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Network Insights: The need for strong Nation Brands

Jeremy Sampson
Samir Dixit
Laurence Newell
Ruchi Gunewardene
19 October 2021
Map nation brands

Nations as tourism brands

Jeremy Sampson

Jeremy Sampson, Managing Director, Brand Finance Africa
Jeremy Sampson, Managing Director,
Brand Finance Africa

It is not that long ago that brands and branding were seen as the sole preserve of the FMCG brigade. Not anymore. Today everything is brandable from people to countries. And that means a value can be put on everyone and everything.

Tourism is a major potential source of income for all countries, regions, and cities. But competition is intense and so it is essential to ensure all touchpoints of the brand are aligned to provide the best possible experience.

Africa is a patchwork quilt of 54 countries, with a plethora of different cultures, currencies, and local languages. This fragmented geography, slowly harmonising, remains an obstacle to both easier trade and tourism.

Another issue is the perception that Africa is a long way from everywhere, which is far from reality. South Africa remains the gateway to the continent, with Johannesburg the hub.

Today, everyone has to fight for a share of the tourism wallet. Remember: it’s the brand, stupid

Attracting green field investment

Laurence Newell

Laurence Newell, Managing Director, Brand Finance Americas
Laurence Newell, Managing Director,
Brand Finance Americas

Nation branding applies widely-used marketing concepts to countries in the interest of enhancing their reputation – principally among institutional investors – and why not?

Corporate marketing has created immense value through brands, based on a clear understanding of certain consumption patterns and how brands meet them. Much like consumers, investors are predictable, and nation brand managers need to study their needs.

Central to positioning a nation brand is a clear understanding of what drives investor decision-making.

Having had the opportunity in the past to help define brand strategy for the investor relations arm of Brand Mexico, critical to success in that project was an understanding of what was most important to investors, and what drives their motivation to select a nation over another.

Focusing on measurement and collecting the right data going forward is a competitive advantage in itself, and knowing what not to measure can be as important as understanding what should be measured. Certainly, the closer a metric is to income – or in this case, investment – the more seriously it will be taken by management.

National quality mark

Samir Dixit

Samir Dixit, Managing Director, Brand Finance Asia Pacific
Samir Dixit, Managing Director,
Brand Finance Asia Pacific

Every country aims to drive some form of competitive advantage for their products through the country’s brand image. Some use tourism advertising, some FDI campaigns, and some global events such as the Olympics. But all these drive the “inbound”, which in an economic context is equivalent to focusing on imports only. What about exports – the “outbound”? After all, most countries have a better chance to ride out an economic slump due to their export concentration.

In the international marketplace, consumers have a much wider choice of products from different countries. They seek higher assurance of quality than what they simply get through the place of origin. Consumers need a warranty and assurance from governments about the quality of exported products. And the solution simply lays in a strong “National Quality Mark” which endorses quality and authenticity.

Due to the efforts of a national mark program called “Vietnam Value”, Vietnam’s processed food industry now contributes upwards of US$17 billion of the country’s exports. The apparel industry makes up over US$22 billion of exports. These economic contributions are absolutely crucial for Vietnam’s overall growth and would not have been entirely possible without the concentrated efforts by Vietnam’s government.

A well-managed national quality mark is key to nation brand success and doing it right can bring great benefits.

Opportunities for GI products

Ruchi Gunewardene

Ruchi Gunewardene, Managing Director, Brand Finance Sri Lanka
Ruchi Gunewardene, Managing Director,
Brand Finance Sri Lanka

By virtue of a country’s bio-diversity, climate conditions, heritage and cultural diversity, many unique commodities and products are made available that generate appeal among customers in other countries. Whilst these are often traded, there is an opportunity for greater value creation by protecting their source of origin so that similar products from another region cannot unfairly exploit the reputation that has been amassed.

Every nation in the world has such valuable intangible assets. These exported products add to the perceptions around a nation’s brand. However, a lot of work needs to go into protecting, regulating, and managing them in order to create an effective global marketing strategy and extract the hidden value.

