Nation branding: Concepts, issues, practice

Dinne (2008):

Nation branding is an exciting, complex and controversial phenomenon. It is exciting, as it represents an area in which there is little existing theory but a huge amount of real world activity; complex, because it encompasses multiple disciplines beyond the limited realm of conventional brand strategy; and controversial, in that it is a highly politicised activity that generates passionately held and frequently conflicting viewpoints and opinions. (p. 13)

Branding techniques to places is gaining more prominence over recent years; more countries are committing resources to develop their city, region or nation brand. Brand image of a village or country is a mean to position them favourably in the eye of the target market to attract; tourism, trade by boosting exports, and inward investment. This will also help to attract talent, higher education students and skilled workers. According to Temporal (as citied by Dinnie, 2008, p. 17) nation branding can also increase currency stability, help restore national credibility and investor confidence reverse international ratings downgrades, increase international political influence, stimulate stronger international partnerships and enhance nation building.

Branding in relation to nation branding

King (1973)

A product is something that is made in a factory; a brand is something that is bought by a customer. A product can be copied by a competitor; a brand is unique. A product can be quickly outdated; a successful brand is timeless.

Branding has been evident since the very old history; names were put on such goods such as bricks in order to identify the maker. However it was not until the twentieth century that branding became central to the competitors. According to Aaker (1991) a brand can be a name or a trademark[1], or a mixture of both (p. 7). The trade name is there in order to differentiate the good or service from those of the competitors. In the case of nations it differentiates a particular place or a country from other places or countries. Give example. Successful bands offer consumers something of value that is different than the one offered by competitors. For instance Cyprus offer a differentiation in their brand from that of Malta, as they promote the sun and sea for the summer, and the snow and skiing for the winter in their mountains. The brand has the potential to become a tool for dividing the world, and a medium of social exchange. Branding offers reassurance and creates values to its customers (Feldwick, 1991, p. 29).

The brand building process requires a long term commitment over a period of several years as the short term will only provide a small payoff (Dinnie, 2008, p. 19). Nations need to acknowledge the reality and apply a long term strategic view, when building their nation brand, rather than aiming for a short term campaign of advertisement. Even though brand managers need to be ethical and must be honest in product branding, nation branding requires further honesty as it does not belong to brand managers but it belongs to anyone. Dinnie (2008) defines branding as "the unique, multi-dimensional blend of elements that provide the nation with culturally grounded differentiation and relevance for all its target audience."(p. 15)[2]

Murphy (1987) explains four steps in developing a brand.

  1. Product information, including characteristics of the product or service, in this context the nation must be identified
  2. Market information, including competitors, trends and demographics
  3. Trademark information, including corporate requirements and policies, market place influences, legal requirements and existing trademarks
  4. A clear statement of brand objectives based for the long term objectives for the division or company, in this case the nation. (p. 88).

Even though the four points mentioned above deal with products, these can deal well with the services[3] and in this case nations or places. Each step is important in order to compete in the market. A brand must be planned well and if done correctly it will create a sense of loyalty to customers. Loyalty ensures a positive indirect advertisement of the word of mouth[4] and may guide customers to come back again. It is expensive for a company to attract new customers and less expensive to retain the existing one (Aaker, 1991, p. 18).

Brands require gaining accepted wisdom; media attains this. According to New (1991) television is probably the best medium that benefits from accepted wisdom (p.85 - 117). It can build and change brands. It is seen by different targets in different countries. Brand Malta campaign used this technique and advertised in CNN and SICILY find proof. With the airtime and a particular programme chosen, the brand can achieve a particular status. Other mediums can also be used; for instance outdoor activities such as posters were used in the branding process of Malta. The internet is another medium, which by tie it is getting more prominence in the knowledge economy. Malta has been using this system to advertise Malta particularly from the portal. The press can also be used and this generally attains loyalty as the reader reads it if he or she is interested. Figure 2 shows an advert of Brand Malta in a particular newspaper. Door to Door distribution was another medium used in the campaign to brand the Maltese nation. Each household was given a booklet about branding Malta. Another medium that can be also used as a medium it is the radio, but according to New (1991) it is probably the least beneficial to build brands. See if ytou can give examples of other countries

Other Marketing tools for tourism

"Marketing is about anticipating demand, recognising it, stimulating it and finally satisfying it. It is an understanding of what can be sold, to whom, when, where and in what quantities," (Holloway & Plant, 1993, p. 4). Marketing need to be efficient; as much as it is positive it can be negative. Nations must understand that marketing is a dynamic concept; people's needs and wants change overtime (Holloway & Plant, 1993). Planning is needed to meet the short and long term objectives. Brand managers can opt for different marketing plans, but the one adopted must be dependent upon an analysis of the current market.

