Branding the Nation: Towards a better understanding
The term "national brand" was first coined by Simon Anholt in the 1990s and refers to the application of marketing strategies to various countries. The goal is to create and enhance a unique self-image and international reputation and serve the national interests most effectively.
According to their professional or academic background, scholars will view national brands from the perspective of technical pragmatism, political diplomacy, or cultural criticism. As an emerging field of interest, national brands are largely driven by professionals and the need for the development of discipline concepts and theories.
A functionalist economic view
Taking a functionalist instrumentalist standpoint, they regard national brands primarily as a strategic tool to improve the country's competitive advantage, seeking to inform-no doubt-market hegemony. This can be attributed to technical and economic methods, as the explicit use of marketing language reveals. The unique and multi-dimensional combination of elements provides the country with cultural differentiation and relevance to all its target audiences. From a technical and economic point of view, the purpose of national brands is to ensure a good reputation among the target audience. If done well, such a reputation will not only shine in the country itself but also in its products and assets, making them more desirable in the eyes of consumers.
Scholars who analyze national brands from a political perspective view it as a coordinated effort by the government to manage the image of a country to promote tourism, investment, and foreign relations. In this sense, national brands are considered a powerful political tool, especially for small countries and neighboring countries that aspire to strengthen their economic position and compete with the economic, financial, or military influence of the superpower. Through the active encouragement, funding, management, and control of government organizations, the increasingly close connection between national brands and public policies have led to a growing area of critical brand review. The state is understood as a form of governance through market demand.
Cultural Critical Perspective
Studies using cultural critical methods to explore national brands tend to focus on their impact on national identity, social power relations, and agenda-setting. Following this approach, the practice of marketing and brand promotion should be treated with caution, because marketing is not a neutral and valueless means of providing products or services to meet actual needs. Researchers of cultural importance related to national brands aim to explore how marketing and branding affect the social field, and how these practices change people's perceptions of themselves and their national identity, linking the discourse dimension of brands with national constructivism.
In conclusion, although scholars who explore national brands from the perspective of cultural criticism understand it as a way to rebuild the country through ideology and practice, the literature attributable to political methods sees national brands as enhancements in the worst-case scenario. Form propaganda. Or, at best, it is a harmless way to build and manage reputation by promoting a country’s culture, history, and geography. Finally, from a technical and economic point of view, national brands are considered to be a means to establish and maintain national strategic advantages to achieve economic growth.
Where essentialists regard nationality and national identity as a more or less fixed object that needs to be discovered and expressed, constructivist-oriented research assumes that national identity is continuously produced by various agents. The national brand is a complex multi-faceted structure. Even critics of national brands acknowledge the existence of national brands. They discussed what a national brand means and how a nation is branded. The use of national image management is not only a change of terminology, but also helps to overcome the public's suspicion of brand use, and clarify what can be "branded" and what cannot.
The image of a country is so complex and fluid that it defines the clarity implied by terms such as brand image; different parts of a country's horizontal entities have been focused on the international stage at different times. In theory, the national brand building needs to communicate with multiple stakeholders in a coordinated manner. In reality, it is impossible to develop such simple core information about a country that can be used by different industrial sectors in different countries. A slogan, a movement, no matter how smart or creative you are, they cannot sell everything to everyone. It would be more meaningful and practical to conceptualize, measure, and execute national brands at one of the sub-levels. The influence of national brands should not be exaggerated or discounted.