Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Country Branding

I just read the "Country Brand Index 2008: Insights, Findings & Country Rankings" - download PDF here, from the FutureBrand folks. I found their study great for taking on such a challenge - I found their methodology exceptional in taking complex topics as culture, environment, destination, etc. and rinsing them through the qualitative parts such as emotions, perceptions, etc.

FutureBrand's Country Brand Platform - Sec 1:1 of the report
(click for a larger view)

The CBI-08 report has snippets of treats for the visualization of data and information - Tufte would be proud.

At the same time I felt a touch of bias simply due to the heavily Western panel of experts (see page 14 & 15 in the report) and the same for the sources (see page 61).

Even though an article on the above report in the Economist states:

"As someone with a non-marketing background, I find the notion of branding an entire country rather reductive. You end up talking in such broad terms (viz. the view of Australia in the first paragraph) that the themes tend towards the stereotypical or even the meaningless."

I believe the buzz, or marketing hype associated with brands does impact consumer decisions that are meaningful to economic development. An example not to be overlooked is UAE, with approximately 12% or less original Emirati populace, massive investment in second and vacation homes from Europeans, South Asians, Australians and South East Asians (Singapore, Honk Kong), it is but one example of what a brand can do.

Two more points from the report that I found insightful:

(1) "Countries in Momentum" (see page 26) provides a clear indication of the developing countries (with two exceptions from developed countries) gaining momentum under the headings of Emerging, In Vogue and Rising while the developed countries with two exceptions falling under the headings of Declining and Maintaining. I believe this provides a glimpse of the future of these countries for the 21st century.

(2) "Country Branded Products" (see page 32) shows the reinforcement received by product brands due to their country's brand. A realization must not be lost here that country brands can cause havoc on product brands - see the Middle East boycott of Arla as a recent example here.

In summary, I found the report with great mechanics while emphasizing and leveraging the positive. For an astute mind, this report offers great data to digest. I caution against the overly optimistic tone of some of the conclusions (see (2) above). Reality on the ground can be a surprise.

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