What is Nation Branding?

With this piece, we take a look at the idea of Nation branding. We understand “What” the purpose of Nation branding is – then head on to take a look at how it is done and finally understand why your perception about a specific country is the part of a larger marketing plan.

Let’s jump right in the piece.

Girl 1: “I love Switzerland’s….?”

Girl 2: “Cheese!”

Girl 3: “Watches!”

Girl 1: “I was going to say Switzerland’s social and economic policies. But yeah cheese and watches as well”

And that is how a nation becomes a brand. Specifically speaking, nation branding relates to managing and building a country’s reputation to increase its strategic advantage. It covers everything about a nation’s image from standpoints such as business, culture, politics, and even the environment. Nation branding is a term coined by Simon Anholt in 1996 and has grown subtly but significantly, expanding the domains of a country’s working. As globalization becomes rampant, the idea of a country becomes larger as well. Let’s take a stroll through the vast world of Nation Branding to understand this world a little better.

What is the purpose of Nation branding?

First and foremost, any branding needs a purpose and so does a nation branding.

What do you think is the exact purpose of branding a nation?

Well, for one, the stronger a nation’s brand, the higher it ranks on most of the indices measuring the nation’s performance on various parameters.

Too technical?

Well, let’s look at Switzerland, a country which ranks in the top 10 countries of the Nation Brand Index. It has a very strong reputation but not only in terms of the best cheese in the world. They have poured considerable efforts and resources in improving the quality of life, the quality of the country’s production, and the policies supporting growth, businesses, and technological innovation/advancements.

A nation’s branding builds its credibility and fosters better relations internationally.

Now the better relations it has outside, the better their citizens get treated, their citizens are happy and they contribute more towards the nation. Their contribution leads to the betterment of the nation.

Related: Take a look at what marketing strategy is all about
What exactly is the Nation Brand Index?

Though it is easy to gauge how successfully a company has been branded due to the existing tools, Nation Branding needs a comprehensive assessment tool- thus was born in 2008 the Nation Brand Index. The Anholt Ipsos Nations Brand Index is a study that analyses 50 countries on the basis of 6 parameters called the Nation Brand Hexagon– governance, exports, culture, people, tourism, immigration, and investment based on interviews conducted with 20,000 adults over 18 years of age.

Elements of Nation branding

This survey aimed to study the global perceptions and opinions that people had of each of these 50 nations based on the above-mentioned parameters. Talking about 2020, Germany has topped the Nation Brand Index, making this its 6th time in this position. The surveyed people had favorable views of visiting Germany, living and working in the country as well. The famous German culture was also well admired and so were the policies, helping the country be #1.

How does a nation brand itself?

Now that we know the “What” or the purpose of nation branding, let’s take a look at the “How” of nation branding.

It is not as complicated as it might seem.

Ultimately, we have to look at a nation as a big company with set KPIs, global perceptions, culture, and competencies.

It is about creating an effective, and substantial image of their Nation through campaigns with established proof of the campaign being successful. Countries use branding as a way of attracting what they want for their economy- investment, tourism, diversity, you name it.

Examples of Nation branding

Take, for example, the ‘Make in India’ campaign is a very strong yet subtle way to getting companies to shift their manufacturing to India, considering the current pandemic. This campaign very clearly indicated that the seeds of success have been sown by the recent announcement of Apple manufacturing in India. PR and Branding firms have started handling these campaigns for countries to help them develop a more attractive brand. Policy frameworks are also created and altered to build such a brand (Re: Make in India bringing about infrastructural and financial changes in the country to make India a manufacturing hub for international as well as domestic companies).

Through this campaign, upwards of 7 lakh youth have been trained in manufacturing job roles since it launched. The Industrial Training Institutes across the nation are being updated to ensure that the students are highly skilled and employable once the training is over. Not to mention the whopping increase in the number of such centers that has led to more satisfaction of demand in the manufacturing industry. There is a constant focus on up-skilling, re-skilling, and correct assessment of the skills to promote the Indian brand of manufacturing.

A key aspect of branding is also choosing the right personality to endorse your company. Well, guess who is the perfect example of it? Hint: it’s a highly unique, beautifully crafted brand of furniture. Yes, I am indeed referring to IKEA. The simplicity, the DIY-ness of the brand and the reliability it boasts of, fit so well with the way Sweden wants to be portrayed that the story of IKEA’s founder is up on Sweden’s official website!

Related: Take a look at the brand personalities 

IKEA completely monetized the propagation of the Swedish culture that both Swedes and non-Swedes can relate to easily.  The layout of IKEA outlets, the Swedish flags all around, the Swedish names of all the products, Swedish delicacies in the canteen everything points to a strategic promotion of Sweden and its unique culture. Additionally, the ‘self-made success’ image of IKEA’s founder does fit with Sweden’s attempts at being viewed as an innovation-oriented, new, and entrepreneurial nation committed to excellence and knowledge-leadership. In fact, a former director of the Swedish Institute (the government agency looking into promoting Sweden) very proudly stated, “To visit IKEA is to visit Sweden”

Whoa! What a mind-blowing revelation!

Components of Nation Branding coming together

Here we see how concepts like brand image, brand personality, brand association come into play while nation branding as well. It is, after all, branding. I bet you would like to take a shot every time this article has used the word ‘branding’, right?

Nation branding not only attracts tourists but also, large business opportunities. Countries keep reinventing and rebranding themselves. The recent rise in the pictures of the beautiful Santorini of Greece isn’t a coincidence. Nor is the idea of leaving all your troubles behind to go lay on a hammock in Jamaica a fluke. I see your eyes widening in recognition of the truth of all of these nuanced points- yes, it is all true. This was about tourist attraction, and when we look at business opportunities, we can think of how China built its image as the largest manufacturing hub in the world, present circumstances notwithstanding.

You may also have seen a large number of articles cyclically surfacing and resurfacing that talk about the beauty and allure of the Northern Lights, and other natural attractions of Iceland. The fact that Iceland keeps making it into the news for its policies and laws helps foster its beautiful branding as one of the best countries to live in.

Here’s hoping you understand nations a little better than you did before, and are readily planning a safe, fun trip to the happiest place on earth- Disneyland maybe? See what I did there?


This piece was penned by Mahek Mirchandani.  If you liked this piece, go ahead and share this piece on WhatsApp?

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