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Brand%20 strategy%20article%20elastic%20brands%20feb%202003

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  • 1. 28-34 papers 24/1/03 11:27 am Page 28 BRAND PAPERS Elastic brands achieve, and what their clients in government believe it is capable of achieving. This may have something How far can you stretch the idea of ‘brand’? to do with the quality of people who customarily Simon Anholt argues that marketing can work in marketing, or it may not; it certainly has a bring added value to any area of human lot to do with the ‘brand image’ of marketing itself. endeavour including international relations We’re not talking tourism promotion At a time when branding is coming under a good Simon Anholt is the At the heart of the issue is the old question of deal of public scrutiny, it makes sense to ask what chairman of Earthspeak, whether marketing is merely about communica- the limits of branding might be. There is a tendency and the author of the tions or something altogether more strategic. Many for people to use the word in a carefree way for any- newly-published Brand politicians and statesmen – like most laypeople – thing connected with public perception – from TV New Justice. don’t understand what is meant by branding, and personalities to countries, and governments to reli- simon@earthspeak.com believe that it’s simply a matter of designing a new gions. It is sometimes used to describe people who logo for their country and possibly a slogan to go certainly wouldn’t have known what a brand was underneath it, often barely distinguishing between if it jumped up and bit them: I recently heard one nation branding and tourism promotion. speaker at a conference refer repeatedly and enthu- It helps even less that there are so many com- siastically to the “Viking brand” – and he wasn’t munications agencies which, perhaps frustrated by talking about mail-order stationery. the difficulty of selling pure strategy to governments, It may be justifiable to refer to some phenom- have fallen into the habit of pandering to this mis- ena as brands even when the branding effect is unin- conception and simply selling logos and slogans to tentional (as is the case with the Vikings), because any government prepared to pay for them. one is simply talking about the way their image is Nation branding is, of course, a task infinitely received and stored by the public (although in these larger and more complex than anything which mar- cases, a better word might be ‘perception’, ‘reputa- keting service agencies have ever had to tackle before. tion’, or ‘image’). But a stricter definition requires There is no area of commercial marketing which that a more or less systematic attempt has been approaches the depth and breadth of a true nation- made to create or manage that reputation. brand strategy, and its agenda of imposing creativ- ity, consistency, truthfulness and effectiveness onto Defining reputations a wide range of difficult fields. Nobody doubts that cities, regions and nations fall These range from the promotion of national and into this category. The reputations of places have regional tourism, inward investment, recruitment been built and managed by their leaders almost and trade; the branding of exports; a national cul- since the beginning of time, and those leaders have tural management programme; international rela- often borrowed expertise from others to augment tions and foreign policy; domestic social and their political skills – poets, orators, philosophers, cultural policy; urban and environmental planning; movie-makers, artists and writers. economic development; membership of suprana- Only recently, though, has the marketing pro- tional bodies; diasporas; sport; media management fession been judged to have something useful to con- to who knows what else. tribute to economic or social development and In fact, it could be argued that the first and most international relations. But marketing is coming critical component of any national branding strat- of age in many ways. As the developed world has egy is creating a spirit of benign nationalism among become organised more along commercial lines, it an often divided and multi-racial populace (the exact has become clear that a science which shows you public diplomacy equivalent of helping the employ- how to persuade large numbers of people to change ees of a corporation to ‘live the brand’) – hardly the their minds about things or part with hard-earned kind of challenge which design agencies or PR com- income has various interesting applications. panies are accustomed to facing on an average Mon- So it’s no longer just businesses which recog- day morning. It does seem an odd place for the nise the usefulness of marketing: political parties, discipline of marketing, a humble commercial serv- governments, charities, good causes, state bodies, ice industry, to find itself, in a sense, above national even non-government organisations are turning to government. marketing as they begin to understand the profound Yet there is a clear and compelling case for the truth about human endeavour which marketers national branding strategy needing to direct, or at have always known – being in possession of the least embrace, the full gamut of political, economic, truth is not enough. The truth has to be sold. cultural and social development. After all, the argu- But the elevation of common commercial mar- ment for nation branding hinges on the acceptance keting disciplines to the dizzying heights of national that in a globalised world, all nations need to compete strategy creates certain tensions – chiefly between for a share of the world’s attention and wealth, and that what branding experts believe their discipline can development is as much a matter of positioning as 28 brand strategy february 2003
