Country Branding

From Country Branding Wiki

Jump to: navigation, search

Country Branding has many different definitions. Nonetheless it is possible to find two broad categories of definitions:

The first one describes it as the process of using branding methods to promote a nation or a place’s image. It is the use of marketing and branding tools to ensure a change in the perception and the attitude of a specific target group towards a place’s image.

The second, avoids associating Country Branding with the processes of branding and marketing. These definitions use terms such as “the strategic self-representation” of a country or “the vehicle” that can help a country, a region or a city reach economic and social objectives. This second set of definitions avoids the term branding in order to ensure that the strategy of country branding is not confused with a product branding campaign. It emphasises the fact that places are very different from products and that it would be wrong to approach the strategies similarly.


Further Definitions

According to Rainisto and Moilanen, "Places can be branded like products and services. Place branding aims especially at increasing the attractiveness of a place. Branding are not just loose marketing activities, but holistic development that influences the whole place. Place branding brings added attraction to a place. A branded place makes people aware of the location and connects desirable associations. It is possible to discover for each place a combination of unique attraction factors to make it different from the competing ones."<ref>Moilanen,T; Rainisto,S: How to Brand Nations, Cities and Destinations: A Planning book for place branding, Palgrave Macmillan, 2009</ref>

According to José Filipe Torres, cited by Forbes and The Economist as being “a world renowned specialist in country branding”, “there is a big confusion between what is a country branding strategy and what is advertising.”- ( In his opinion country branding “is an asset and a tool for a country to establish a strategic development in the areas of trade, tourism, and talent.” – (

Similar Concepts

Even though the term Country Branding would first suggest that it is only concerned with the branding of countries, it actually embraces all type of places: cities, countries and regions.

The following terms are all interchangeable:

- Country Branding

- Nation Branding

- Place Branding

- Geographical Branding

- Region Branding

- City Branding

- Development of Countries

Key Players

The three main key players who constantly invest in research and have ongoing contracts with different governments are

Wally Olins The creator of Country Branding

Simon Anholt The most visible and known adviser

Jose Filipe Torres The new generation with vast experience

History & Evolution

Earlier Approaches

There have been many theories on how far back country branding started. The closest example to the way Country Branding is practiced today goes back 150 years when the American government was encouraging people to move from the East to the West Coast.<ref>Moilanen,T; Rainisto,S: How to Brand Nations, Cities and Destinations: A Planning book for place branding, Palgrave Macmillan, 2009</ref>

However, it is during the end of industrialisation that country branding practices took a bigger importance. With the end of industrialisation, unemployment and social problems started increasing. Cities and countries realised that there was the need for the attraction of new investments. Consequently, in the late 70s and 80s, many American cities started branding themselves. The most noticeable campaigns are the New York 1977 “I Love New York” campaign as well as the Chicago’s 89 campaign: “Chicago would like to remind you that the first four letters of its name is Chic”. Boston’s mayor, Mayor White, was also recognised to be one of the pioneering city leaders to combine public relation, advertising and marketing tools in order to position his city as one of the top cities in the world. Following the example of Boston, place branding evolved and started being widely used in combination with PR tools. In the 80s, physical changes in cities (constructing landmark buildings, organising areas of the city in a way that would attract a specific type investment, etc) were also used in the promotional strategy of places. One of the most well known example is the Canary Warf project in London. During this same period, place branding also started to take a more professional approach as many advertising agencies began to handle the place promotion campaigns.<ref> Ward,S: Selling Places: The Marketing and the Promotion of Towns and Cities 1850-2000,Spon Press, London, UK, 1998<ref>

The main shift of public authorities management approach can be linked to the 1985 conference in Orleans where “academics, businessmen and policy makers from eight large cities in seven advances capitalist countries” came together to discuss the benefits of governments and public entities to be more proactive. At the end of the conference, there was a general consensus that there was a need to shift from “managerialism” to “entrepreneurialism”; to ensure a place’s economic development in an advanced capitalist world, places needed to do more than just manage the life of people and necessitated to find ways to bring in more wealth and sustainable development tools.<ref>Ward,S: Selling Places: The Marketing and the Promotion of Towns and Cities 1850-2000,Spon Press, London, UK, 1998<ref>

