National branding: development and features

Abstract. Creating national brand is one of popular contemporary trends. This article provides different definitions to the term “brand” and compares its mere marketing meaning with its branch – “national brand”. In the article, two major concepts that lay in the basis of national brand are observed: place marketing and competitive identity. These two concepts provide conditions for two approaches to national branding – marketing approach and public diplomacy approach. This dualism of national branding is reflected in its dual aims: material (being competitive on the market and attracting investments) and non-material (strengthening sense of national identity, raising international awareness). 

Starting from the announcement of independence, the matter of awareness on the world arena has been concerned either by statesmen or regular citizens. As a matter of fact, during first years of independence it was the task of utmost importance for the Republic of Kazakhstan as a newly emerged state to assert itself to the world community. Nowadays, national brand may be considered as one of the effective ways of a state to express itself. But, what do we mean by national brand? Despite this term being familiar to everybody, we would rather clarify its meaning beneath.

The term “brand” is more often referred to the field of marketing; therefore its researchers are mostly presented by marketing specialists. Thus, French marketing specialist J.Kapferer defines brand as “the name that influences customers”. The name, besides, must be notable, distinct, dynamic and trustworthy. Apart from that, brand is intended to awake certain associations [1, p.21]. Classical market definition of “brand” states the following: “a set of associations, appearing in consumers’ mind, that enhances perceived value of good and services” [2, p. 51].

However, in this paper we consider national brand and consequently transfer it to the context of international relations. From this perspective, the most appropriate definition is the one given by professor K.Dinnie: “national brand is a unique multidimensional system of elements that provides the nation with differentiation based on cultural context and compliance to all target groups” [3, p.15]. In other words, national brand should unify and reflex the whole complex of national identity elements which distinguish it from other states. In this context, terms of national brand and national image are frequently mixed. Here it must be explained that image can be either positive or negative, while brand is based on a strongly marked positive, well-promoted image of territory [4, p.95]. Thus, branding is a process of brand-making, creating common perception and understanding of the uniqueness of a territory for general public.

Importance of national branding is difficult to overestimate. Strong national brand contributes to attracting investments, attracting tourists; increases state’s trustworthiness and reliability; extends political power inside the country as well as abroad; strengthens effective partnership. Also, national brand involves “country of origin” effect for goods and services, which promotes them on the market. Finally, notable national brand forms national community spirit along with pride in being a citizen of this certain country [5, p. 31].

Being a process of brand-making, national branding is founded on two basic conceptions. Firstly, it is the concept of place-marketing. This concept has been worked out since 90-s by Western researchers. In 1993 F.Cotler, D.Hyder and I.Rein published a book dedicated to that concept. Within its frame, it is supposed that development of territories, proposing certain types of goods and services, could drive up demand for goods of local production, attract investments and enhance tourism. Territorial branding is aimed at improving and conserving competitiveness of local enterprises; increasing the rate of national (or citizens’) identity; drawing up new resources; forming its notability. Moreover, territorial branding, taking into account researches of public attitude towards certain region (place), involves some work to be done in order to improve that attitude. So, the concept of place-marketing is transforming a territory into a brand [6, p. 7].

Improving and conserving competitiveness is also concerned within the second concept, which is a foundation of national branding. S.Anholt has introduced the concept of “competitive identity”. This concept of competitive identity includes six major criteria which national brand is built upon. They are a) tourism; b) export; c) political decisions of authorized people or bodies; people (the entire population, political leaders, celebrities etc); e) culture (cultural activities / actors); f) investments (foreign investor motivation, attracting foreign outstanding students and workforce) [7, p.134]. 

From these two ideas of place branding and competitive identity, Simon Anholt studied national brand as a particular concept, i.e. he was the first to introduce the term “national branding”. Besides, he elaborated “Anholt nations brand Index” which is the system of evaluation national branding results [8]. Also there is a periodical “Place branding and Public Diplomacy” edited by Simon Anholt and devoted to the issues of contemporary national branding worldwide.

Professor K.Dinnie mentioned above should be added to the constellation of scientists who study the phenomenon of national branding. Keith Dinnie is the professor of Temple University Japan, Tokyo. According to Dinnie, national branding is mostly the way the state is perceived by others.

Regarding S.Anholt there is a necessity to “synthesize brand- management with public diplomacy, accompanied by intense development of trade, investments, tourism and export” [7, p.148]. Thus, he talks about two existing approaches to the identity of national branding: marketing approach and public diplomacy approach.

Marketing approach to national branding ignores the difference between nation and state, so that nation and state are equated. Public diplomacy supporters suppose, country’s identity is formed by number of elements. An approach based on public diplomacy intends that national identity can contain mor than one nationality. Multiple regional identities within the country make it scarcely possible to build up national brand simply around one nationality.

In general, national branding is a strategy of enhancing competitiveness in order to sweep external markets, attract investors, tourists, new residents and qualified migrants. Territorial branding is directed on overcoming shortage of material and non-material resources in the region. It is based on the will to inform general public about the uniqueness of this territory. Activity designed to manage social attractiveness of geographic space is also implemented by means of public diplomacy. As public diplomacy, so national branding try to make an impact on understanding and perception of territorial establishments (states, regions, unions) by foreign and internal communities.

Further, it is desirable to consider historical backgrounds of national branding. It turns out that from ancient times people have been striving to create favourable environment to attract or sell resources. Earlier they used different strategies of promotion which conventionally could be divided into religious and secular. For example, city (polis) advancement was conducted by means of founding a religious centre there. This event helped attract pilgrims, increase the number of church members and extend city’s infrastructure. In European practice, lots of churches later developed into universities which enlarged population flow by students and faculty, formed new vacancies and increased benefits. Oxford University in Britain can be a proper example for this.

In XVI-XVIII centuries regions started to pose themselves as “places of origin” for certain goods, which defined their modern image. For instance, in the eighteenth century porcelain production in German Meisen or Russian Gzhel ceramics became famous [8].

Considering Kazakhstan, they mention such product like kumys. In ancient times our land was inhabited by nomads. That is why, image of a nomad and a horse became a brand for our ancestors. It must be mentioned that kumys and Kyrgyz horses were even presented at the World Exhibition in Paris in 1877, when Kazakhs were a part of Russian Empire [9-11]. Nowadays, kumys is one of the symbols defining Kazakh originality, commitment to culture and historical heritage. As we remember, at Milan Exhibition in 2015 Kazakhstan also presented kumys as the beverage of heroes. In this context, President of Kazakh Academy of Nutrition Toregeldy Sharmanov listed national products that could become a brand, among which he mentioned koumiss and shubat [12].

On the other hand, there is a commonly held opinion that a mistake of national branding on the post-soviet space is that forming identity reflects only history, but not to the future. New independent states simply imitate their history but do not propose any new ideas. In other words, search for the past may lead to the loss of the future. That is exactly why post soviet space is considered to be archaic. These countries must stop pursuing previous (quasi) states. Today, they have equal opportunities to create prominent national brands.

Thus, national branding is a strategy, that lets the state to occupy its own niche in the world community by raising its awareness. This is reached by pursuing material and non-material goals: attracting foreign direct investments and strengthening their competitiveness on the market; and promoting competitive traits of national cultural identity.



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Year: 2016
City: Almaty