Why country branding?

Every country is a brand.  The name of each country evokes some preset notion in the minds of individuals, just as brands do.  When you think of Japan, you think of quality products.  Germany reminds one immediately of craftsmanship.  Switzerland—precision, and so on.  Others are known best for broad economic categories, such as Thailand and Egypt for tourism, the U.S. for technology.  Countries normally fall under any of four categories for branding:  Product image (Made in…), Investment Attraction, Tourism and in some cases Political image.  Some do all four, others rely on one, two or three.


Branding a country, or a state or a city --  that is giving life to its unique essence in the global market place -- can help make a destination economically viable for the long run.  The branding position should be the key driver to open doors to the three most critical forms of economic endeavor. That's true for all nation-states, but particularly true for developing ones.  The three doors to prosperity are: Exports, Foreign Investment Attraction and Tourism.  Without these three doors being opened wide and promoted, preferably behind a branded image, countries have little chance for success.


But branding a country or destination is an extremely high stakes endeavor.  You have one try at getting it right; failure could lead to mass confusion in the marketplace and a setback for your country’s economy.  This is why we approach country branding as one of the most important jobs in the world, and one of the most important projects a country or region will ever take.


The goal of branding is to discover your unique, marketable essence in the global marketplace.  While brands can also contribute to “feel good” campaigns at home, make no mistake about it:  The country brand is chiefly a tool that is used for economic purposes.  Your image is all about economics!


Country brands nearly always have a logo (other than the flag), and sometimes have a mascot, such as an animal to represent the country.  These are determined AFTER the strategic positioning is uncovered.

The country branding process

The ICI partners have a proven track record using our Drop Formula to uncover the right brand positioning for a country or other destination.  Here is the process:




Nationwide focus group research is conducted among the important constituents of media, government, civic organizations, academia, with a sprinkling of some public (man-on-the-street) interviews as well.  The objective is to learn everything possible about the country, including history, politics, religion, social development, economics, external relations, art and culture.  The idea here is to pour all that knowledge into a funnel, and begin the process of “distilling” it to arrive at a single drop coming out of the funnel.  That drop is your unique, common, marketable essence.


Strategic Positioning


The distillation process leads to a positioning statement that is strategy based.  It is usually a one or two sentence paragraph.  It captures the essence in a longer form.


Creative Positioning


This is the refinement of the strategic positioning statement into a tagline or slogan, usually just a few words in length, sometimes without a verb.




Once the creative positioning is clear, it is then possible to move on to the design phase for a logo or other identity for the brand or the campaign.  This phase involves a partnership between local designers and a team of international designers so as to arrive at imagery that is acceptable both to domestic constituents and your global customers. It is best that the identity be as universal as possible for these reasons.


Master Communications Plan


The final phase of the process is the development of a Master Communications Plan to begin the process of promoting the brand.  This process begins at home with a domestic communications program aimed at building support for the brand, both in terms of local buy-in and funding.  It is important that the brand be supported at home BEFORE it is launched abroad.  The domestic campaign continues as the international plan unfolds.  International plans typically begin with event marketing and public relations to build the image, followed by advertising to sustain the new image.