Finally, many authors also agree that globalization had an important role in the development of the country branding field; as Jose Filipe Torres, a consultant in the field would say: "Convergence of cultures, European Union extension, emerging economies looking West, affordable tourism destinations and of course Internet, made all countries and geographies realize that they to, can have an influence on their inflow and outflow of residents, tourists and investors. All the sudden, geographies started communicating ferociously in major tourism and economic publications, dreamful ideas that their location was in fact the best place to visit or invest."<ref>Torres, JP: Getting Started, June 30th 2009 available at:<ref>

Contemporary Approaches

Today the field is very well established with consultants, academics and agencies making it their specialisation. There are no specific numbers regarding how many countries and cities are actively doing promotional projects but it is clear that it is, at present, a very widely spread practice. The estimation of the cost of Nation Branding in the world is of $1tn per year. The methods of country branding have evolved and are, at present, very diverse. Tools as Sports Events, Cultural Events, Public Diplomacy, Nation-brands, Public Private Partnerships and many others are often used individually or combined for the conception of a strategy.

Particularities of Country Branding

Comparison between country branding and product branding
Country brand Product brand
Offer Nothing on offer A product or service on offer
Attributes Difficult to define Well defined
Benefits Purely emotional Functional and emocional
Image Complicated, various, vague Simple, clear
Associations Secondary, numerous and diverse Primary and secondary, relatively fewer and more specific
Purpose To promote country image To help sales and development relationships
Ownership Unclear, multiple stakeholders Sole owner
Audience Diverse, hard to define Target segment

As hard as it is to find one single definition of Country Branding that everyone would consent to, almost every specialist in the field agrees on the following differences between the branding of a place and the branding of a product:

-The Complexity of the place and its Collective character.

A place is much more complex than a product. It is hard and arguably impossible to define a place as one single homogeneous brand; places mean different things for different people. It is not the same as a product whose image can be defined from one single point of view. So many people participate in so many different ways to the production of a place that it makes the building of a branding strategy very complex.

- Difficulty of control a place.

Places changes in an uncontrollable and unpredictable way; for this reason a place branding campaign should take in to consideration the volatile identity of the place. Not only do places change through time but they also change depending on seasons. A customer’s experience in a specific city in the winter can be very different from the one in the summer, for example.

- Disturbance in the message communication process.

Communication channels in a place branding campaign are very hard to control. Information about places is constantly created in a chaotic way and in the form of a number of different and often contradictory messages.

- The customers implication in the building of the brand.

The experience of a person with a place plays a crucial role in the definition of a place’s identity. It is therefore extremely complex to define a place’s identity that would embrace the experience of every person that had an encounter with the place.

- Politics.

A place’s image is directly affected by the political context. It is very complex to design a place branding strategy that takes in to consideration the unpredictability of political events that could take place during or after the branding strategy implementation

- Conflicting Objectives.

Country branding campaigns are usually designed to benefit a number of actors in a place and it is often the case that all these actors have different objectives and conflicting interests. For this reason, the objective setting of place branding campaigns is much more difficult than the objective setting of product branding campaigns.

As a Wolly Olins said: ¨the idea of a nations as a brand - as Kellogg´s Corbflakes is a brand - is a very big mistake¨. Products can be modified, tooked out from market, relaunched, discontinued and repositioned or replaced by improved products. Countries, nations or places do not have most of these choices.


Position (2011) Trade Tourism
1 Usa.png USA Usa.png USA
2 Luxembourg.png Luxembourg Spain.png Spain
3 China.png China France.png France
4 Uk.png United Kingdom Germany.png German
5 France.png France Uk.png United Kingdom
6 Belgium.png Belgium China.png China
7 Canada.png Canada Italy.png Italy
8 Hongkong.png Hong Kong Australia.png Australia
9 Germany.png Germany Austria.png Austria
10 Russia.png Russia Thailand.png Thailand

Bloom Consulting Country Branding Ranking

In 2011, Mr. Jose Filipe Torres initiated a new research which was performed on 144 countries, in FDI, and 157 countries, in tourism, in the world with analysis on dozens of variables. The index, named Bloom Consulting Country Branding Ranking, separately examined two indicators, Trade and Tourism, based on Bloom-Consulting "3 T approach".

