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Nation branding and diplomacy: brands and trade

/ February 4, 2013

Nation branding and diplomacy: brands and trade

Place-branding is relatively new for both economic developers and communication professionals alike. Theoretically place-branding has evolved as an interdisciplinary field of study bringing together international relations, foreign policy, urban planning, social psychology and business marketing. Robert Govers and Frank Go note that place-branding really found its feet between 1980 and 2000.

They note that the growth of ICT technologies reshaped the economic development and investment paradigm.  With enabling technologies, businesses and talent could locate just about anywhere to conduct their business.  In the ICT driven foreign investment market, ironically, place really started to matter.  Richard Florida and many other 21st century economists speak about this in depth.

Given this new investment paradigm, nations are beginning to re-imagine their foreign affairs and economic development strategies, and are looking for innovative ways to brand their country.  A recent paper by City Branding and Diplomacy‘s Jonas SchorrCo-branding the cooperation of places: Lessons from the first joint German-Sino nation brand initiative, looked at how Germany successfully employed place-branding strategy to build public diplomacy and trade relations in China.

Over a three-year campaign, “Germany – Land of Ideas”, Germany branded itself as a cultural, economic, scientific and socially diverse in China’s cities and provinces.  The campaign is noteworthy because it recognizes that in order to develop effective trade relations and investment, a favorable perception of your nation must be had by your target your market. Both Germany and China are known for engineering expertise and innovation in the automotive industry, so it makes sense for Germany to cultivate its brand and trade relations with China’s growing economy.

As Bloom Consulting points out, a brand strategy that is more aligned with investors will produce better results. “Germany- Land of Ideas” speaks directly to their investors.  In fact, Bloom’s recent Country Brand Ranking for Trade validates Germany’s place-branding approach – their ranking has moved up, edging Canada out.

Having nation-branding/place-branding aligned with trade, diplomacy and foreign affairs is a new consideration for economic developers and political leaders.  But an imperative one for economies to thrive.