Nation Branding

Nations are now becoming image conscious. This is a recent phenomenon which is very different from the “devil may care” attitude that was common in the past.

Countries are now employing top-notch professional public relations agencies and advertising agencies to carefully cultivate and then improve their brand image. This was earlier done exclusively by corporations.

Events such as World Economic Forum have now become a platform where representatives from different countries gather and each tries to promote their own nation.

In this article, we will have a closer look at how the concept of nation branding has evolved and what it means for the future.

What Is Nation Branding?

Nations have now become aware that their image goes a long way in providing financial benefits.

Many countries are carrying negative images. For instance, Britain may be known for colonialism. On the other hand, African nations may be known as being poor and underdeveloped.

Recently Mexico has been branded as a country where drug violence is out of control. As a result, the tourism industry in Mexico has suffered greatly as international tourists try to stay away from a place where violence and lawlessness is the norm.

These perceptions influence whether people in the international market allocate their finances towards these nations. Many nations are therefore spending top dollar to rebrand themselves. They want to carefully select and cultivate an image and break free from the shackles of their dark past.

For instance, consider the case of countries like Slovenia and Croatia. They were facing dire economic times after they disintegrated from the former Soviet Union. However, these nations were quick to brand themselves as exotic tourist destinations. Because of their marketing efforts, these countries came on the radar of international tourists from developed nations. In the end, the economies of these nations improved significantly thanks to nation branding efforts.

It is important to note that nation branding efforts need to be undertaken by the government or some government authorized agency. The private sector cannot really undertake nation branding efforts.

Objectives of Nation Branding

There could be several objectives for nation branding. Some of the most obvious ones have been listed below.

  • Increasing Tourism Revenue: As mentioned in the article above, nations have successfully used branding to drastically improve their tourism revenue. The traveller’s map has changed a lot in the past two decades, and nation branding has had considerable influence in bringing about that change.

    Many countries still brand themselves as offbeat destinations. It is not uncommon for national governments to run full-fledged advertisement campaigns in other countries where their target tourists are.

  • Increasing Foreign Investment: Nations need to brand their governments as progressive and business-friendly to be able to attract foreign investment.

    Foreign investors have seen their investments being usurped by several tyrannical governments in the past. They want to ensure that the government where they invest money honors free market rules and will allow free entry and exit of capital investments.

    This is why the leaders of many nations attend economic summits. These summits are where the most wealthy investors and leaders of the world come together. India has been able to increase it’s foreign direct investments by leaps and bounds thanks to their branding efforts.

  • Geopolitical Influence: Nation building is also done to increase the geopolitical influence of a nation within its region. For instance, China routinely brands itself as being the economic superpower in the Asia region. This helps it receive favorable trade and investment deals from nearby nations who want to be on good terms with the superpower.

The Impact on Foreign Policy

The rise of nation branding has had several positive and negative impacts on nation branding.

  • On the positive side, countries are becoming cognizant that they live in a competitive world. They understand that nations also have to compete with each other just like businesses have to compete with each other to receive funds from investors. This realization is enough to drive reforms and simplify bureaucracy in many nations.
  • Branding allows even smaller nations to make their voice heard in the international market. These nations would simply be unknown to the tourists and investors if they do not promote themselves.

The problems with nation branding are also manifold

  • It makes national governments complacent. They believe that public relations agencies will fix the entire problem. This is simply not true. Agencies are experts at communication. However, if the underlying policies are not effective, no amount of communication can resolve the issue.
  • A lot of communication agencies are fleecing national governments. They are charging hefty amounts of money to come up with a designer logo and a catchy slogan. The problem is that the money being spent here belongs to the taxpayer.

    A lot of the time branding is prioritized over bringing real reforms in the economy. This is when nation branding becomes wasteful and unnecessary

To sum it up branding is an important tool in the government’s arsenal. However, more tangible reforms should not be neglected in favor of nation branding.

It also needs to be noted that the success of nation branding requires collaboration between the nation’s political and administrative wings at the highest level.

Many nation branding efforts have failed because of lack of coordination between different government bodies.

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