The Bloom Consulting Country Branding Ranking weights variables in order to position the countries by facts and mathematical algorithms instead of quantitative and qualitative research, like other rankings made in this field.

The methodology measures the coherency between the positioning messages of a country and its actual economic performance in a certain period of time. The higher a country is on the list, the better their competitors are in positioning themselves to attract either Foreign Direct Investment or Tourists.


Position (2011)
1 Canada.png Canada
2 Switzerland.jpg Switzerland
3 New zealand.jpg New Zealand
4 Japan.jpg Japan
5 Australia.png Australia
6 Usa.png United States
7 Sweden.jpg Sweden
8 Finland.jpg Finland
9 France.png France
10 Italy.png Italy

FutureBrand Country Brand Index

The Country Brand Index (CBI) incorporates global quantitative research, expert opinions, references relevant statistics that link brand equity to assets, growth and expansion and also identifies Emerging Trends. Ex: in 2009 the identified trends were a Value Oriented Mind Set, an attitude towards travel planning, the mystery of Authenticity, etc… The FutureBrand 2010 Country Brand Index was produced in partnership with BBC World News at the World Travel Market in London. ¨After five years of research, we know that country brand strength is driven by perceptions of heritage and culture, tourism, what it’s like to do business, quality of life and national value systems.¨ This research study which explores the dynamics,complexity and benefits of how nations manifest as brands.

This Index also provides ranking for Sub Categories as Brand Strength, Region Ranking, Associations (Authenticity, History, Safety, Ease of Travel… )


Position (2011)
1 Usa.png United States
2 Germany.png Germany
3 Uk.png United Kingdom
4 France.png France
5 Japan.jpg Japan
6 Canada.png Canada
7 Italy.png Italy
8 Australia.png Australia
9 Switzerland.jpg Switzerland
10 Sweden.jpg Sweden

Anholt – Gfk Roper Nations Brands Index

Through a partnership with renowned government advisor and author, Simon Anholt the GfK Roper Public Affairs & Media provides an expanded Nation Brands Index. The Anholt-GfK Roper Nation Brands Index is a cost-effective and comprehensive system for measuring and managing national reputation around the world. This Index is based on the Surveys of people from 20 major developed and developing countries about their perception of 50 countries. This Index is combination of six dimensions: Exports, Governance, Culture and Heritage, People, Tourism, Investment and Immigration.


Efficiency of Campaigns

To see summaries of cases, read this article: Country Branding Case Studies

As Country Branding is not an exact science and the process takes time to give results, it is hard to certainly say if a campaign succeeded or not.

However, a few cases have been recognised, by some, as success stories. Many authors have, for instance, stated Spain, the United Arab Emirates, Croatia and Scotland in the list of the success story campaigns. After Franco, Spain was able to reposition itself as a vibrant and modern country and replace the darker image that was generally perceived by the public. The United Arab Emirates is a good example of a country that created a sustainable tourism industry without initially having anything to offer: “It doesn’t have the Eiffel Tower, it doesn’t have the pyramids, it’s very hot, it doesn’t have the world’s most beautiful beaches, but there’s something about it that intrigues people and, arguably, a lot of that is that they started promoting themselves”.

Nevertheless, as much as the field of Country Branding made its start with a lot of enthusiasm some scepticism started to grow in the last years. There has been some kind of doubts around the use of the word “branding” as it was looked at by many countries and agencies as a way of hoping for a quick fix for a country’s positioning.

Simon Anholt states himself that: “Nation branding does not exist; it is a myth, and rather a dangerous one. The idea that it is possible to ‘do branding’ to a country (or to a city or region) in the same way that companies ‘do branding’ to their products and services, is vain and foolish.”<ref>Anholt,S:Why Nation Branding does not exist, Kommunikationsmaaling,January 16th 2009<ref>. According to Jose Filipe Torres one of the problems is that “Country Branding, is been used incorrectly and inconsistently. Most of the time country Branding is been used with several objectives at the same time, such as attraction of tourism; attraction of trade; public diplomacy; national pride, among many others. However, this is a utopia because most of the objectives are antagonistic. Objectives for tourism are completely different from trade and trying to feet the two together will only create resistant internally and confusion externally. There for that’s way most of the country brand strategy has bad reputation.”