  • 2. 28-34 papers 24/1/03 11:13 am Page 29 BRAND PAPERS anything else, so it makes perfect sense for govern- pany should. The job of the nation branding con- ments to do everything possible to ensure consistency sultant is to find ways of instilling the brand-oriented of behaviour in every area. mindset into the key figures in government and It also makes perfect sense to claim that any industry, and ultimately into the population at large. area of activity which doesn’t fall under the remit Sceptics will not be reassured by these argu- of brand is therefore a weak link in the strategic ments, and will continue to wonder what makes chain, and will undermine the efforts and invest- marketers imagine that their experience or disci- ment made in other areas. There is, for example, pline entitles them to dictate top-level strategic simply no point in investing in a brand strategy advice – or ways of thinking – to people who, after which portrays the country as a peaceful and beau- all, are supposed to be abundantly qualified in the tiful tourist destination and an exporter of ethically- area of high strategy, not to mention diplomacy and produced quality consumer goods if the government perception management. is busily oppressing minorities, polluting rivers or I don’t share this scepticism, because over the behaving belligerently towards its neighbours. years I have become entirely convinced of market- This basic need for absolute consistency of ing’s eligibility to bring value to pretty much any behaviour is, of course, another of the first tenets area of human endeavour, up to and including of marketing, and if there’s no hope of achieving it, national government and international relations. then there’s no hope of building a brand. Just as the I know of no other discipline which at its best – development of corporate and product branding has allows for the management of human enterprise: led to the conclusion that branding, if done prop- this unique marriage of empirical observation with erly, must affect every aspect of the corporation visionary strategy. Marketing uniquely embraces both inside and out, and become identical to cor- scientific clarity of thought and rigorous observa- porate strategy, so the same conclusion applies to tion of human psychology, culture and society with nation branding. Indeed, I have argued that brand a deep sympathy for the mystery of creativity. It management has become one of the primary respon- combines advanced knowledge management (as is sibilities of governments in the modern world. found in the way the better brands are policed in However, tension arises because the finely-trained all their complex variants) with sensitive intercul- strategic experts in government understandably tural management (as is found in the way the bet- resent having apparently underqualified private-sec- ter brands are communicated worldwide). It is a tor ‘consultants’ trampling over their territory and clear set of universally-applicable rules for build- presuming to tell elected politicians, diplomats – some- ing successful endeavours. It brings commerce and times even kings and queens – how to do their jobs. culture together as a potent force for creating pros- So how can this tension be resolved? Is it a ques- perity. It can harness the power of language and tion of the branding folk attempting to instil brand- images to bring about widespread social change. ing-aware behaviour and marketing-style strategy Good marketing, almost uniquely, has the human- into the politicians? Should they work closely along- ism and wisdom to know that there is a difference side them, and concentrate humbly on influencing Special 20% discount between what makes sense on paper and how people their thinking? Should branding and marketing offer from Butterworth- actually behave – it has the intelligence of academia become a compulsory component of diplomatic and Heinemann when you combined with the worldliness of practice. political training? order Brand New Justice Marketing, in short, is one of the great achieve- by Simon Anholt. Visit ments of the Western world, even if it has usually Mindset or body of knowledge? www.bh.com/marketing been used for somewhat trivial ends, merely increas- Whether any of these approaches are the right ones to place your order, ing wealth where more wealth is least needed. But really depends on whether we consider branding quoting reference code: that’s another discussion entirely. expertise to be a set of simple criteria – a way of think- B301BMBA05. Offer ends Nation branding is certainly one of the ways in ing which can realistically be instilled in people and 28 February. which marketing can begin to realise its full poten- overlaid onto their existing expertise – or whether tial, and provides an opportunity for marketers to we consider it to be a vast body of technical knowl- demonstrate that they have something to contribute edge which a busy minister could no more hope to above and beyond that tired old litany of ‘increas- learn than we marketers could learn foreign policy ing shareholder value’. or macroeconomic management. In other words, is There are many people who feel far from com- branding a way of thinking or a body of knowledge? fortable at the thought of marketers mingling freely It is my view that for the purposes of nation with politicians and helping them determine the fate branding, it’s really a way of thinking, and is entirely of nations. This conjecture is understandable but the separable from the technical expertise (like research, influence of the art and science of marketing is surely planning, brand theory, design, advertising and a positive one. If it’s good marketing, it will bring a communications), which can easily be outsourced much-needed dose of practical, rigorous, egalitarian, to experts, and which the senior politicians don’t good-humoured, quick-witted humanism to an area need to bother with any more than the CEO of a com- where such qualities are all too often entirely absent. brand strategy february 2003 29

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