According to Holloway and Plant (1993), after the market is evaluated; strategically there are three ways to go. The first is low price leadership if the product (in this case the nation) is big and powerful enough to undercut rivals. Since Egypt and Tunisia are very big nations, they compete for tourism with lower prices and still make considerable profits. The second is product differentiation if the price cannot be lower. This system is used by Malta; the government has insisted that Malta should compete in quality rather than cheap prices since Malta cannot afford to lower prices. These are supported in the Brand Malta campaign and in the pre budget documents from 2006 to 2010. Finally, the third option entails market focus by catering for particular segments.

In tourism it is unreliable to use the marketing method of forecasting. However it is still used, but at some points unforeseen events can harm the forecast. For instance in May 2004 the Ministry for tourism and culture forecasted an increase of between 100,000 and 150,000 tourists by 2006/2007. This forecast was not reached due to delays in the proposed campaigns such as the product Malta. Other examples of unforeseen events that struck the world according to the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) (2009) are in the period of 2001 and 2003 when there was 9/11 attach and the SARS outbreak and in the late 2000s recession. United Nations: World Tourism Organisations (2009) identified a lower rate in tourism with the A(H1N1) outbreak in April 2009 as some were afraid to travel.

Market segmentation is another important tool in marketing. It is very hard to reach everyone in the world. A target segment will reduce costs by focussing only on the best segment (Kotler, 2008). For instance

Key issues in nation branding

According to Kotler and Gertner (2002) there are many critics of nation branding. They raise the issues as whether nations can be treated as brands, and whether a strong brand will help a country achieve better results or not. Policymakers need to be a little sceptic towards nation branding as not to let the term run ahead without the necessary taught.

In the tourism sector, most Mediterranean destinations[5] make almost identical claims regarding the beauty of their scenery, the purity of their beaches and the hospitality of the nature of locals. Thus it is critical that nations find or create a unique identity in order to differentiate from their competitors. In an increasingly globalised economy, the challenge of distinguishing the products or services from those of the competitors is significantly important for nations competing for both domestic and foreign consumers. A brand needs to create awareness to be successful. This can be done, by the originality in the brand itself, by involving an exclusive slogan or jingle, an exposed symbol and, good publicity by advertisements and promotions (Aaker, 1991, p. 7).[6] Olins (1999) claims that nations have always branded themselves through their; symbols, currency, anthems, and names. It is just the terminology of nation branding that is new rather than the practice itself.

Olins (1999) states that a powerful and positive nation brand can provide crucial competitive advantage in today's globalised economy. It is essential for countries to understand how they are seen by other publics around the world, how their achievements and their failures, their assets and their liabilities, their people and their products are reflected in their brand images. [7]

Nation branding is consequently becoming an area of growing importance for politicians, and interested personnel or professionals alike. However this concept is full of challenges for the policymaker. Dinnie and Fola (2009) describe four challenges for a nation (p. 4). Firstly, countries are like brands and do not operate in a vacuum. Countries are generally part of other international organisations with several conflicting or complementary agendas. For instance Malta is part of the European Union and the United Nations. These shape the country into a particular image. Secondly, unstable governments that change after an election may often result into a change in the public and political agenda of a country. This will have an impact if there is a long term politicised activity such as nation branding strategy. Thirdly, the legitimacy of those involved in the campaign need to be justified by country's citizens. Political leaders need to have a consensus that is embraced by all key stakeholders. It needs to be politically and socially acceptable to activists.. For instance in the brand Malta campaign, Mr Zahra...... Finally, there is the challenge that people do not understand clearly what is meant by nation branding. This occurred in Malta as many people did not understand the term Brand. As the British government specialist advisor in the field of nation branding, Anholt (2007) states that it is not odd for policymakers to propose substitute terms, such as 'reputation management' or 'competitive identity'.

