Causes and effects

Building a place brand is a harder task than that supposed. What happens is urgency pushes stronger and not all the campaigns we can see are real branding ones. This is the result of the historical confusion between some disciplines, such as marketing, touristic promotion and even propaganda, among others.

Place branding is a very specific science. I dare to name it so, as I firmly believe we can design and plan actions to meet our goals. As a lab issue, this is a matter of causes and effects.


Stereotypes and Country Branding. Why Spain´s brand is different.

Perception is the first clue we get on a country brand. It makes us shape in our minds what that place must be. Unconsciously we have our first opinion on it, and it will be backed or modified by other information we will receive, be in a way or another, about the place.

This is the reason of thinking of some places and their people through stereotypes. We once got some information, processed it in any way, and no other has come to change it. Stereotypes are not always bad news for a country. They can even help when reality has become so bad appearing that keeping people minds in pre-conceived concepts can make us gain time to recover a competitive identity (a branding definition by Simon Anholt).

Although today´s media absolute coverage and 2.0 channels echo constantly launching what happens wherever, there are places enjoying the benefits of what they are supposed to be. We can clearly see that many places have two main different concepts set in Public Opinion mind. Even three, as the singular case of Spain has. And, although complex reflections, it is checkable in such simple way as one´s own mind. If we asked people around the world about the image they have of Spain, we would  probably get three different answers: the stereotyped one, represented by words as matador and flamenco; the admired one, talking about the political and economic impressive change Spain enjoyed and a last one, remarking the deep economic and social crisis she is in.

At this point, surely would feel a lot alleviated being said to be a land of matadors, flamenco and fiesta. No deeper thoughts to damage, by instance, her so needed touristic flows. Spain has always complaint for being considered a mere services country. Her people made a tremendous effort for years to balance that with a stronger industrial sector that attracted direct foreign investments, among other targets. Today, without surfing in the Spanish economic and social reality, we can end that the identity of Spain has kept its competitiveness in a certain sense. Let´s make a simple mental exercise: Have you recently thought of spending your holidays in Greece? Have you thought to do it in Spain? What a brand means is also what it provokes. And right now, I am sure Spanish do not mind at all being named as the land of bullfighting, flamenco or fiestas. The thing is a solid conviction that makes tourists come and come back to Spain every year in a number today surpassing 54 million. This side of Spanish brand has not been damaged, as it keeps ranking at the top of world touristic destinies.

Place Branding and Strategic Communication

To communicate strategically means to understand the strong power of words, images and actions, and to align them rigorously. A country, institution or person will build his reputation depending on the way he manages them, be consciously or not.

The reputation or brand of a country is one of her most valuable assets, and so it is for every single city, person, organization or sports club. We are what we communicate. What do we want to be?

Place Branding is a new discipline many countries and cities are now listening to. There are many circumstances that have created the need of an own brand for countries, cities and places whose identity problems are pushing down their development. They have a lack of identity outwards or, even, a bad reputation that is a huge difficulty for their economic grow.

Place Branding

To generate a place brand goes beyond touristic slogans and also beyond promoting the “made in”. Place Branding puts together, in a single discipline, the global communication of a place, and it is a must it succeeds extracting the real essence of it and communicates it in a strategic way.
What does strategy mean in Communications? To select adequate tools and to use them with coordination in time, according to a plan, well designed and structured, that boosts the effectiveness of each of them and generates an authentic coral exercise of communication.
Place Branding must generate sensations that attract general interest to a country. It must appeal to emotions at the time of shaping the reputation of a place: if we aim to attract investments, we must communicate rigorousness, transparency and profitability. If we want to increase touristic flows, we must transmit suggesting images, different destinies, singular experiences. If what we want is to export products, we will communicate any sensation that talk about their qualities.
But Place Branding will aim a global result: global sensations that make people trust our country in all those aspects. It’s obvious that not all brands can sell tourism, export cars, attract direct investments. But it is a prestigious country brand that will open a window to all that. Is Germany a touristic country? Obviously, not. But the good reputation Germany has and communicates allows her global reputation to be solid in any sense. As Simon Anholt has brilliantly remarked, creating a country brand is generating a competitive identity.

And what about Europe?

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Although recent changes aimed to build a stronger European Union, it is difficult to say they achieved it. It is not just the economic puzzle they are in, but the absolute lack of identity, strong and competitive identity, the EU has.

Instead of a solid leadership that shows himself as the head of a real politic, social and economic power, instead -also- of a solid foreign affairs head leading missions everywhere, we´ve got one Merkel, one Sarkozy, one Berlusconi… too many faces for just one body. And all of them different to one another and communicating in so different ways.

The first thing to understand when branding a place and communicate a strong identity is that words and actions must be perfectly aligned.

Branding Angola

Our company was proudly selected to design the Global Plan for Strategic Communication and Nation Branding for the Republic of Angola, in partnership with Semba Comunicacao, a prestigious Luanda company.

Now, the Project, directed by our CEO, Marta Vallejo Arenaz, is in its first stage of implementation, in the way to put Angola in the world.

Surfing the world of Country Branding

Granta Consulting Place BrandingI am passionate about Country Branding and I do really enjoy all the articles and books I read about it. While I have to admit there are some actions really effective when branding a country, many other do nothing to reach it.

Personally, I think there is a lack of innovation, creativeness and enthusiasm when working a Branding Plan for a country. Every single country has a Blue Ocean to surf within.

Innovation means bringing new ideas and actions. Maybe these already existed in another area. But the crucial fact to succeed is to be creative enough to bring them to our Branding Strategic Communication Plan. We will then innovate.

I could write a book about enthusiasm, a crucial pillar to succeed.

I have gone through many projects carried out by big consultancies… no news about enthusiasm.

Simon Anholt, international expert on Place Branding, writes about this in one of his books: He remarks that the difference between Communicating and Communicating with enthusiasm is infection. And I do absolutely agree. If your message does not infect, it does not communicate properly.

Marta Vallejo Arenaz