The promotion of countries through marketing strategies has become an important awareness of national governments; vital economic interests depend on the effectiveness of these initiatives. It is notable that commercial concerns of promoting products, places, and institutions are nowadays greater. In this sense, the creation of a country brand is an increasing practice within governments; it is undeniable that the use of commercial diplomacy is well established. The evaluation of country brands performance has always been from a commercial approach; it is easily identifiable in how country brands have been evaluated thorough the years. Although, there has been a paradigm change in how country brands are perceived (and evaluated), they are becoming a useful tool to promote a better quality of life within the country, and not only a way to increase tourism, investment, and exports.
The country brands are defined as governmental strategies implemented to capitalize the nation reputation of a given country in the international markets. Many authors recognize the importance of the country brands as a soft power tool used by governmental institutions to increase their influence in the international context, and consequently, to develop higher levels of competitiveness, institutional stability, and legal certainty (Lacouture, 2009). Since decades, this strategy has been used by many countries with the main purpose of economic growth, and international trade promotion (Echeverri, Estay-Niculcar, & Rosker, 2012). Nowadays, these objectives are usually undertaken through three specific dimensions, usually supported by the Ministries of Commerce: tourism attraction, foreign direct investment improvement, and exports promotion (Colombia Marca País, 2013). This results in a deliberate objective of communicating a country positive image abroad. Consequently, country brands work as a marketing strategy that serves fundamentally to the national commercial interests.
In order to determine the real advantages that the creation of a nation brand strategy has had in the international presence of a country, its position in the international markets is examined. The Country Brand Index, developed by Future Brand, the strategic consultant from Interpublic Group, analyzes the performance of the country brands around the world. The Country Brand Index uses quantitative research, opinions from experts, and massive digital surveys in order to create a ranking of the most effective strategies, and to identify which are the main challenges that each country brand has. Country brands have been evaluated only under almost the same indexes of any other commercial brand: levels of knowledge, familiarity, preference, considerations, number of recommendations, and active decisions to actually interact or visit the given country (Future Brand, 2013a).
The current commercial approach that governments have implemented regarding their relations with other countries responds to the necessity of guaranteeing certain levels of investment, tourism, and exports. Competition between country brands reflects competition between countries; in an increasing globalized world, with a constant danger of economic crisis, a strong nation brand strategy could represent the difference between visiting, investing or buying in a given country; despite competition between commercial brands does not have to be a zero-sum game (Frost, 2004). The question here is that despite the importance of commercial interests that every country has, country brands are not longer sources of capital flows.
The awareness over the use of country brands not only as promoters of tourism, invest, and exports, but as a way to improve quality of life, represents a change in the paradigm of how country brands were perceived. This perspective has also been promoted by the evaluation process developed by Future Brand. To this index, in terms of country brands performance, the most important aspect that should be taken into account today is their ability to improve the quality of life of its citizens (Future Brand, 2013b). In this way, figures regarding products’ demand abroad, number of foreign visitors, and money invested are not an end in its self, but a strategy to create better social conditions within the country.
That is why this index also takes into account the impact of country brands in aspects like: values system, quality of life, business culture, heritage and culture, and tourism which are not only fundamental to the commercial interests of the country, but also to the social conditions of nationals. As a matter of fact, the Country Brand Index measures the strength of a country brand base on its capacity to foster open discussion, individual rights, civil liberties, and social values. In this order of ideas, country brands increasingly pursue better social conditions, and not only commercial interests (Future Brand, 2013b).
This internal concern can also be seen in how country image is perceived today. Country reputation is a key concept that determines the strategies that implemented in the nation brand strategy. Although, during the last years, countries have noticed that reputation is not only a foreign. In this sense, the country brands are becoming increasingly important for national governments as a way to promote products, institutions, and even citizens both nationally, and internationally. Today, countries are conscious about the importance of making the country brand not only an international communication strategy, but a national effort towards an internal sense of belonging. These types of strategies improve security (which ultimately promotes also internal tourism), increase internal demand, and create institutional trust, also resulting in better social conditions concern (Echeverri, Estay-Niculcar, & Rosker, 2012).
The effectiveness of country brands has eminently been a commercial concern; economic conditions make country relations a constant competition over tourism, investment, and exports. In this way, countries have understood that the effectiveness of country brands can be used to increase international capital flows. Nevertheless, during the last years governments have seen this strategy as a way to foster social and economic development within their countries. Through this strategy, and thanks to the new paradigms in country brands evaluations, governmental institutions can now access to the benefits of having a better position of their nation brand strategy in the international market, promoting an internal sense of belonging, and consequently improving development.
Colombia Marca País. (2013). Available online: http://www.colombia.co/. Accessed: May 5th, 2014.
Echeverri, L., Estay-Niculcar, C. A., & Rosker, E. (2012). Estrategias y experiencias en la construcción de marca país en América del Sur. Estudios Y Perspectivas En Turismo, 21(2), 288-305.
Frost, R. (2004). Maping a Country’s Future. BrandChannel.com. Available online: http://www.brandchannel.com/features_effect.asp?pf_id=206 . Retrieved: May 28th, 2014.
Future Brand. (2013a). Country Brand Index 2012-13. Available online: http://mouriz.files.wordpress.com/2013/02/cbi-futurebrand-2012-13.pdf. Accessed: May 5th, 2014.
Future Brand. (2013b). Country Brand Index Latinoamérica 2013. Available online: http://www.futurebrand.com/images/uploads/studies/cbi/CBI_Latinoamerica_2013.pdf. Accessed: May 5th, 2014.
Lacouture, M. C. (2009). Colombia es pasión, porque la mejor materia prima que tiene el país es la pasión de los colombianos. Latin Trade (Spanish), 17(2), 59-60.