the grass is greener on the internet


Country is not a category
October 8, 2008, 10:12 pm
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I’ve been enjoying the commentary on nation branding by brandsinger – it seems to be an emerging area in the industry with countries like New Zealand going as far as to consult branding agencies.

A number of nation branding rankings have been released recently, some dubiously covering the subject, but all completely disagreeing with each other.

This feels…well, stupid. How do you compare countries anyway? The country I want to live in may not be the country I want to visit, the country I want to do business with, the country I think is the most economically stable or the country that the most people migrate to. I really don’t think you can see ‘country’ as a product category.

Comparing countries and trying to rank them is then like trying to say which mobile phone is the best. Some are pitched for design and ease of use. Others try and pack as many features as possible into as small a package as possible. Then there’s the phones which offer the basic features for a highly competitive price. Can you compare all of these? No. Not unless you do a value judgement on behalf of your audience about which qualities matter the most.

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Nation Branding
September 18, 2008, 12:47 am
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Now that branding entire countries is considered standard, an American communications agency has produced a handy nation branding index (covered here).

This is pretty tough. Interbrand’s annual brand equity rankings use a formula which ranks brands based on the profit they see coming from their brand reputation alone. But how can you measure the brand equity of a country, and subsequently compare between them?

Well, this index will use news coverage of countries in 38 ‘leading’ publications to create a quarterly reflection of how they are perceived by the global public. Good coverage gets good ratings, bad coverage means you could drop radically. All coverage is monitored using specifically designed software, described here.

There are a number of issues with this methodology. Which publications were used? Countries which are not generally featured in the news will lose out. Publications are also more likely to favourably cover events in their country of origin. Not to mention that some countries have high levels of censorship, so bad news may never reach the press. Doesn’t the ranking also depend on the events which occur in a country which may be out of its control? And exactly how accurate is the software in picking up stories related to the country?

Brandsinger argues here that the use of the word brand in the index is completely inappropriate and misleading, which I’d have to agree with. The ranking is purely media coverage and doesn’t take into account the myriad of other factors which don’t tend to be mentioned in the media regularly but still affect perceptions of a country – culture being a prime example. The index will pick up some of the word on the street but may not be in-depth enough for a reliable indication of brand perceptions and awareness.

This may not be so much an exercise in nation branding, but corporate branding for the creators, East West Communications. Will be interested to see whether it works for them.