Building Emerging Nation Brands
For almost an hour, and over many cups of tea, we explored every facet of cooking, washing, and refrigerating. As the hour drew to a close, we asked a final question: “Let’s say you were considering buying a refrigerator, and the only thing you knew about it was that it was a Brazilian/Italian/Chinese brand. How would that make you feel? And would you consider buying it?” The Italian was a big hit, the Brazilian seemed to stand a fighting chance, and the Chinese was immediately shot down.
The women were using a perception proxy to solve a choice problem with asymmetrical information. In the world of marketing, we call that branding. In this case, the brand stood for an entire nation. The audience quickly transferred their perceptions of Italian design, Brazilian exuberance, and Chinese quality missteps to the product under consideration. Nation brands function much as traditional corporate brands; they seek to connect with their audiences (tourists, investors, outsourcers, policy makers, etc.) to curry favor in the form of tourism receipts, foreign investment, trade deals, and more. And they lend credence to, or sometimes detract from, products associated with a nation (think German cars, Swiss watches, English food). This puts brand building at the front and center of nation building.
BAV Consulting’s twenty years of expertise in branding now extends to nation branding. One of the areas I focus on is emerging markets strategy – both nation branding, as well as creating strategies for the bi-directional migration of brands across the “East and West” spectrum (the bi-directional migration really being more of a six lane highway of Western brands zooming Eastwards and a dirt track of Eastern brands trudging Westwards). My colleagues Anna Blender and Rick Leech have joined me in writing a soon-to-be-published paper on nation branding for the BRICS block of emerging nations. Here are some nuggets extracted from our research:
Some nation brands are powerhouses: couture, cuisine, and caffeine pack a mean punch for Brand Italy, which generally commands a higher perception than most other countries
The world is not quite as flat as we thought: While not short on differentiation, the BRICS, especially India and South Africa, struggle with earning esteem and being relevant on the world stage
Which one of these is not like the other?: Russia and China club together, as do India and South Africa. Brazil tends to be more like South Africa than like any of the other BRICS
Stay tuned for our article on the BRICS nation brands which will be made available on our website at www.bavconsulting.com.