All talking in lectures has been done about company brands. This led me to write a blog about the branding of a nation. Tourism is the major money earner for the majority of countries of the world therefore ensuring a constant, positive brand image of a nation is crucial. This is a tough job as a nations brand has a lot more intangible aspects than a company’s brand would have. In practically all cases the intangible aspects of a brand are where the value is. Take Gillette for example; in 2006 Procter & Gamble bought the Gillette Company for £31 billion. That figure was calculated as £4 billion of tangible assets i.e. buildings etc. and the other £27 billion accounted for the intangible assets, that is the brand name and reputation. DeChernatany et al 2011
Interbrand have come up with a way that they claim you can go about to brand a country. They have designed a five-stage process:
- You have to have the cooperation and involvement of the government the arts, business and education and most importantly the media.
- You need to know how your country is perceived by those who live in it, and also by those who don’t.
- You need to consult with opinion leaders to find the strengths and weaknesses of your country.
- Create a strategy of how to communicate the brand image for each audience.
- Work out campaign that fit to the brands image.It would be great if it was that easy but the visitors needs and wants change over time so the whole brand image would need to change with it.
Ireland, Poblacht na hÈireann, the land of saints and scholars, the emerald isle. Ireland has had a massive influence on the history of our world, we gave the world James Joyce, W.B. Yeats, the most dangerous man in the world Liam Neeson to name a few (that’s obviously after Chuck Norris). Without Ireland the world would not have had the glorious liquid that is Guinness. Irish inventors were responsible for colour photography, the modern tractor, trans-atlantic calls, a cure for leprosy and whiskey distilling. Surprisingly enough for a country that was supposedly neutral in wars we gave the world the submarine, the ejector seat, the guided missile and the tank. And to the dismay of the Scottish the Irish also invented the Kilt. Ireland during its short history has been like a yo-yo of boom and bust. We have seen the best and worst of times. According to Friedman T (2005) in 2005 Ireland was in fact the second richest country in Europe.
So where has our success and failure got us to and how does our brand still stand. Ireland has always been known for its history and this is what has brought millions of tourists to our shores for decades. Some just for their love of history, and many to try to trace their Irish ancestry. This led Ireland to become heavily dependent on tourism for its survival. Although Irish exports are a major contributor to GDP, tourism is the countries main lifeline. In 2007, 7.74 million people visited Ireland, this number decreased to 5.86 million by 2010 and during 2011 this figure had risen to 6.29 million. This is good news that it rose in 2011 but Barack Obama and the Queen both visited the country in that year and this has a lot to do with the rise. This fall in tourist numbers can be due to a lot of reasons, but personally I believe it is mainly due to Irelands ability to overpromise and under deliver.
A nations brand is mostly intangible, that is, how the rest of the world perceives it. Of course this perception can change easily as every time a person visits the country they have a different experience, they deal with different people, buy different things etc. The brand of a nation can be seen more as a service brand rather that a product brand. A service brand has four main characteristics they are :
Intangibility, that is they cannot be seen or touched. They user will not know how good the service is until after using it. This is true of country branding, a consumer does not know how good or bad the country is until they have experienced it for themselves. Marketing people can try and overcome this by communicating the brands benefits through trusted recommendations. Tourism Ireland often used descriptions of Ireland from literary greats such as James Joyce or W.B. Yeats.
Inseparability, the production of the service can’t be separated from its consumption. You can’t experience the true Ireland without going there. Tourism Ireland had a campaign “Jump into Ireland” they encouraged people to immerse themselves in all things Irish.
Variability, here comes the main item, this can lead to a brands success or failure. When a user experiences a service they have a different experience to everyone else due to human behavior. As we are dealing with people this makes every experience different, human behavior can’t be controlled. Tourism Ireland could come up with a standard way for every person to deal with a tourist but this simply would not work.
Perishability, a service can’t be stored for future use. If a trip is booked for a certain date it becomes perishable that is it can’t be used after that date. Tourism Ireland use this in their St. Patrick’s Day campaigns where they encourage people to visit Ireland to celebrate the holiday, it can’t be celebrated any other time so it has an aspect of perishability about it.
Ireland is a service. A service that can only be experienced by coming to the country. Ireland takes pride in its ability to punch above its weight, Brand Ireland is known and loved the world over and this is a big feat for such a small island nation. Simon Anholt came up with the term “Nation Branding” and has published yearly statistics of what he calls the “nation brand index”. The results are from interviews of 20,000 people form 20 countries and they are asked about their perceptions of 50 different nations. These perceptions are about exports, tourism, immigration, governance, culture and people. These scores are then polled giving Ireland the number 18 position.
14 New Zealand
As you can see Ireland and Scotland are punching well above their weight when it comes to country size but this has always been the case they have used the illusion of a constant enemy to build a good brand image.
Ireland has always used its vast history and charm to influence potential visitors but recent studies have shown that changing geopolitical trends could weaken this. Our history is becoming less prevalent even with our main source of tourists, the U.S. This evidence also suggests that young people around the world see us as less favorably than older generations have seen us. This is worrying for Ireland as it needs younger people to replace the older visitors, but what have we got to offer younger people apart form history?
A survey carried out by the Irish Times suggest that Irelands image is strongest in the U.K., U.S., Australia and other English speaking countries, but it does not perform well with the worlds fastest growing nations Russia, India, Turkey and Mexico. This coupled with the fact that young people do not warm to us as well as older generations is worrying. If something is not done to build up more brand awareness and likeability we could be looking for another area of revenue to help save us.
In conclusion unless the people in charge of Irelands branding come up with a miracle to increase our ranking then its curtains for brand Ireland. According to ISSUU’s Brand Finance survey between 2009 and the end of 2011 Brand Ireland has lost over 50% of its value it has slipped back into 38th position. This survey is based again on the perception of Ireland in the eyes of foreign consumers. With our government more concerned with Troika, the bailout and the continuous failure that is the Euro, it is hard to imagine they are going to be any major help in fixing this problem. They seem more concerned with raising taxes and making it a more uncomfortable to place to live in for its citizens, and they are expected to be the ones to put on the brave face for visitors. So in a few years you might see Brand Ireland up for auction we could do with the money!
DeChernatony, L., McDonald, M., Wallace, E., (2011) Creating Powerful Brands. Great Britain Elsevier Ltd.