What We Can Learn from the Nation Branding Boom


It seems that the old method of nation branding is out. No longer is it “trample through your neighbor, enslave them, and then force them to wave your flag.” That just doesn’t seem to work anymore.

No, nations now have to play by the rules just like everyone else. And in the age of the internet, nation branding takes on a whole new meaning.

If you watch any TV at all, you’ll notice that nations like Costa Rica entice tourists through beautiful beach filled ads. It’s an odd phenomenon, but it works for a nation whose primary industry is tourism.

But what are various nations doing? Are they successful? And what can we learn from them? Let’s take a look.

1. Nations Tell Their Story

If you’re a small nation most Americans or even Europeans wouldn’t be able to pinpoint on a map, what do you do? Tell a story.

Some nations have experienced great hardship. Their history is as much a part of their appeal as their beautiful mountains. It’s places like Lipetsk (Wait…that’s a place?) that need to have their story told the most.

But it’s places like the United Arab Emirates that succeed at nation branding and storytelling the most. Their “nation” or conglomeration of states, is only fifty years old.

And yet, Dubai is a place anybody could point out on a map. Thanks to not only the travel industry promoting Dubai, but also the entertainment industry featuring the city in films like Mission Impossible, Dubai is now ranked 12 on Euromonitor’s “Top 100 City Destinations.”

And they did this by telling a story. What was their story? They created a story about a prominent and glamorous city in the middle of the desert. It’s wild and fun and cultural.

And while the city is young, it’s hip and easy to point at as a place most people would want to go.

What Else Did Dubai Do?

Outside of image branding, Dubai invested in hosted tour groups, celebrity visits, and general communication. They wanted to create an entertainment buzz around their city.

They build world-class infrastructure to rival the biggest cities in the world. And they invested in major publicity stunts such as suspending a helipad a thousand feet above the Persian Gulf and allowing top tennis players duke it out up there. Yep, that’s Dubai for you.

Dubai was nowhere twenty years ago. Nobody had the image of a massive tower sticking out of the sand back then. But today, you ask anyone what Dubai is and they’ll describe a dazzling city.

What Can We Learn From Dubai?

Of course, smaller brands can’t afford to suspend a helipad in the air. But they can do similar small acts.

You can bring in a well-known speaker to company events and create buzz around your company.

Host charity events for major charities and increase your social media presence through such events. Re-work your brand and tell the story of a company that sits at the cutting edge ready to help the world.

Tell people that your company is the coolest place to buy or do “such and such” in the world. And don’t be cheesy about it. Just build a company morale and ethics around that image.

The best marketing is actually true.

2. Nations Use Stereotypes to Their Advantage

Of course, negative stereotypes will always be a problem. But neutral or positive stereotypes are always something a nation or a brand should work with to increase their reach and their brand perception.

Costa Rica is a prime example of a nation taking a stereotype and running with it. Costa Ricans are known as some of the most chill people on the planet. And their national slogan reflects this.

If you watch any Costa Rican commercial, you’ll know the phrase Pura Vida. It literally translates to “Pure Life.” But figuratively it means a lot of things.

If you hear Pura Vida, you should think relaxation. Costa Ricans have a simple way of looking at life. They prefer a stress-free life, at least that’s the stereotype.

But the Costa Rican tourism office used this slogan to imply that anyone who comes to Costa Rica will experience Pura Vida. That you will have almost all of your worries wash away and you can enjoy your vacation stress-free.

What Can We Learn From Costa Rica?

When you go to Costa Rica for vacation, you really do experience a fairly stress-free existence. This is partly due to the fact their economy is almost entirely based on tourism.

But a promise is a promise. And most countries cannot promise Pura Vida. Sure, they can promise adventure and fun and relaxation, but culture has a lot to do with it.

If you are going to brand your company after a stereotype, be sure it’s a true stereotype. The most successful branding campaigns actually instill the spirit of the campaign on the company.

If you believe your company has a positive stereotype and some aspect of that stereotype is true and could empower your customers, run with it. You will not only be helping your own company solidify its culture, but you will incorporate your customers into that awesome culture as well.

3. Nation Branding Involves the Use of Brand Ambassadors

If you’re in the tourism market, one of the best brand ambassadors is the air travel industry. And many nations have figured out the truth.

Why are brand ambassadors important and why do Nations use them? According to Kiss PR, “The reason why brand ambassadors are important is simple: you need people to represent and talk about your brand with your audience.” And I would add that you don’t have time to be a brand ambassador.

Nations cannot be where the future tourist or business is. Their only recourse is to use an industry that is and will always be where the tourist is. And in our world, that’s up in the air.

Getting someone to spread your message is one of the oldest tricks in the book. But it’s one that a lot of marketers seem to forget about.

Look for people with massive reach and who care about your brand. Those are the people who will bring your brand to the world.

Learn from nation branding. If a large bureaucratic organization such as a country or nation-state can manage a brand, so can you.

If you’re interested in more articles about marketing and branding, check out the rest of our blogs here on Shoemoney.



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