Country brands

Among the most spectacular extensions of the notion of a brand, we find countries. There is no shortage of symbols: in New Delhi, more than 100 people work full-time on ‘Brand India’ and on the implementation of a global communications programmer ‘Incredible India’, with the goal of modifying behavior towards this infinitely varied country by working on people’s perception of it and even giving it a positioning.

Books such as Rebuilding Brand America (Martin, 2007) or The Marketing of Nations (Bottler, 1997) mark how countries have become symbols, words charged with emotion, and sources of influence over the actions of people who, for the most part, have never visited them. In fact, countries are associated with snippets of history, recent or more distant, imaginary elements, the personality traits of their inhabitants, key competence's and accomplishments.

The reputation of certain countries is based more on their history; for others it is based more on their accomplishments. This is why companies and their commercial brands shape the country brand itself through their success, and sketch out the international stereotype of their key competence. The reputation of its universities also creates the country brand.

The country’s evocative power

Countries are therefore names with brand power: they have the power to influence through the spontaneous associations they evoke, for good or ill, and through the emotions that they stir up. This brand power(influence) is nevertheless linked to specific contexts: Italy is the great cultural brand, assign of quality and creativity in the fashion market, for example.

The United States has wider effect: we voluntarily ‘consume’ the US brand and its affective evocations when we buy Coca-Cola (the water of America), jeans(the clothing of America), American cinema from Hollywood, American hamburgers, when we smoke Marlboro cigarettes, the metaphor inhaled from American Westerns, and when the whole world accepts the dollar as the base of international exchanges. However we no longer buy their cars, ill suited to the era of expensive and soon to be scarce petrol.

As with all strong global brands, the country brand encapsulates a myth, stereotype that boosts its own attractiveness through an emotive resonance. The United States, a country built by immigrants, encapsulates worldwide the mythology of liberty(hence the famous statue of that name) and the self-made man, the accomplishment of success through hard work and effort. In fact, in the DNA of American identity, we find immigrants fleeing their miserable living conditions in their home countries in Asia and Europe, who have rebuilt their life in this new promised land.

The country brand combines information at all levels: from political to social to cultural to economic to tourist, from the past to the present, real and imaginary, in complete syncretism. Managing the country brand entails working specifically on the salience of these different facets, burying some (by saying nothing) and making others more visible.

With globalization, we learn snippets of information and glean impressions of the whole world, even the most distant countries.hese perceptions are malleable when the yare not anchored as stereotypes, or based on striking personal experience. Thus the image of Korea has evolved among elites and opinion leaders through the emergence of Korean cinema, recognized at film festivals such as Cannes and Venice, an original type of cinema at a time when the resurgence of the great Japanese masters is still dawdling.

Korea has ceased to be a ‘hollow’ brand, a shadow of Japan or hidden by its giant neighbor China:it is transmitting meaning. At the same time, abandoning its policy of commodities products at the lowest prices, thanks to high technology but also to strong investment in design, Sam sung is penetrating the United States and Europe in the dynamic and highly visible market of mobile telephony. In short, the ‘Korea’ brand is nurtured by successful Korean brands, and those in turn benefit from the umbrella of their country’s image, which is undergoing a positive transformation, therefore acting like a collective federating brand. We can see how much the country brand and the ‘Made in …’ brand interact – for it is also necessary to mention the ‘Made in …’brand.

The ‘Made in …’ stereotype

We have known for a long time how much the words ‘Made in Germany’ create value in the automobile industry and industrial equipment worldwide. In just 10 years, ‘Made in Australia’ has become a symbol of value in the current wine market, through daily and relaxed usages. The words ‘Made in Korea’have moved from a devaluating status(second-rate copies) to a symbol of respected quality between 1990 and 2002. The biggest question for the Western world today hinge son whether ‘Made in China’ has the ability to follow the same positive trajectory in the same short time frame.

Marketing research itself has set up ‘country of origin’ as a specific, rich and prolific field, demonstrating how much countries are associated with attributes, competence's, real or imaginary representations that combine to create relevant value (or not). This research teaches us that the ‘country of origin effect’ is not uniform. It varies:

  • according to the sector (France for perfumes, Germany for machine tools);
  • according to the consumer (national stereotypes have more influence for novices and layperson's: professional buyers and experts rightly move beyond them to seek partners and new suppliers for their own company);
  • according to the level of perceived risk attaching to the decision, its individual or collective nature (the need to prove to others that the choice is a reasoned one).

To recapitulate the paradigm of research into persuasion (Caperers, 1990), the words ‘made in country X’ act as a sign of specific qualities and faults, but also like any source of communication.

If it is a credible source, it relieves the receiver of the need to look too deeply into it, and lowers his or her resistance to persuasion. If it is not credible, it has the same effect on information handling: it will remain superficial but here will lead directly to rejection.

The country brand is managed

In order to create a perception of value, it is necessary to give content to the perception that one seeks to create of the country, apperception profile that will be unique to this country, that can be attributed to it and that will drive behavior both internally (in the country) and externally (abroad). The country brand is by nature a collective, federalizing brand: it needs to distribute its power and its content to its daughter brands, specialized by market. The Incredible India brand is in fact varied according to whether India is seeking to attract tourists (the Visit India daughter brand), industrial investment in high-tech or services, or positive attitudes at the political or cultural level, and so on.

As with any other brand, the country brand must have an international dispersal if it is to influence the entire world. This dispersal miscarried by ambassadors, the country brand’s‘flagship products’: products that it exports(for example Hollywood cinema), acknowledged expertise in IT and mathematics, pa stand present political figures (Gandhi), the cultural identity (spirituality, castes and soon), the geographic (demography), politics(leader of the developing world), and tourist identities (Rajas than).

The country brand is in competition with other countries: it must be seen, perceived to be different, credible and attractive. The country brand must therefore have a positioning based on its identity, on which it is promoted abroad: perceived values, perceived history, perceived competence and the accomplishments that prove it make the brand.

The problem with the France brand today occurs largely because its ambassadors hail from its history (Louis XIV, Napoleon, Dealer), its values embodied by the 1789 Revolution, its culture (the chateaux of the Loire, Impressionism, gastronomy, etc), but its influence is decreasing and the giants of its global industrial success (Outguess, Vinci, Lafarge, Alston, Hales, Vela, Suez and soon) are unknown, or are not attributed to France.

There remain luxury, Al’Boreal, perfumes, Da none and tourism. Even its wine is no longer influential. Furthermore, the televised images of recent events in the suburb shave shown that France as a country can no longer live up to its own values in today’reality. Under these conditions, choosing positioning is not easy. However, if one wishes to be perceived, one needs to know how to define oneself. Positioning is a battle of perceptions. By not choosing, one leaves the construction of one’s image to others, to the competition, by default.

The considerable difficulty for the country brand is internal. In fact, a country does not have the same levers of power and authority that enable a company to transform itself from the inside out in order to bring itself into line with the values it promotes in its advertising .Bringing words and objects into conformity and coherence is difficult in democratic country.

An early-morning arrival from Tokyo or Shanghai into Drossy Gaul le airport, despite the fact that it mismanaged by a public body (ADP, Airports of Paris), is enough to note the poor image given to foreign visitors as the first contact with our country, before they join the interminable queue to have their passports checked, for lack of personnel to welcome them. The country brand proves itself through the facts – but it can also be weakened through them.

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