Place branding strategies are increasingly used to promote cities, regions and national parks. In this paper we analyse the evolution of landscape governance in three Flemish regions to discern the virtues of these place branding strategies in relation to other forms of environmental policy and spatial planning. In all three regions state led policies and comprehensive planning efforts were gradually complemented and replaced by more participatory planning approaches and place branding strategies that use the landscape as a frame for coordinating land use activities and development. The study shows that place branding strategies can be a useful addition to other policy instruments and strategies. A focus on place identity and value creation can help in reconciling the various environmental, social, and economic interests. The study also shows that policies, plans and place brands that are developed outside a political context that is experienced as legitimate and inclusive by the different stakeholders are more difficult to implement and might in the long run undermine landscape governance.
All over the world planners are developing novel approaches to manage urban growth in more sustainable ways, in ways more sensitive to spatial quality and to social, economic and ecological contexts. There is a widely shared understanding that the success of such approaches depends on the possibilities to integrate an almost overwhelming variety of objectives. Smart growth has emerged in recent decades as a comprehensive version of planning which can likely achieve this goal of complex coordination. Smart growth is a comprehensive version of spatial planning thatcan guide sustainable development and tackle negative social and environmental consequences of urbanization. In our paper Place as layered and segmentary commodity. Place branding, smart growth and the creation of product and value we explore how an integration of spatial planning and place branding strategies can further the concept of smart growth and improve its chance at implementation. A review of the parallel evolutions of place branding and smart growth shows their shared interest in comprehensive visions, sensitivity for narratives of place and self, and the proposed embedding in participatory governance. The concept of layered and segmentary commodification offers a novel perspective on value creation in smart growth and helps to develop new forms of smart growth, that combine and integrate elements of spatial planning and place branding.