Building a Country Branding Strategy

Reasons for initiating a Country Branding Strategy

There are a number of reasons why a place can initiate a Country Branding Campaign:

- Attract Companies and/or Foreign investments

- Promote the Tourism industry

- Promote Public Diplomacy

- Promote Exports

- Strengthen Citizens identity and Self Esteem

Type of Countries/Places that should initiate a Branding Strategy

This aspect should be, of course, looked at on a case by case basis. However, generally, every country or city that enjoys relatively political stability can initiate a country branding strategy.

Example of a Strategy Building Process

Each consultant, agency and academic obviously has a different approach to the place branding strategy building. On the link below, is an example shared by Jose Filipe Torres from Bloom Consulting:


Budget required & Financing

The budget will of course change depending on the country and their need but a good country branding strategy will usually cost at least $1 million. Typically country branding strategies are financed by the Ministries of Economy who, depending on the country’s geographical location, can turn to specific entities - like the European Commission, the African Bank for Development or the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development - to find the funding. There are also more innovative ways of financing a country branding strategy; for example inviting the private sector to contribute in the form of fees.

It is important to note that, as most of the time the financing comes from taxpayers’ money, it is essential to ensure a certain transparency all along the process.

Preparing a BID, Launching a BID and choosing a consultant

It is essential to involve a number of different parties (trade institutions, tourism institutions, cultural institutions, FDI institutions etc.) in the preparation of the BID in order to make sure there is no repetitiveness and overlapping of each one of them in the projects and to agree on a common strategy that would align the goals of all of them.

The choice of the consultant varies on the need of the country but it is important to keep in mind that the project should include both a consultancy phase and an implementation phase. Countries and cities should not skip the first consultancy stage, the most important of the stages, and should never jump directly into advertising and marketing strategies.

Ideally the project should be divided in three phases:

- A consultancy phase done by a specialist consultant body

- A primary implementation phase done by a marketing or branding agency

- The implementation phase done by an advertising agency

Traditional Aspects in the Development of a Country Branding Strategy

Creating a country branding strategy is a complex task and requires a high level of coordination between stakeholders. In general, the programme is based on clear projects, which can be easily transferred into understandable and flexible symbols. This makes it possible to reach different target groups (residents, businessmen, tourists). In the majority of cases, the strategy is supervised by the national government, in cooperation with particular ministries (e.g. foreign affairs, culture, trade) and must be supported by marketing specialists.

In building a country branding programme, it is very important to have financial stability at all stages, to facilitate the flow of information between stakeholders and those who support them.

There are some general points that should be obeyed in order to succeed in creating a country branding strategy:

- Strategic approach: Country brand building cannot be determined by short-term propositions. The strategy needs to be planned with perspective, and needs to suit the brand of the country for many years.

- Holistic approach: country branding processes cannot be treated as isolated initiatives (limited only to tourism promotion). A correctly designed strategy should include such areas as: FDI, export, public diplomacy. Hence, all those fields must be located within branding process.

- Stakeholder involvement: country branding process is a multi-level enterprise, which involves not only governmental level but also companies, public organizations, media, and so on.

- Brand identity as a central issue: the programme must be based on an identity which can be acceptable by all stakeholders in order to communicate the brand across different products and markets.

- Branding in both inward and outward: the idea of country branding process must be supported by society and gradually become a kind of “social movement”.<ref>van Geenhuizen, M: Value-added partnering and innovation in a changing world, Purdue University, 2009</ref>

"The first stage in positioning a brand is to set up core values, which should be durable, relevant and communicable. This process should give an overview of the current situation of the nation brand, how the brand exists in the consumer’s mind (method: for example focus group, in-depth interview). It must be accompanied by comparison with key competitors. The aim of the research is to establish people’s motivations, needs, barriers to travel to the country, images about particular country."<ref>Morgan, N; Pritchard, A; Piggott, R: New Zealand, 100% Pure. The Creation of a Powerful Niche Destination Brand, Journal of Brand Management, April 2002</ref>.

