Showing posts with label nation branding. Show all posts
Showing posts with label nation branding. Show all posts


Is "Brand India" not inclusive?

Listening to Mr Santosh Desai at the QED - The Liberalisation Debate recently, got me thinking about 'Nation Branding.' Mr Desai talked about the emergence of the term "Brand India" in conversations, discussions and media narratives which have also gained considerable acceptance recently. This term in itself, adds 'marketing sheen' to decision makers language  keen to promote India overseas. What is interesting to note, and Mr Desai raised it at the discussion, is the exclusive nature of the term "Brand India."

What it means, is that through its very usage and promotion, it advocates an India that is reflective of a certain group of people, and, that serves certain interests only. "Brand India" is not inclusive but thrives on exclusion.   It excludes an India which is bigger, larger and pervasive. The narrative does not do justice to the reality, and, does not acknowledge the presence of the 'many other Indias' that are not necessarily aligned to the corporate, GDP growth driven vision of India, but attractive, real and numerous nonetheless.

So, an over reliance on marketers for shaping an image of the nation will not amount to anything. The role would remain with the able Indian Foreign Service (IFS) officers who should move towards becoming 'public diplomats' irrespective of assignments or postings from being just 'diplomats.' 

To illustrate it further, one of my favorite marketing campaigns in India remain the "Incredible India" series. This campaign aims to promote India as a tourist destination, and promotes a 'brand of India' completely excluding the problems of traveling within India for tourists, especially if you consider issues like security, infrastructure etc. Consequently, we still do not feature among the favorite tourist destination of the world. To be fair to the campaign, it is asking too much to expect such an initiative to bring about a fundamental shift in attitudes, nonetheless, what I am thinking now...Is Nation Branding possible at all? Or is it a myth created by marketing agencies?

This is where the "India Is..." contest of the PD division of the Government of India seems more meaningful. This is one program that seeks to capture 'many Indias'. Read my post on The "India is ……." Global Video Contest

In one of my previous posts, almost two years ago, I introspected on  a possible strategy for India. This is to be based on development of strong messages that is aligned to the overall values that India stands for. Guess it holds true. We need to ask ourselves what are the values that we bring to the world that defines our way of life -- this is our power, our influence. An enduring brand will be based on a deep and real emotional connect.

Is Brand India not inclusive?

Suggestions/Critiques welcome.

-- Madhur


Nation branding complications for China and Israel

Continuing from my last post, and discussion with American University researcher Efe Sevin, I thought it would be worthwhile to share two news items I read on the relation between soft power and nation branding efforts by countries. 

Bloomberg view columnist William Pesek, in his piece Even $3 Trillion Can’t Buy China Love or Good PR talks about China's difficulty in sustaining a favorable image of itself in the light of the recent controversies, in his words, 
"the Bo Xilai scandal, the diplomatic gymnastics over Chen Guangcheng, propaganda attacks on U.S. Ambassador Gary Locke, tossing out Al Jazeera’s lone Beijing correspondent and bullying the Philippines over a cluster of rocks in the ocean"
He talks of China as an insecure power, uncomfortable with the publicity that its massive investments in soft power is garnering for the nation and not very successful at managing the perception of a 'peaceful rise'.

On the other hand, writing for the Foreign Policy magazine, Aaron David Miller in the article, Israel's image revisited, tries to analyse why does Israel get bad PR consistently and the consequent erosion of it's image in the international stage. He states,
"In the eyes of the world, Israel has shed its image of a small state struggling against impossible odds. Israel now has "security needs" and "requirements" rather than existential fears; its power obligates it to be more magnanimous and forthcoming on peace issues; its strength should produce restraint, not excess"
and adds that the asymmetry of power that exists between a nation with GDP per capita of USD 31,000, 100 listed companies in the NYSE and a nuclear power that too, vis-a-vis its neighbors in the Arab world, strapped  for resources and mired in political conflicts, significantly contributes to the erosion of Israel's image. 

Both writers state that irrespective of what the world media has to say, true soft power is only  gained by actions - by what these countries individually do. No amount of branding exercise can help their image if not backed by actions. 

In marketing communications, we believe that you cannot sell a bad product. Once a good product is developed, marketers have to ensure it is 'seen' (hence promote) to generate demand. So nation branding technically can be an exercise in futility in political terms (focused efforts like investor relations or tourism etc can reap some benefits)

Now this is a tricky situation for both China and Israel. One can't help notice that both these countries are very unique politically,

  1. China remains an authoritarian socialist state controlled by one party with limitations on freedom
  2. Israel, on the other hand, is the only other country apart from Pakistan, in this world, that was born on the basis of religious identity (different from a theocratic state). In the history of the nation state, formed on the basis of cultural or linguistic identity, Israel remains 'exclusivist.'

In this context note that they are mostly talked about by an all powerful global media based in, and, controlled by liberal democracies be it in United States, Europe or India; for consumers with starkly different political attitudes when compared to both these countries. So the definition of a "good product" and a "bad product" is contentious. In addition, the standard of evaluation is distinctly different from the "Political Brand DNA," if I may use the term, of both China & Israel. This is a very pertinent example of how media becomes an independent power center in  international politics and how nation branding for countries is a complex task. To shape the narrative, you have to become a part of the story...and get trapped!

Suggestions/Critiques welcome.

-- Madhur

Older Posts Home