Thursday, October 28, 2010

Nation Branding

Simon Anholt's explanation of nation branding is sure to be a disappointment to well-meaning civil servants and "fans" in search of the next big thing to save the day. Simon Anholt is the gentleman who coined the term "nation branding" in the 1990s and has since traveled the world promoting the concept. The disappointment is his website explains that his work "has nothing to do with marketing, advertising or public relations," because "places can’t construct or manipulate their images with advertising or PR, slogans or logos". I wish to quote the rest of the story at length from his own website:

The only sure way places can change their images is by changing the way they behave: they need to focus on the things they make and do, not the things they say. Simon Anholt’s approach of Competitive Identity, (which is also the title of one his books), is about helping countries, cities and regions to earn a better and stronger reputation in the following ways:

* through courageous and enlightened social, economic, environmental and foreign policies;
* through the dynamic development of tourism, foreign investment and exports;
* through carefully chosen international cultural, sporting and political events;
* through improved cultural and academic relations with other countries;
* through a strategic commitment to international development and poverty reduction;
* through productive engagement with multilateral institutions, regional organizations and with NGOs at home and abroad;
* through effective coordination between government, industry and civil society;
* through enhanced public and private diplomacy overseas;
* through a visionary long-term approach to innovation, investment and education.

If this is so then where does that leave the well-meaning civil servants and "fans" of brand Jamaica? The experience suggests that it won't be so easy to package and promote Jamaica's challenges away without serious commitment from any incumbent political directorate. It appears stakeholders are called upon to face the real hard issues of policy development, management, and financing among others. To my mind this explains a lot about why brand Jamaica still languishes.

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