"The next step is to define what the country stands for and determine how it should be translated into brand personality (this can be difficult because sometimes the nation is perceived in a different way by its inhabitants and by foreigners). Some values come to people minds naturally and spontaneously, some are created. The aim is to develop brand essence, which captures the wholeness of a nation brand. However, brand essence is not an equivalent with a tagline from promotional campaign. Brand essence represents the destination’s identity, is timeless, and relevant across markets and products. On that basis, the communication strategy must be elaborated in order to launch the brand. At this level, financial support is extremely significant. Key aspect is to concentrate not only on advertising. In fact, stakeholders can do more for the brand (interactive media, direct marketing) than any particular promoting campaign."<ref>Morgan, N; Pritchard, A; Piggott, R: New Zealand, 100% Pure. The Creation of a Powerful Niche Destination Brand, Journal of Brand Management, April 2002</ref>

Mr. José Filipe Torres also says, that the important issue in building a country branding programme is to concentrate on numbers, in order to make the project more tangible, and therefore more understandable and acceptable for society. The objectives of the plan must be measurable so as it gives justification for more investments, an explanation of the benefits for the country. To get a wide perspective of the project, it is recommendable to hire a company or consultant which can provide objective and professional advice.<ref>Torres, JF: Country Branding Blog, </ref>

Timing of Execution and Results Expectations

There is no standard time for a country branding campaign but the timeline should be in accordance with the political cycle because the objectives and the financing of the strategy are, most of the time, very dependent on the political body in power.

The results in terms of brand equity and brand recognition are almost impossible to measure and, even when they are, it is very hard to isolate a direct relationship between a campaign and the perception of a country’s image. For this reason the only way to look at the result of the country branding strategy is by setting the GDP growth and economic objectives.

Common Errors

- Country Branding is not an advertising spot on CNN, it is not an advertising strategy, it is not about building a nice big building or listing the geographical advantages of a place; it is much more than that and limiting the strategy to the use of promotional tools is only a waste of time and money .

- Country Branding is not a quick fix. A country needs a sustainable development model to be able to attract investments, tourism and portray a good image to the rest of the world.

- A place branding strategy cannot solve all of a country's problems at the same time: it cannot be about tourism, attracting investment and promoting export at the same time. Specific objectives should be set at the beginning of the strategy building. According to MrJose Filipe Torres, the strategy can not even be the same for trade, tourism and talent, because the target and the objectives are completely different “a country is NOT one brand, it should be 3 brands. Different target audiences, different needs, and different institutions. There is never going to be a common agreement. If there is, then you have the problem from my previous point: TOO many bland messages.” (

- Believing that a country branding strategy is going to align a country under one value, is wrong; People in a country will never change their beliefs and values to please the initiators of branding strategies.

Country Branding Strategy Methodology of Bloom Consulting

To read more about the Strategy methodology of Bloom Consulting, please read the following article: Country Branding Strategy Methodology of Bloom Consulting.

Country Branding Resources


- List of universities where you can find research about Country Branding: Universities

Opinion Leaders

- List of researchers and opinion leaders in the field of Country Branding: Country Branding Opinion Leaders.


- Degree Papers: Degree Papers - Country Branding

- Papers: Papers - Country Branding

Media: Saff_CityBrandBarom.pdf

Media: Cities-of-opportunity.pdf

Media: Destination_images-branding.pdf

Media: Country_Branding_article,_Bulgaria_and_Romania.pdf‎

Media: Country_Branding_article.pdf‎

Media: Nation_branding_at_national_geographic_channel.pdf‎

- Other articles: General Articles - Country Branding


- Link to book about Country Branding: Country Branding Books


- List of websites about Country Branding and Public Diplomacy: Country Branding Websites


- List of Country Branding Events.

See Also

- Public Diplomacy:

- Branding:

- Destination Marketing Organization:

Personal tools