jueves, 21 de junio de 2012

The limits of country branding

Country or Nation-branding is not a term liked by many in the International Relations community. Many decision-makers left aside for many years those “marketing campaigns” that equalized sovereign countries with commercial trademarks. Does Japan need a brand to compete against Toyota? Or South Korea needs a logo to compete against Samsung? Isn’t Mexico a middle power recognized for its culture, its mariachis and tequila? Does it need a new brand?!

However, most countries have realized that branding it is not only about having a commercial logo or a catchy slogan. Peter van Ham, in “Social Power in International Relations,” makes a good effort to explain how country’s leaders have ended up to accept that since every country has a brand, it is better to invest in a good campaign instead of becoming silent in a competitive world.

Image and reputation are parts of the brand, but it is Simon Anholt who has developed a complex hexagon with areas that should be analyzed in order to build up a nation-brand. Future Brand, a consultant firm specialized in branding has also developed its Country Brand Index following a few indicators,[1] which are essentially the same as Anholt’s: culture, people, investment environment, exports, tourism, and governance.

It is true that country or place branding is limited and it does not provide all the possibilities of Public Diplomacy, especially the possibility to interact with others. Nevertheless, it has become a must for every country and a more accepted term nowadays. The question now relies in whether in a world where everyone is investing in its own brand, a small or middle power can really make a difference – i.e. how to successfully exploit those advantages that should help a country to differentiate and construct a comparative advantage. I am thinking in those available “natural” resources that a country is blessed with like Brazil’s soccer player and Carnival’s garotas; Argentina’s Leo Messi; or Peru’s Machu Picchu. But I am also thinking in those created products such as Korea’s K-Pop, Venezuela’s “telenovelas” and India’s Bollywood films.

Public Diplomacy is certainly more complex and rich than country branding, because it implies a real engagement with other countries and cultures, although some strategies of country-branding can boost Public Diplomacy efforts when carefully considered. The issue at stake will always be how to establish a credible image. Mexico is a good example of a country that is investing a lot in country branding[2] in order to reestablish its reputation as a friendly country after many years of continuous violence. Unfortunately, the best country brand campaign will not help to clean the blood in Ciudad Juarez - not the next President nor the Virgen of Guadalupe, are capable of those miracles.

Who can help to hide those? 

[2] MexicoToday.org 

3 comentarios:

  1. I have posted a blog in response to your posting, Alejo. Since it is a bit lengthy, I have posted it to my group blog here: http://publicdiplomacysummer2012au.blogspot.com/2012/06/my-response-to-limits-of-country.html.

    Many thanks!

  2. There is a lot of free and helpful information on place branding at this website - www.strengtheningbrandamerica.com