The wide nature of nation branding needs to involve many parties in the formulation and the implementation of the strategy. All relevant stakeholders regardless if they are in the Opposition or in bad terms, need to be involved in the campaign development. De Chernatony (as cited by Dinnie, 2008, p. 187) identifies representatives from; government, the opposition, commerce, not for profit organisations, non government organisations, tourism and the media as the key stakeholders to be involved in the nation branding campaign. Inclusiveness is vital in nations; this will help reduce the problem that "Many nations may find their nation branding efforts stymied by political corruption, power struggles or a lack of strategic vision on the part of the country's ruling elites." (Dinnie, 2008, p. 190).


Professor Leslie de Chernatony (2008) states that the explicit values and experiences of the nation brand should entail the collective involvement of the key stakeholders[8]. They might include representatives or consultants from the government agencies and entities, the private sector, the NGOs particularly related to tourism, the media and the general public. However within the context of nation branding one complication could be that every citizen or organisation can be considered as a stakeholder. Due to this difficulty Dinnie (2008) developed the fully inclusive stakeholder (FIST) approach as shown in figure 4. The FIST approach provides a structure of the range of potential stakeholders in the nation brand. The framework offers a foundation for analysing the multiplicity of stakeholders that will need to be consulted in the development of the nation brand strategy. As can be seen from the FIST diagram only the government has the authority and the legitimacy that can realistically aspire to coordinate the nation brand activities encompassing the full range of stakeholders.

The coordinating body needs to be set up by government (in the case of Malta the MTA); however it is important that the body possess a degree of political independence, so that in the long term if the Ministers change the strategy remain stable[9]. The coordinators should identify the most common themes and visions resulted from the interested personnel. Those identifications should be given back to the participants in order for them to reflect and in order to see whether they are in line with their opinions.

In order to maximise the probabilities of a successful strategy formulation and implementation, and to achieve economic goals, there needs to be a strong level of public and private sector collaboration (Dinnie & Fola, 2008, p. 5). This could be done by firstly getting the key stakeholders to share their vision for the nation brand. The next stage would entail that the key stakeholders set the objectives to enable their group to work towards the nation brand vision (Chernatony, 2008). Meetings should be held regularly between stakeholders to exchange information and to reinforce the objectives, as they need to achieve their targets and need to support each other. Groups need to work together to build a more coherent nation brand. These will lead to awareness of the country's identity and a new image will be formed[10]. According to Holloway and Plant (1993) awareness of the role played should be created by various communication media such as public relations events, conferences, seminars, workshops, word of mouth, TV, radio, brochures, product sheets, catalogues, newsletters and websites.[11]

In the case of the branding Malta campaign the key stakeholders involved were ministers, private sector mhra etc.... they also used conferences, workshops.... elabortate

The Government is the main policymaker; however policies are formed through a variety of structures and channels, including individuals' institutions and the media. In fact, many groups are formed to influence the Government policies (Hall & Jenkins, 1995, p. 47-64) such as the MHRA in Malta. These groups can be 'Pressure Groups', 'Special Interest Groups', 'Lobby Groups' or 'Organised Interests'.[12] Hall and Jenkins (1995) quotes that, "Interests represent the goals that actors seek to achieve in the policy making process. Because there are different sets of interests working to influence policy formulation and implementation, conflict and competition may occur." Interest groups form in order to become more powerful than staying as individuals. Hall and Jenkins (1995) add that these groups have been growing and became an integral component of the tourism policy making process (p. 48).

Lobbying Government

Miller (1987) quotes that, "Times have changed and Government has become more complex, more pervasive, and harder to ignore," (p. Xiii). He adds that its influence has increased; and it affects the stakeholders' interests. This led to the desire to understand and work with Government; the role of lobbying. For any business this can be seen a set-piece battle, that one needs to partake in to safeguard its rational self interest. The private sector has the right to be informed, and it is the government's duty to communicate the policy planning that may affect the private stakeholders' interest (Miller, 1987). For instance the government informed and included the private sector in consultations during the brand Malta campaign process.

Citizens in dealing with Government; Need to Know, Inform, Negotiate, and Lobby. Making contact with Government does not necessarily mean an aim of policy change; however it adds pressure, and influences the decision makers. Generally this results in beneficial results for both sides, if done correctly. Miller (1897) considers lobbying as most appropriate where an issue involves strong political or public interest considerations.

