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country branding

Let’s pick a country at random. How about Brazil? (Top row, second from the left.) What images come to mind? Sugarloaf Mountain? The long sandy beach of Copacabana? Ronnie Biggs? It it stable? Safe? Corrupt? Would you consider living there? Retiring there? And where did you get that impression from?

If it’s blues day, it must be Belgium

I’ve just been reading an interesting report from Interbrand on country branding. Yes, it really does exist – and countries spend huge amounts of money trying to control and manage their brand. The Anholt-GfK Roper Nation Brands Index rates 50 countries based on various criteria (exports, governance, culture & heritage, people, tourism, investment & immigration). And the winner is… Germany (yes, I was surprised too). The questions they asked included:
“If money were no object, would you like to visit this country on vacation?”
And a little more chillingly:
“If you were going to be falsely arrested for a crime you didn’t commit, in which country would you prefer this to happen?”
Hmm. I’ll have to think about that one.

We know what you’re thinking

Countries go to enormous effort to change the way we perceive them. And a big part of that effort is coming up with a tagline. Some are obvious (Andorra – the Pyrenean country). Others are a little optimistic (Iran – the land of flowers and birds). Others are baffling (Philippines – more than the usual). Some use humour. Remember Australia’s Where the bloody hell are you? campaign from a few years back? And just occasionally, they say something they don’t really mean (Visit Berlin once). But all are trying to achieve the same aim: managing their country’s brand by creating an image that attracts you.

To brand or not to brand

Interviewed by Sandi Toksvig a couple of years ago on BBC Radio 4’s Excess Baggage programme, Simon Anholt (of the Anholt-GfK Roper Nation Brands Index) made a fascinating point – because it applies to companies as well as countries. He said that the alternative to branding your country is not not branding your country. It’s letting someone else do it for you. He also says that at some level, “every country has the reputation it deserves.” Again, something that could be said of every company. Which is why it’s worth controlling your brand. And sometimes, that means taking the long view. Very long indeed. Anholt said he was talking to a member of the Swedish royal family once, who asked how long it would take to change the image of the country –  if they felt it was necessary. “About 20 or 30 years,” Anholt replied. “Oh, that quick?” she said nonchalantly. Find out more: