Saturday, November 14, 2015

How to market a nation

Joshua Kurlantzick,

image from
The Global Country Brand Index is a study compiled by FutureBrand, a consulting group, of countries’ comparative perception, using a range of factors. In the most recent study, Indonesia’s “country brand” ranked 66th in the world. Indonesia is not unique: A number of large and theoretically powerful countries like Indonesia, such as Bangladesh, Kenya, and Mexico, suffer from “unknownness” on the globe stage, a lack of recognition from people around the world. ...
Until recently, government-promoted soft power was the province of rich nations — France’s Alliance Francaise cultural institutes in world capitals, for instance. But in the past decade, some larger developing nations have devoted considerable government resources to public diplomacy as well. China has created its Confucius Institutes, programs at universities around the world that promote Chinese language and culture, while South Korea’s government has established a presidential council on national branding and Korean culture institutes around the world.
Other developing nations, however, have mostly ignored government-promoted public diplomacy, at their own expense. Mexico’s government, for example, has not even developed a coordinated nation branding strategy — a strategy that could be used to showcase Mexico’s rising wealth and to combat stories of crime and drug trafficking about the country that often appear in the global media. ...
Of course, being known for negative histories and activities — though Liberia has become relatively stable, it is probably best known for the gruesome civil war from 1989 to 2003 — does not necessarily help a country on the global stage. But getting no attention at all hurts, too.

Being relatively off the radar can have ramifications. It is a major impediment to companies from these countries seeking to sell consumer goods, and particularly to companies involved in pop culture exports. According to Euny Hong, author of a recent book on South Korea’s global image, “The Birth of Korean Cool: How One Nation is Conquering the World Through Pop Culture,” the country exported some $5 billion in pop culture related industries in 2014 and may export $10 billion in pop culture industries by 2017. In contrast, Vietnam has almost no globally competitive companies in pop culture industries.

The value of being known does not only accrue to pop culture brands from rich countries, though South Korea is far richer than Vietnam. Nigeria, a country widely known, has developed a movie industry nicknamed “Nollywood,” which churns out $3 billion in films annually. Nollywood’s success depends in part on Nigeria’s reputation as a home to hip artists. ...

Leaving Washington, Indonesian President Jokowi headed home far from empty handed. He pledged that he wanted his country to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the giant Pacific Rim free trade area being negotiated by the United States and other countries. But the Indonesian president, famous for his charisma at home — as mayor of Jakarta, he walked the streets to personally inspect promised infrastructure reforms, and became known for his love of heavy-metal guitar — did not elevate the place of Indonesia in Americans’ consciousness. Jokowi barely met with Americans outside of a few policy makers and business leaders. In other words, the new Indonesian leader did not have a major impact on American hearts and minds. Perhaps next time, Jokowi should bring with him Jakarta’s finest chefs and pop stars.

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