I guess there are quite a few ways to define a brand but here are two quoted by Simon Anholt at the CIM East of England’s Spring Marketing Conference held at the magnificent Norwich Cathedral last week:
“A shortcut to an informed buying decision”
“A force field that [messes] with your sense of value”, except Simon didn’t say “messes”
Which one you may prefer depends on whether you think brands are generally a force for good or evil.
Simon is an expert on (in fact the creator of) the Nation Brand and the influence of “country of origin” on purchasing decisions. He advises governments globally on the importance of their country’s brand image.
Simon evangelised that IMAGE is everything, as all marketers know only too well, and it’s no different for countries. Unfortunately it’s a concept that many democratically elected governments don’t get or buy into, as they are often too pre-occupied with their domestic audience and getting re-elected to worry about how the rest of the world sees their country.
But a nation’s brand image directly impacts on the international success of products or services originating in that country. For example, Japan has a reputation for innovation and build-quality in consumer electronics and cars, a phenomenon that benefits the likes of Sony and Toyota. Consequently, when Dixons launched their own-brand consumer electronics products they gave them a Japanese sounding name.
In a similar way many Banjo’s these days are made in China and Korea but are given American sounding names such as Blueridge and Gold Star (another of our speakers at the conference, Simon Middleton from The Great British Banjo Company, told the story of the British made Shackleton banjo. Check out the brand’s back story here).
To scientifically measure a country’s reputation Simon created the quarterly Nations Brands Index (there is now also a City Brand Index).
The most startling finding is that the rank order of the nation brands hardly ever changes at the top and bottom of the index – America is always the most admired country on the planet followed by Germany.
Even more startling is that if a country with a bad reputation releases a good PR story, perhaps connected with improving public health, it is viewed cynically by people with firmly held prejudices and paradoxically tends to damage rather than enhance a nation’s brand image.
Simon concluded his talk by saying there are five drivers of a nation’s brand image which are:
- Morality – good or bad
- Aesthetics – beautiful or ugly
- Relevance – does it impact me or my life
- Sophistication – modern or traditional
- Strength – power to influence beyond its borders
Far and away the most important of the five drivers is Morality.
Simon’s presentation was absolutely fascinating – he also spoke for 45 minutes without notes or a PowerPoint and didn’t “umm” once. It struck me that Simon’s five drivers could quite easily be applied to product and service brands too, but how many marketers would put Morality at the top of their list of a brand’s attributes?