Category Archives: country branding

The Creativity and Strategy of Nation (Country or City) Branding

By James D. Roumeliotis

When branding comes to mind, we think of products and services. We also come to think of “personal” branding ─ especially in professions such as attorneys, architects, accountants, and the like. Moreover, with the prevalence of freelancing, as well as influencers, branding offers them similar benefits in regard to grooming their image and reputation to attract more clients and fans respectively. However, cities, towns, and even countries have joined the bandwagon and business concept in branding themselves. They do so because they understand the many benefits of branding nations. These include attracting trade, business investment, possibly immigration, and/or tourism. For a few, it may be reputation management due to a negative perception/disrepute of the location.
Nation Branding refers to a process in which a country claims a distinct brand positioning in the minds of its citizens, the global prospect/customer, and international stakeholders. This requires the country to invest resources in coordinating and integrating a multitude of activities.
In many cases, the country image provides credibility to the brand image. Think French wine, Swiss watches, German Cars, Danish designs, and Greek hospitality. Additional examples as consumers top of mind are Italian fashion, Colombian coffee beans, and 100% pure New Zealand wool, and are some of the well-known examples. 
Through effective nation branding, countries, and cities independently, can develop a distinct personality that benefits both the country and its renowned national brands within it. Tourism and national airlines may be the main representation between nation branding and corporate branding. However, there are various other sectors that can also partake an important role in nation brand building.
Countries are turning to PR to revive their global reputations
A Public Relations (PR) agency can bring value and enhance a nation’s reputation. They are storytellers who create narratives to advance their agenda.  Additionally, PR can be used to protect and build reputations through various online and offline media sources, as well as self-produced communications.
When Kuwait was invaded by Iraq, the former hired Hill & Knowlton. The agency was tasked with creating international sympathy along with Western military support for what was essentially an oil-rich undemocratic regime in the Middle East. This worked in its favour.
Where paid media, such as advertising by a country, is normally the default way to promote anything that may be construed as propaganda, earned media, which is what PR is considered, offers to help boost brand awareness, increase credibility and expand reach. Earning media on trusted outlets and news publications not only validates the content created but gives a brand for a nation third-party credibility. PR comprises any publicity or media that is not generated by the country (or city) or any of its agents, but rather by a third party ─ an agency along with organic methods via the targeted audiences, social media fans, journalists, and/or bloggers.
Corporate branding leveraging nation branding
Inherent connections exist between a nation’s brand and the corporate brands that operate within. Both rely on each other, thus leveraging each other’s fortes to build and further their reputation. One corporate sector that typically has close ties to a nation’s brand creation is the airline industry. For example, national carrier airlines such as Emirates in Dubai, Singapore Airlines in the island country of Singapore, and Turkish Airlines in Turkey, have been highly successful in leveraging their respective countries’ image, culture, and values in order to market their services, as well as act as nation brand representatives globally. The experience for visitors begins with the inflight experience.
The task of building soft power, along with a positive image of their nation, is one that policymakers throughout the world are becoming ever more concerned with. The soft power strategy has become popular in Turkish foreign policy. Turkish Airlines, a well-known international airline brand, has evolved into a tool for Turkish soft power because of this appeal and the momentum Turkish public institutions gave Turkey in its pursuit of soft power.
Case Study: Repositioning Greece
In today’s globalized world where national identity loses a step, a country willing to compete must have a brand. This brand should communicate to the world audience Greece’s characteristic values that make up her essence. The louder and clearer this message is broadcasted, the better Greece will emerge among the nations.
Greece is, in fact, easily recognizable globally, as a country mainly for its beautiful landscapes (especially its numerous islands), its history, food, hospitality, and some are even aware that besides tourism and agriculture industry respectively, the country is also known for its powerful merchant shipping domain. Greek shipowners control one-third of the world fleet. However, the fact that Greece enjoys a powerful image overseas does not necessarily mean that the country has a brand, at least not in a brand in the modern meaning of the word. Other countries have successfully built their own brands, but Greece has not, or at least not well enough, other than its Greek Tourism Organization with its annual tourism advertising campaigns (with a different theme and slogan every year).

Greece’s competitive positioning should be entrenched in both the leisure destination as well as an environment full of opportunities inspired by its residents’ lifestyle, boosting the business environment and merging the country as an attractive investment destination. The aim should be to create a country recognized worldwide (especially in the nontraditional international markets) for its unique lifestyle, talented people, innovation, and entrepreneurial culture but certainly without losing its destination branding features within the tourism and hospitality markets. Moreover, Greece can take advantage of its rich culture (philosophy, language, athletics, etc.) to improve its international image and cultivate cooperative relations even with countries that have no direct interests.

Greece should be able to gain competitive advantages over other nations. Being considerate of the nation’s image at home and abroad is paramount for this to transpire. Promoting a specific brand would definitely help.

In the end
Evidently, positioning or repositioning a destination is not an easy task. Effective promotional campaigns and shrewd diplomacy can be utilized as a means to achieve strategic objectives. In doing so, a country or city/town, like a product or service enterprise, should think analytically, target specific audiences, create a unique value proposition, and aim to establish a global brand that resonates. This requires conceptualizing nation branding as a form of national soft power. 

Futurebrand publishes the Country Brand Index every year, which includes an overall ranking of the 75 countries and rankings by dimension, FutureBrand collected quantitative and qualitative data from Approximately 2,500 opinion-formers and frequent international business or leisure travelers in 17 countries (USA, Canada, Brazil, Argentina, UK, Germany, France, Russia, Turkey, South Africa, UAE, India, China, Thailand, Japan, Mexico, and Australia). complete perception dashboards for the top five country brands, regional leaders, and ‘ones to watch’ for the future. Futurebrand tests a global research sample based on the Hierarchical Decision Model (HDM) which involves determining an individual’s awareness, familiarity, association, and preference toward a country’s brand. In their 2018-19 ranking, the top 5 nations’ brands were (ranked from first to fifth) Germany, Switzerland, Japan, Sweden, and Canada. (Source: Wikipedia)

Request your TWO FREE chapters of this popular book with no obligation.

EntrepreneurialEssentials - FrontCover Final

Leave a comment

Filed under Branding, branding strategy, Business, country branding, nation branding