How important a role do brands play when it comes to creating a nation’s image? Perhaps a lot, according to Tim Love, Omnicom’s Vice Chairman and recently-named chairman of Asia Pacific India Middle East & Africa (APIMA).
Brands are both target and the key vehicle to improve a nation’s perceptions he says and what better example than the United States. Love discussed this in a recent lecture at Oxford University titled "The Penalty of Freedom."
Despite a generally positive global reaction created by Barack Obama’s presidency, there continues to be a significant anti US sentiment worldwide. Citing the reports from the Pew Research Centre which has been measuring the global attitudes about the US since before 9/11, Love says that the results show a slight improvement in America’s image in 2008, but its well below the ratings in 1999 and 2000. Moreover, this perception was exacerbated by the global economic tsunami that started in 2008 and which has been perceived as a result of unrestrained US financial hubris.
Marketing in its May issue asked the head honchos of agencies whether nations can really brand themselves. Love in his lecture goes a step further saying sweeping societal and technological change has altered traditional definitions of global brands in a world with new frames of reference.
This, Love says, also reflects in concern brands have in mind given the interconnectedness of the global economy as well as potential unfavourable perception towards American businesses and brands. He cites that among the world’s top 100 economies, 49 are nations, while 51 are multinational corporations. This means more peoples lives are touched by corporations and brands than any single nation's government.
“The planet is not one homogeneous market and multiculturalism is fast becoming an essential characteristic of global brand-building,” Love says.
This does not hold only true for America. Look at the socio-political upheaval in Thailand and the impact it has had not only on the country’s image among tourists but the business operating there. Foreign reports stated how some hotels in central Bangkok closed temporarily because of fears of violence between security forces and anti-government protesters who occupied an upmarket shopping and leisure district since 3 April. This included InterContinental Hotel Bangkok and also the luxury shopping mall Gaysorn Plaza.
And just as I pen this blog, we receive news of AdFest, one of the industry’s most reputed event falling to the axe.
This takes me back to what Peter Valerio comments on marketing-interactive’s story on whether Singapore can brand itself as a nation? Valerio says image is a far more appropriate word than brand as far as its perception is concerned. If anything, image management/influencing is far more appropriate and realistic.
Love further adds that the evolution of media in particular is creating a new generation of global citizens whose affect on brands is undeniable. However, he emphasizes that there is a penalty to this new-found freedom of unprecedented levels of shared communications. “In a world where we are all more accessible and more visible, we also must become more accountable—to ourselves, to our society and to our planet,” he says.