Branding the nation: a new phenomenon or an existing competitive advantage? Vf Press

According to Simon Anholt, who established the term “nation branding”, one country cannot change its outer image unless it can change its inner image. The truth is that the reputation of countries work properly like the brand image of companies and has a considerable meaning for the prosperity and flourishing of those countries.

What does “nation branding” mean?

As previously mentioned, nation branding aims to build the reputation of countries. Here are some examples: When we express a preference for Greek holidays, German cars, Italian opera, or when we instinctively trust the Swedish policies, admire the heritage of India and China. These are bigger brands than Toyota or Apple. They are brands of nations. As reported by Anholt, the nation brand is the sum of people’s perception of a country across six areas of national competence, known as Nation Brand Hexagon.

But is it a new phenomenon or an existing advantage?

We can say it’s both. Nation branding is an important concept in today’s world. The state still survives in the era of globalization, but countries compete with each other to get the attention and trust of consumers, markets, investors, immigrants, tourists, students, workers, media and also other nations. Given the background a powerful nation-brand could guarantee crucial competitive advantage.  In such a context, states should use assets that reflect their precious values. Branding a product, or a service or anything else requires first of all trust. Nations should try to stay real and not try to “sell” a false image in order to gain money. From this point of view what really matters is identity and not just image.

One could also wonder what makes the brand different. I could answer the values, the uniqueness of the nation, the history, the people, the culture, the physical beauty, the ideology. Nations should really understand how they are perceived by the world and use their competitive advantage in order to success. But when we talk about a country, marketing rules cannot function in the same way as in a product. Nation branding depends on diplomatic relations, the geopolitical location, the social and economic situation, culture and religion and of course on the political influence. Of course nations are not businesses, but mutatis mutandis they can use their image management tools to meet the needs of competition. If properly drawn, nation branding strategy can create better conditions for development, growth and prosperity of a country in the international stage. 

Nation branding is still a developing field. Many countries spend resources to nation branding. However what is not so clear for most of them are the advantages that nation branding could offer. Namely the ability to access capital, attract tourists and talented workforce, educated students, become destination for travel, businesses and investments.

Main sources:
Fortune Greek Blog:

Keith Dinnie, Nation branding- concepts, issues, practice, Elsevier, 2008,_Issues,_Practice_-_Keith_Dinnie.pdf

David Amerland, Reputation, Tourism, Semantic Search and Branding

Simon Anholt, What is nation branding?