Nation Branding

February 28, 2011

A Synopsis of the Nation Branding Webinar by Wharton School’s Professor David Reibstein

Earlier in January 2011, Translation Source participated in the “Nation Branding: Israel, Asia, Europe and Brazil” webinar delivered by Professor David Reibstein. The webinar centered on the ideas of (1) the existence of nation and geographical branding, (2) how such branding is created and (3) how it has real economic value.

Global marketing and, by extension, global marketing translation efforts are a priority for many of our clients. It is our hope that the following highlights provide fresh ideas for your organization:

About brands

  • A brand is defined as a name, trademark, logo or even color that serves as a cue to customers about the product/service.
  • Over time, brands have evolved from a sign of ownership (think of cattle ranchers’ sign of ownership) to a sign of the quality of a product or service.
  • Brand perceptions come primarily from consistent experience and less from advertising and public relations. To lesser extent pricing, distribution, logo/color also affect branding. 
  • Umbrella branding is defined as using one name with several services/products, e.g. Citi, Marriott.

Nation and geographical brands

  • Geographies, most definitely, have brands. Think about “I Love NY”, “Las Vegas”.
  • Brands change over time. For instance, Las Vegas has made efforts to change its brand from a gambling spot to a family entertainment place to an adult entertainment venue.

Instant Polls

To drive the point of nation branding, more than 100 webinar participants were asked to participate on instant polls to confirm the idea of branding. Web participants were asked the following 2 questions:

  1. What images do you think of when you hear products from the following countries?
  Military Milk Cheap Fake Fashion Precision Elegant Quality Advanced
Italy 0% 1% 1% 2% 79% 0% 11% 6% 0%
Korea 25% 1% 48% 3% 0% 5% 0% 9% 8%
China 4% 1% 67% 20% 1% 2% 0% 2% 4%
France 1% 2% 0% 1% 27% 1% 65% 2% 1%
Sweden 0% 22% 1% 1% 0% 31% 1% 27% 17%
Israel 56% 1% 0% 0% 0% 2% 0% 1% 40%
Germany 7% 0% 0% 0% 0% 77% 0% 11% 5%

 2.  What country do you think of when you hear the following products?

  Germany USA Italy South Africa Switzerland Japan China
Shoes 0% 3% 94% 0% 1% 0% 2%
Electronics 2% 4% 0% 0% 1% 86% 7%
Clocks 5% 0% 0% 0% 93% 1% 1%
Diamonds 0% 1% 0% 98% 1% 0% 0%
Cars 52% 18% 2% 0% 0% 27% 1%


  Effect of Branding

  • Evidently, a Swiss clock company may have an inherent advantage over another one from Korea
  • Nation branding challenges are managed in very different ways: For instance, Lenovo, a Chinese firm, chose a non-Chinese name to avoid undesirable perceptions.



Efforts to Shape Country Images

  • Israel – Its policies are leading to developing a strong financial image. Stanley Fischer was named the 2010 Central Banker of the Year.
  • USA – Election of Obama has significantly increased branding of the U.S. around the world.
  •  Brazil: The country is currently heavily investing on its image; the process is being driven in part by the 2014 World Cup.

BRICs and PIIGS – Umbrellas of Nations

  • BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India and China): The fate of one affects the others. Brazil and Russia ride on the coattails of India and China and carry some of the burden as well.
  • PIIGS: (Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Greece, Spain): Unfortunate association used initially by international bond analysts. Today, it is typically associated in a negative manner to the economic challenges from these countries.

Food for thought

  • There is a need to develop an economic nation brand index of where best to invest, partner and build business operations for the future.
  • Whether you sell shoes, consulting services or translation solutions, nation branding has a direct impact on your company’s branding
  • Brand is about authenticity. Nations and companies have to be true to themselves.

Dealing with the influence from the press when signaling an undesired brand of a country or region is a challenging matter. For instance, press coverage has had an objective impact on the images of countries such as Israel and Nigeria.

If you would like additional information on this topic or have questions on planning and executing your next translation or multilingual initiative, contact us today for a free 30-minute consultation or call us at (800) 413-7838.

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