The Local Councils' Association believes that (2010):

Malta is not immune to the world wide trend of lobbying. Governments have limited resources and therefore many sectors endeavor to take a piece of the national cake through various means. The words dialogue and consultation have become synonymous with Maltese politics. The word lobbying is kept for the intimate parties were those that attend seem to the opportunity to drop a word in the ears of those in power.

Pluralism[13] is evident through policy making. Policies are open to influence by a wide diverse range of interest groups. As a result, according to Hall and Jenkins (1995), political decisions are done through processes of bargaining, negotiations and compromises between the various interests involved. Public participation is essential in tourism planning and policy making. However they stress that the state is not a simple reflection of the interests of the society; certain interests will exert more power than others. The state has its own interests and values to pursue (p. 39).

Simon Anholt (1998), an independent policy advisor who is depicted of developing the concepts of nation branding specialised in the field since 1996 and in his studies he found that many governments, consultants and scholars persist in a naive way place branding as product promotion, where the product happens to be a country.

Governments should never do things purely for brand related reasons; no action should be dedicated to image management alone. But there should be something unmistakeable about these innovations, the style of their conception and delivery and their alignment with each other, which will gradually drive the country from the image it has inherited towards the one it needs and deserves.

Brand management should be treated as a component of national policy never as a campaign that is separate from planning, governance or economic development.

(p. 23, Simon anholt from Dinnie check)

See if you need to put how to develop a nation brand ......

  1. According to Graham and Peroff (in Jon Murphy) (1987) a trademark is a sign or symbol which distinguishes the goods or services. It can consist of a word or words, letters, numbers, symbols, logos, colours or combinations of all. It may also contain a slogan or a phrase. The trademark can serve as a; mean for distinguishing between products or services, indicator of the good or service and; indication of quality(p.32-33).
  2. Segmentation of target audiences needs to be carried out in order to both monitor and influence the image that is held by disparate groups of consumers. According to Kotler and Keller (2006) positioning will create the image of the target market, and Jobber (2004) extends it by suggesting that the keys to successful positioning are clarity, consistency, competitiveness and credibility.
  3. It was only the past 3 - 4 decades that there has been an emergence in the service industry. Services can be packaged, branded, advertised and promoted in a similar way to products. The difference in intangible products is that they require the human element to be delivered.
  4. "Word of mouth advertising (WOM) is the unpaid spread of a positive marketing message from person to person. It can take place directly using the human voice, or can be transmitted via any communicative means such as through the internet or via text message. WOM is a powerful promotional tool and should be considered as part of almost every business marketing strategy." (Marketing Made Simple, 2010)
  5. Meditteanean destinations including Spain including the Balearic islands, Italy including Sardinia and Sicily, Corsica, Malta, Greece and its islands, Cyprus, Turkey, Tunisia and Egypt.
  6. In 2006 Brand Malta campaign has created its unique slogan of "Hospitality, Diversity and Heritage." It also created a logo (Figure 3) that is still used to advertise Malta up to this date. It consists of the Maltese cross together with the traditonal eye of the boat called "Luzzu".
  7. According to Keith Dinnie (2008), globalisation means that countries compete with each other to attract the attention, respect and trust of investors, tourists, consumers, donors, immigrants, media and the governments of other nations. (p. 37)
  8. Cornelissen (2004) provides a constructive meaning of stakeholders as 'groups that are themselves affected by the operations of the organization, but can equally affect the organization, its operations and performance'.
  9. According to Dinnie (2008) nation branding is highly politicized activity and efforts are need to be made to minimize disruption of politicians.
  10. Concise Oxford Dictionary (1999) defines Identity as the fact of being who or what a person or thing is, and Image as the general impression that a person, organization or product presents to the public. Thus Identity refers to what something truly is, whereas image refers to how something is perceived. These two states generally leave the Identity-image gap, which is mostly negative as nations will not be perceived as they truly are, for instance racist. It is one if the nation branding objectives to reduce this gap.
  11. Effective promotion is all about the mediums used, and the repetition and recognition of the same identity and message on a long-term basis (Duckworth, 1991).
  12. For the purpose of this dissertation the term Interest groups represents any association that influence public policy directly or indirectly.
  13. According to Hill (2005) pluralism in the political context is considered a modern democratic society which is in the interest of all diversity of the citizens.

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