Nation branding and country image: Opportunities and limitations of a media-centric approach
Keith Dinnie
Temple University, Tokyo, Japan

Nations have always competed with each other
The shifting balance between òhard’ and òsoft’ power
Investment attraction
Export promotion
Many countries do not know what to do
The use of brand management techniques is relatively new
Many governments are not familiar with these techniques
Every country should develop its own original nation branding strategy
A blind faith in the power of advertising
Much public money is spent on expensive advertising campaigns
However, very little evaluation is made of the effectiveness of these ad campaigns
Public relations consultancies
Generate positive media coverage
Develop ongoing relationships with journalists and editors
But reality must underpin the spin
A more balanced approach is required
A media-centric approach operates via:
Paid-for advertising in relevant media
News management through PR officers and/or consultants
However, the range of nation branding tools extends far beyond a media-centric approach
Complementary nation branding tools and techniques
Activation of diaspora networks
Improved coordination between different stakeholder groups
Cultural diplomacy
Increasing the entrepreneurialism of Embassy networks
Key concepts in nation branding
Identity versus image
The identity-image gap
The facets of nation-brand identity
Deconstructing nation-brand image
Positioning the nation-brand

3 key elements of branding theory
Brand identity
Brand image
Brand positioning
Identity versus image
A simple but robust perspective:
Identity refers to what something truly is, its essence
Image refers to how something is perceived
There is frequently a gap between these two states
The identity-image gap
This tends to be a negative factor
Many nations struggle with the frustration of not being perceived correctly by the rest of the world
Stereotypes and clich?©s can dominate perceptions of some nations
Would you allow this man to brand your nation?
Nation branding attempts to reduce the identity-image gap
By identifying prejudices and misperceptions
By enabling nations to dismantle and oppose the negative forces that could:
Hold back the nation’ s economic development
Damage the nation’ s standing in the world community
Constructing the nation-brand narrative
Narrative identity theory
Imaginative & creative input in brand identity development
Poets, novelists, and other creative writers could play a significant role in enhancing their nation’ s reputation
The facets of nation-brand identity
Nation-brand identity is built upon a limited range of all the constituent parts of national identity
External audiences are unwilling to process huge amounts of information about a country’ s history, culture, society

Deconstructing nation-brand image
The mental representations (images) that people have of countries can derive from various influencing factors
Nations have varying degrees of control over these influencing factors

Image-formation factors
Assessing brand image via brand personification
òBrand personification’ is a qualitative research technique
The question: If brand X were a person, what kind of person would it be?
Product brands have been using this technique for years -there is no reason why it could not be applied to nation-brands

Perceptions of Brand Spain amongst Japanese students aged 18-25

If Spain was a person, what kind of person would it be?

Spain is a cheerful girl, she always smiles for everyone, she makes everyone happy.

Passionate dancer. It is because the image of Spain is passion.

A girl, aged 25 years old. Beautiful and sexy. Likes dancing and singing. She has 5 boy friends who are waiting for the day they can date her.

Man, 30 years old, wears red clothes. He is confident in himself.

A man in his middle age drinking and singing every day, all day long.

Perceptions of Brand Portugal amongst Japanese students aged 18-25

If Portugal was a person, what kind of person would it be?

A young very ambitious woman.

Spain’ s younger sister, but a bit more calm.


Thoughtful person who likes to communicate with others.

Male. Quiet and a big guy. In his 40s. Wise man. Has a wife. The wife is very beautiful. Has few friends but very close.
Conceptual model of nation-brand identity and image
Positioning the nation-brand
The concept of positioning is a key issue in brand management and strategy
The work of advertising agencies and branding consultancies includes:
Establishing effective positioning platforms
Designing campaigns for successful implementation of the desired positioning
Positioning defined
Positioning is the act of designing the company’ s offering and image to occupy a distinctive place in the mind of the target market
Kotler & Keller, 2006
National tourism campaigns often lack distinctive positioning
Such campaigns score low on distinctiveness
They make generic, undifferentiated claims for their sandy beaches, sunshine, etc
Risk of commoditization
Higher-end cultural tourism offers potential for better positioning
Nation-brand positioning platforms

The New France -Breaking Through the Perception Barrier
Mr Philippe Favre, French Ambassador for international investment, Chairman and CEO of Invest in France Agency
Now the world’ s 5th largest economy, France is a modern and dynamic country located at the heart of the largest market in the world -Europe
It has reinvented itself over the past few years:
Significant privatizations & reforms across key sectors to become more internationally competitive
Business formalities have been simplified
First-class infrastructure & talented workforce
The perception gap
France’ s leading edge technology and innovation in healthcare is familiar to investors in China and Japan
However, this is overlooked by companies in the USA and the UK, who are preoccupied with outdated perceptions that go against the modern actuality of France
Changing the world’ s opinion
The French government recognized that correcting the discrepancy between the myth and the reality of France’ s image was important for:
The success of its economy
Inward investment levels
Invest in France Agency (IFA)
Government organization responsible for promoting international investment and helping foreign investors succeed in France
As part of its mission, IFA has helped erase misconceptions about France over the past 3 years with the rollout of an image campaign:
The New France. Where the smart money goes.
Collaborative approach
With a total budget of 35 million Euros, the campaign was developed & run by IFA in collaboration with several French government bodies, including:
UBIFrance, Maison de la France, information service dept, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, French Economic Mission, Sopexa, EDUFrance, Treasury Directorate, etc
Campaign goals
Raise France’ s economic profile among 5 leading target investment countries:
USA, UK, Germany, Japan, China
Improve foreign investor opinions of France
Create solid relationships with foreign investors for long-term dialogue

Campaign strategy
Focus on boosting visibility & credibility
Tangible facts and testimonials from international corporations already doing business in France
Senior executives from 12 reputable global companies (e.g., FedEx, Toyota, Xerox, GE, Sony) described:
The ease of setting up; the access to qualified talent; the convenience of a central location

Emphasizing France’ s attractiveness
Flexible labor laws
Superior healthcare system
Diverse business clusters
Statistical benchmarks displaying competitiveness in categories such as:
Real-estate costs, employee salaries, tax rates
High-impact advertisements
Over 185 ads endorsed The New France in top economic news publications:
Financial Times, Wall Street Journal, Handelsblatt, Nikkei
Billboard ads also appeared at major airports in:
USA, UK, Japan, China, and Roissy Charles de Gaulle airport in Paris

Supplementary marcoms tools
Sector videos
A comprehensive multilingual communications kit
A book available in 5 languages
A microsite,
Face-to-face contacts
IFA executives met with economic leaders and potential investors at nearly 150 high-profile events during the campaign, including:
World Economic Forum in Davos
Business Week Leadership Forum
Fortune Innovation Forum

Campaign results
61% of respondents in USA and UK said it made them view France in a new light
40,000 new jobs created in France in 2006 from foreign investment projects, a 33% increase over 2005
Media strategy needs to be balanced by face-to-face contacts
Allocate resources to building long term relationships with investors and other target audiences
Develop a collaborative approach between different Government Ministries and Departments
The FIST (fully inclusive stakeholder) approach

Thank you for your attention


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