Countries as Brands

November 30, 2009

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This weekend I drooled over FutureBrand‘s recently released Country Brand Index (CBI). If you haven’t heard of Futurebrand – they’re a brand development company specializing in just about anything relating to a brand: research, strategy, design, management.

In the index, FutureBrand rallies around the idea that countries have the potential to become some of the world’s strongest brands, rivaling Nike, Sony and IBM.

An athletic company has more brand power than an entire nation? Incredible. And true.

The CBI reminded me of my love for brand development and research. It demonstrates how a powerful country brand, at its best, can stimulate interest, drive behavior and create advocates. Isn’t this what we all want our clients’ brands to do?

Here are the top country brand rankings:

01 USA

02 CANADA

03 AUSTRALIA

04 NEW ZEALAND

05 FRANCE

06 ITALY

07 JAPAN

08 UK

09 GERMANY

10 SPAIN

Below are a few CBI insights that I found most interesting. Or, if you’d like, download the free executive summary here.

BUILD IT AND THEY WILL COME

The most popular “classic” tourist destinations of the past– places like France, the UK, Italy and Egypt– are richly endowed with monuments that bear witness to thousands of years of history and culture. The superstar cities and nations of the future may be born of more conscious planning. Government officials and business leaders are spending big to grab a piece of the world tourism pie by upgrading infrastructure, building unique attractions and creating cohesive brand stories with the power to attract both visitors and foreign investment. Examples of buying onto the map already in progress are in the Middle East: the United Arab Emirates’ man-made islands, indoor ski slope and starchitected Saadiyat Island, and Qatar’s Museum of Islamic Art. Pioneers of build-it-and-they-will-come techniques also include Las Vegas and Singapore.

THE PRICE OF FAME

Experts note that showcasing countries and destinations in popular films and television is an effective way to add value and increase awareness. “Blockbuster movies are just about the best marketing tool you can utilize for a city or country; what ‘The Lord of the Rings’ did for New Zealand or the way the film Australia tied in with the country’s latest tourism campaign is invaluable.”

TOMORROW’S HIDDEN JEWELS

Some travelers will always be on a quest for new, undiscovered locales that are relatively free from tourists, planned activities and package tours. As yesterday’s off-the-beaten-track spots enter the realm of perennial favorites (think Czech Republic, Thailand and Croatia), new unspoiled destinations become more accessible and popular among the cognoscenti. The next places we expect to hit authenticity seekers’ radar screens are Azerbaijan, Ghana and the Balkans.

FUTURE TRENDS: ENOUGHISM

Description: Increasingly alarmed about the health of the planet and the influence of materialism, people are beginning to switch off, seeking to reconnect with the simpler pleasures of life. Implication: Ecotourism, voluntourism, family vacations and experiential tourism (e.g., a culinary school at a country tavern) should fare well moving forward as they provide the means for people to enhance their quality of life through non-material means.

REVISING THE BRAND

Thailand, a country that is ranked #3 in Value for Money– and spent the prior three years at #1– has decided to leverage this quality overtly. In 2009, Thailand more forcefully promoted its price advantages by revising its tagline from “Amazing Thailand” to “Amazing Thailand, Amazing Value” and affixing that line to the country brand logo. In updated marketing materials, the new brand identity communicates the value concept alongside complementary messaging like “amazing experiences at amazing value” and “super deals.” No other country appears to integrate value with its core identity to this degree.

Speak up and let us know what you think of the Country Brand Index!