Today everything is brandable: products, services, companies, people, pets, etc. Countries and nations are not exceptions too. What is a nation’s brand, and do we really need to spend time and money on our nation’s branding or country’s branding process? And why is all this important?
There are so many questions to be answered, but let’s start with some essential vocabulary on the topic. It is in human nature to be adored, respected, loved… When we meet new people, especially those who are somehow important for us, we like to demonstrate ourselves better than we are, smarter than we are, and show our best characteristics. On the personal and industrial level, the process of promotion is quite tough, but it is much more complicated when a nation or a country wants and needs to be promoted. Some nations are less known in the world or in different parts of it, but some, unfortunately, may be victims of unjustified or partially justified stereotypes. When I first came to Iran, many years ago, due to the lack of cultural, trade and political cooperation between Ukraine and Iran at that time, little number of people knew where Ukraine was, some of them used to remember it to be a part of USSR one day, and some couldn’t remember on which continent it was situated. Was it a problem for me? Yes and no… On one hand, I had a feeling of necessity to explain my identity in many situations. On the other hand, I didn’t suffer from any kind of stereotypes. After some changes in the political system of Ukraine and Revolution of Dignity in 2014, which was covered by international mass media much, it was the time many people around the world learned about my country, but statistics show that only after 2016 Ukraine became known as a travel destination.
So here we’ve come to one of the points, why we need to promote countries and nations. Tourism is one of the main means of country’s enriching nowadays, so the more people know a country and the better image it has in their mind, the more visitors a country has during a year, and the more money a country earns on tourism. So to be known is important for every country. But it is much more important to be known as a friendly, attractive place with good citizens and so on. Tourism is not the only modern interest in countries. The other point of interest is investment attraction. If the country is known to be safe and stable, more companies and individuals are eager to bring their money to invest in it.
The other important vocabulary is the country-of-origin effect (COE). By this notion, we mean customers’ perception of a product or services and forming the attitude to them based on the country of their origin. I won’t make an incredible discovery by pointing the reputation of “made in China” products in the 2000s, known to be low-cost, unprofessionally assembled and with low safety standards. But the Chinese government from its part and manufacturers from their part, have done a lot for breaking these stereotypes. So the reputation of the country is made by its success or failures in the industry, and vice verse a positive image of the country may be very effective in product promotion.
By this article, I didn’t want to rewrite the country-of-origin marketing techniques, many articles and books have been written on the topic, and we will talk about this aspect in different countries separately. What I want to emphasize, is that each of us can influence our country and nation reputation, and fulfill our duties to the Motherland this way. And here are some keys to how it is done on the level of DIY effortless branding:
1) Whatever you say and how you behave outside your country, can become a source of stereotypes. So, if you don’t want your country and nation to be negatively judged only by your behavior, behave good and people by endorsing you will endorse your country. Be helpful, kind and polite, and it will help much more than any expensive promotion video made by the ministry of informational policy or ministry of culture…
2) If you live abroad, introduce the symbols of your country to the locals, e.g. its literature, cinematography and more important its FOOD. Yes… In many cases, the way to our heart lies through our stomach. At least it is true about me and most of the people I meet in my life))) You can do this by inviting locals for improvised dinners with your national cuisine, showing some films of your country with subtitles or translation, or organize a poetic battle with your guests reading the poems of your country writers.
3) Introduce your language. Find interesting facts about your mother tongue, its grammar or even some word that sound similar in the local language and your native language. It brings much fun sometimes.
4) Bring souvenirs from your country for your friend or business partners. Bring something really special, not necessarily expensive, but something that can’t be easily found by any tourist in your country, something that brings the real spirit of your land and has a unique concept.
5) Add some accessories and other elements that represent your country to your outfit. For example, sometimes I combine the colors on the Ukrainian national flag in my clothes. It is easy but quite effective. Because as it is proved by many psychologists specializing in color philosophy and colors impact on our mood that all the national flags in the world have unique color combinations that are always pleasant to our eyes.
6) Post the information about your famous fellow countrymen, who you really endorse in your social media. It happens that everyone in your foreign surrounding knows a sportsman or an actor, but they don’t know his origin or don’t associate him with your country. A large part of a country’s reputation is built by its outstanding citizens. So build association ties in your friends’ minds.
7) Promote your national holidays and traditions to the locals and foreign friends. Be very attentive to the traditions you choose, as far as we do these things in order to create a POSITIVE image of the country. Choose the traditions which don’t look inappropriate or contradict with the local culture. Choose something you can easily introduce, something that can sound and look presentable, attractive and positive. There is always a question about contradictory traditions, which foreigners may hear about and get shocked. If you are asked about such traditions in your country, try to find a logical explanation for them in order to avoid negative connotation.
8) Folk music is also a very effective thing to attract foreigners. Starting with the national anthem as a ringtone on your phone is also an interesting idea. I remember sitting in a business meeting with my phone sound on. Suddenly, my phone rang, and I was a bit ashamed because of it. But my partners were really amazed by the national anthem of Ukraine as the ringtone, and a couple of them even asked me for the link to listen to it on the Internet. So some uncomfortable moments can end up in an opportunity to promote your country.)))
In other words, a very significant part of us does belong to our country and nation. Chris Ronaldo may be the official Portuguese country ambassador, but millions of Portuguese people are also brand ambassadors of their country, and Portugal is mostly judged by their behavior inside the country and abroad. So let’s remember that no matter where we are from, we are responsible for our nation’s brand.
If you have any DIY techniques of nation brandind, leave a comment and add them to the list.