.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Internet Live Stats. 2017., accessed 14 July, 2017.
  32. Jack Nicklaus Golf Club. 2017. Songdo IBD., accessed July 15, 2017.
  33. Kangas, A. 2013. Governmentalities of Big Moscow: Particularising neoliberal statecraft. Geopolitics 18 (2): 299–314. doi: 10.1080/14650045.2012.723288.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Kavaratzis, M., G. Warnaby, and G. Ashworth. 2015. Rethinking Place Branding Comprehensive Brand Development for Cities and Regions. Switzerland: Springer International. doi: 10.1007/978-3-319-12424-7_1.Google Scholar
  35. Koeck, R., and G. Warnaby. 2015. Digital chorographies: Conceptualising experiential representation and marketing of urban/architectural geographies. Architectural Research Quarterly 19 (2): 183–192. doi: 10.1017/S1359135515000202.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. KPF. 2017. New Songdo City., accessed July 17, 2017.
  37. Lobo, R. 2014. Could Songdo be the world’s smartest city? World Finance., accessed 20 October 2016.
  38. Masdar City. 2017., accessed 14 July 2017.
  39. Merrilees, B., D. Miller, and C. Herington. 2012. Multiple stakeholders and multiple city brand meanings. European Journal of Marketing 46 (7/8): 1032–1047. doi: 10.1108/03090561211230188.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Mobile World Capital Barcelona. 2017., accessed March 5, 2017.
  41. Monitor Deloitte. 2015. Smart cities… Not just the sum of its parts. Report., accessed July 5, 2017.
  42. Nguyen, T.M.P., and K. Davidson. 2017. Contesting green technology in the city: techno-apartheid or equitable modernisation? International Planning Studies. doi: 10.1080/13563475.2017.1307719.Google Scholar
  43. Olins, W. 2008. The Brand Handbook. London: Thames and Hudson.Google Scholar
  44. Oliveira, E., and E. Panyik. 2015. Content, context and co-creation: Digital challenges in destination branding with references to Portugal as a tourist destination. Journal of Vacation Marketing 21 (1): 53–74. doi: 10.1177/1356766714544235.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Ouroussoff, N. 2010, 25 September. In Arabian Desert, a Sustainable City Rises. New York Times., accessed July 15, 2017.
  46. Picon, A. 2015. Smart cities. A spatialized Intelligence. West Sussex: Wiley. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  47. Premalatha, M., et al. 2013. The promise and the performance of the world’s first two zero carbon eco-cities. Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews 25: 660–669.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Rifkin, J. 2011. The Third Industrial Revolution: How Lateral Power Is Transforming Energy, the Economy, and the World. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  49. Rheingold, H. 2002. Smart Mobs: The Next Social Revolution. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Perseus.Google Scholar
  50. Sassen S. 2011. Talking back to your intelligent city. McKinsey & Company., accessed July 2, 2017.
  51. Schlögel, K. 2015. Planet Moscow, a guide to the changing landscape of power. International Journal of Urban Sciences 19 (1): 64–72. doi: 10.1080/12265934.2014.966139.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Sevin, E. 2014. Understanding cities through city brands: City branding as a social and semantic network. Cities 38: 47–56. doi: 10.1016/j.cities.2014.01.003.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Sharafutdinova, G. 2012. The Limits of the Matrix. Problems of Post-Communism 59 (3): 17–30. doi: 10.2753/PPC1075-8216590302.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Skolkovo. 2017. City life., accessed July 14, 2017.
  55. Songdo IBD. 2017., accessed July 5, 2017.
  56. Telefonica. 2015. Smart cities. La Transformación digital urbana. Report. (in Spanish)., accessed October 14, 2016.
  57. Tham, A., G. Croy, and J. Mair. 2013. Social media in destination choice: distinctive electronic word-of-mouth dimensions. Journal of Travel & Tourism Marketing 30: 144–155. doi: 10.1080/10548408.2013.751272.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. The Future Build. 2017., accessed July 15, 2017.
  59. Townsend, A. 2013. Smart Cities: Big Data, Civic Hackers, and the Quest for a New Utopia. New York and London: WW Norton & Company.Google Scholar
  60. Townsend, A. 2014. Utopolis: A manifesto for smart city development. The European.–2/8244-a-manifesto-for-smart-city-development, accessed July 7, 2017.
  61. UNEP. 2013. City-Level Decoupling: Urban resource flows and the governance of infrastructure transitions. A Report of the Working Group on Cities of the International Resource Panel. Swilling M., Robinson B., Marvin S. and Hodson M.Google Scholar
  62. Williamson L., 2013, 2 September. Tomorrow’s cities: Just how smart is Songdo? BBC News Seoul,, accessed July 15, 2017.
  63. Yin, R.K. 2009. Case Study Research Design and Methods. Los Angeles: SAGE.Google Scholar
  64. Zartman, W.I. 2005. Comparative case studies. International Negotiation 10: 3–15. doi: 10.1163/1571806054741137.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Zenker, S. 2011. How to catch a city? The concept and measurement of place brands. Journal of Place Management and Development 4 (1): 40–52.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Macmillan Publishers Ltd 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Faculty of Humanities and Communication SciencesUniversidad San Pablo-CEU, CEU UniversitiesMadridSpain
  2. 2.IE Business SchoolMadridSpain

Personalised recommendations