Ceylon tea is a good example of a country of origin product that has survived for 150 years after it was first exported to the UK. Although it still retains the perception of being a good quality tea, it is now under pressure to use modern marketing and branding techniques to stay relevant in these rapidly changing times.

Branding strategies centring on the geographical origin of a product is a key basis for differentiating them from commodity products. And the use of such “geographical indication” (GI) can involve a range of unique quality characteristics associated with a particular location.

About the Authors

Jeremy Sampson
Managing Director

Jeremy is the managing director of Brand Finance Africa and has almost 50 years’ experience working in between London and Johannesburg in marketing, advertising, graphic design, public relations, reputation management and branding. He founded and was the Executive Chairman of the Africa operations of the international branding group, Interbrand until he stepped down in October 2014.

Jeremy himself was awarded the prestigious Financial Mail AdFocus Lifetime Achievement Award, in 2010 and holds over 100 design awards.

Today Jeremy consults/mentors/advises, sits on boards/advisory panels, writes and speaks and is very active in the media, including hosting programmes for Classic FM.

More from Jeremy Sampson
Samir Dixit
Managing Director
Asia Pacific

With a global career spanning over 20 years across brand, marketing, communications, consulting and financial Industry, Samir has a wealth of experience across global strategy, research, IP management, corporate communication, PR, global brand management, M&A branding, and advertising.Previously, as a global brand controller at Standard Chartered Bank, Samir managed the global brand agenda with strong focus on global brand strategy, global brand tracking research/KPIs, internal communication, brand and business integration and brand architecture & alignment during M&A.In his various roles across marketing communications and advertising, Samir has worked across industry segments including FMCG, retail, hospitality, industrial products, automobiles, electronics, beverages, mobile telephony, pharma & healthcare, NGOs, airlines etc.Samir is an i-advisor with IE Singapore, an external speaker, contributes to teaching and curriculum inputs at Marketing Institute if Singapore and at other reputed management institutes.In the past 12 months, Samir has been driving marketing and business acceleration strategies for B2B and B2C segments alike, across industry and consumer segments like pharma, insurance, banking and finance, education, retail, internet/on-line and advertising communications.

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Laurence Newell
Managing Director
North America

Laurence is a brand specialist and a consolidated business developer with over 25 years of experience directing client engagements in brand-building disciplines encompassing valuation, strategy, corporate identity, and packaging across numerous sectors and markets. His expertise has been largely in Mexico and Latin America, and more recently, the US. He serves as the Non-Executive Director for the Americas Region of Brand Finance, the world’s leading independent brand valuation consultancy. Prior to joining Brand Finance, Laurence founded two independent brand design and strategy firms in Mexico, Brandia and Marca Capital, both of which today, boast double-digit growth and operate strong client portfolios. In his career, Laurence has serviced clients in banking and financial sectors, such as S&P Global, BBVA, CitiBanamex, Nexxus Capital, Banorte, and Bancolombia; leading retail brands such as Grupo Martí, La Europea, Calimax, Walmart, and Yale; and important players in sports and entertainment, including Cinepolis, Televisa Editorial, and Mexico’s National Soccer Team. Laurence is a frequent contributor on marketing and branding topics in media outlets such as Mexico’s leading daily Reforma, top business TV network El Financiero Bloomberg, and Colombia’s magazine and daily, La República. Laurence is a representative for Mexico before the ISO Technical Committee responsible for reviewing the creation of a transparent, reconcilable, and repeatable approach to brand valuation, ISO 10668 on Monetary Brand Valuation and participates in the US Marketing Accountability Standards Board (MASB), with Brand Finance.  Laurence holds an undergraduate degree from Southern Methodist University and a postgraduate degree from the University of Miami.

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Ruchi Gunewardene
Sri Lanka

Ruchi graduated from the University of Bath in the UK with a degree in Biology. Until June 2002, Ruchi had spent his entire career working in marketing and branding at Reckitt Benckiser, JWT, GlaxoSmithKline and as the CEO of The Coca-Cola Company in Sri Lanka.

During his 10 years with Coca-Cola he was also responsible for regional marketing in Nepal, Bangladesh and the Maldives.

More from Ruchi Gunewardene