Chapter 17: Beyond the Nation Brand: The Role of Image and Identity in International Relations
Simon Anholt INTRODUCTION I first began to write about an idea I called ‘nation brand’ in 1996. My original observation was a simple one: that the reputations of countries (and, by extension, of cities and regions too) behave rather like the brand images of companies and products, and that they are equally critical to the progress, prosperity and good management of those places. Unfortunately, the phrase ‘nation brand’ soon become distorted, mainly by naive governments in willing collusion with ambitious consulting firms, into ‘nation branding’ a dangerously misleading phrase which seems to contain a promise that the images of countries can be directly manipulated using the techniques of commercial marketing communications. Yet, despite repeatedly calling for it over the last 15 years, I have never seen a shred of evidence to suggest that this is possible: no case studies, no research, and not even any very persuasive arguments. I conclude that countries are judged by what they do, not by what they say, as they have always been, yet the notion that a country can simply advertise its way into a better reputation has proved to be a pernicious and surprisingly resilient one. I also have to admit that, despite studying the topic for many years, I’m not at all sure I even know what ‘branding’ is. ‘Brand’ can mean at least three different things in the world of commerce: first, it can refer to the designed identity of a product (the look of the product itself, its packaging, its...
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