Nation Branding Lab


Ido Aharoni on Israel’s Nation Branding

Ido Aharoni, Israel’s Consul General to New York, talks on Knowledge@Wharton about Israel’s nation branding. Watch the full video clip to hear his excellent insights and experience of positioning Israel.

Israel’s brand used to be a producer of conflicts and bad news. When the challenge was defined,  instead of trying to win a debate about an issue, he thought Israel should focus on building a relationship that is meaningful to both the country and consumers by broadening the conversation beyond conflicts and finding ways through research to better communicate Israel’s assets such as creative spirit and innovation.

His long-term effort demonstrates what he believes to take to position a place or a nation: the ability to identify your own competitive edge and to communicate that competitive edge to relevant audience.

During the interview, he names the city of New York, Spain, and Croatia as very successful place positioning efforts. Also, he believes that self-congratulatory messages as one of the least effective strategy in place positioning.

Should Nations Be Using Digital Asset Management Software?

by Ewan MacDougal (guest writer)

In 2003 Thailand launched the “Global Thai” public diplomacy initiative where it sought to boost it’s nation brand by taking a lead in setting up Thai restaurants around the world.  What if this was taken further, hypothetically what if all these restaurants started to look like a franchise with the same layout, same menus and same greeting from the staff?  Then extend this further so that other businesses that operated under the “Thai banner” felt the same, you could get a Thai massage from a parlour that has the same logo as the restaurant the same incense smell and the same colour scheme, extend this to clothing shops and even local markets in the areas where the diasporas shop and all of a sudden visitors to these shops start to believe that what they are visiting is what Thailand is.  If the Thai government could control this brand then they would have taken a lot of ground in their effort to brand the nation.

The problem is there are thousands of these businesses all over the world which operate under a flag, and for the most part each one is operated completely independently, if nation branders want to be able to brand these they may need to borrow yet trick from marketers in big business.  The most successful businesses understood the importance of taking control of how their brand was perceived long before Anholt talked about Nation Branding.  Today these same big businesses have come to rely upon digital asset management software.

Successful businesses like to portray themselves as having a single personality which oozes out of every public face through the style of writing, types of images used fonts and colour schemes.  This corporate style has proved hugely successful at creating brand loyalty and get customers to return again and again.  The bigger a company gets the harder it is to manage this brand, so DAM software seeks to make this easier by putting all the fonts, layout templates and instructions online so anyone internal or external can produce a message that people will recognise.

So should countries start creating a database of layouts fonts and house styles for Diasporas around the world?  On the positive side a well protected brand can really benefit the business owners who could find that there shop benefits from the brands reputation with plenty of repeat business coming their way.  Governments will benefit from being able to have a very direct impact on some of their most influential brand ambassadors.

However nations are far more complex than businesses, if you try and simplify it’s whole brand into one personality you risk losing all the other details that make up a country, people start expecting the country to only be what they’ve expected from the brand and you end up with the hyper real where a country has to start imitating it’s brand.

Nation branders have always struggled when too many aspects of a country have tried to give off separate and conflicting messages, looking at digital asset management could really help nations control this, but where as in business the ultimate aim might be to condense a brand down to one familiar personality nations will benefit more by celebrating their wide ranging voices.

Hug Thailand

After the political unrest in 2009, 2010 in Thailand, The Tourism Authority of Thailand partnered with Leo Burnett Thailand and executed a national campaign, Hug Thailand. The 60-second spot went live on Thailand’s national television.

The spot’s both comforting and humorous message is meant to heal and wounds in the minds of Thailand citizens and encourage them to resume their domestic travels. It attempts to capture the beauty of Thailand and its loving people that hug the nature around them and that will also hug you.

This campaign is unique in that the nation branding is meant to be presented to the nation’s own citizens. Although I believe this campaign was more appealing than Thailand’s international nation branding campaign at that time, “Amazing Thailand,” I am not sure if this domestic campaign was an effective persuasion for Thailand’s wounded and tired citizens. For Thailand, changing the citizens’ opinion on the nation and the government would have been only possible through genuine interaction and dialogue between the citizens and the government (with a new culture).  I doubt that with its communications-based approach, “Hug Thailand” was anything more than telling the people what the government wishes to hear them to think.

The World’s Most Democratic Twitter Account: @Sweden

The Curators of Sweden is a project that aims to present Sweden through the eyes of ordinary citizens. Every week, a Swede takes the exclusive control over the Twitter account, @Sweden.This initiative of the National Board for the promotion of Sweden is to create interest in and arouse curiosity for Sweden by painting the picture of Sweden with the new media.

I first thought that it was a innovatively democratic approach to mass communication by the government. The project isn’t all about what the tweets say. It will be about what the nation is doing with a Twitter account. I also thought that since it targets the worldwide audience, it could be a great way to recover from the unexpected damage to the peaceful reputation of Scandinavian countries caused by the tragic gun shooting in Norway last year.

Below, I’ve captured some of the tweets by @Sweden since last December. The tweets consist of outright promotion of Swedish culture, comments on social issues, personal rambling, and even irresponsible comments and links to inappropriate pictures.

Despite the risk coming from handing over the national Twitter account to untrained Swedes, the Curators of Sweden must not not be strictly regulate the tweets beforehand or go through a strict selection process for the account holders. These practices would defeat the democratic purpose of this unique Twitter account. However, they will need to come up with and establish proper guidelines in order to avoid any incident that might cause the twitter account to lose its credibility or authenticity. But again, the significance here is more of what Sweden is doing with its Twitter account instead of what the tweets say.

I believe it is a great attempt to promote Sweden because it seeks the engagement with the rest of the world instead of simply trying to project its image one-sidedly. It allows Sweden to effectively monitor its international image through the dialogue with the international audience. Moreover, the twitter account, both with a personal touch and the gravity that only a national Twitter account can have, successfully democratizes the country brand of Sweden.

Australia’s ‘EntertaiNation Branding’

If you remember, the film Australia, released back in 2008, was starred not only by Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman, but also by Australia and its natural environment. The movie was a success in terms of sales and revenue and many nominations and the awards it had won.

It was the result of the close, clever cooperation among the Tourism Australia, Image of Australia Branch under the government,  film director Luhrmann, and the film corporation 20th Century Fox. The movie proves that if a nation’s government works closely with the entertainment industry to brand the nation’s image, it could result in the most visually scintillating projection of the nation’s image.

This campaign titled, “See the Movie, See the Country”, which turned the film into “a real-life travel adventure” shows how popular culture and entertainment can be an important tool for country brand standing.

Official trailor of the film Australia from Youtube

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