An unthought side aspect of nation branding

It’s easy to deduce that nation branding is about using branding to attract tourists, investors or boost exports, but it’s less obvious that it can have a tremendous impact in an unsuspected area of dramatic importance for all countries: social cohesion. Because in its most far-reaching form, nation branding can have a critical role in the life and future of a country by providing the glue for the seamless integration of a society.

Today, countries need to incorporate massive numbers of foreigners and minorities, but the State can no longer just force their integration from above through their throat – it doesn’t work and has never really worked. Since coercive methods don’t bring results, the State needs to look elsewhere to find more persuasive reasons to integrate migrant communities graciously into its society. Not only integrate, but prompt newcomers to “buy” the country, feel identified with it and sympathize with the country they’re now living in.

That’s where nation branding comes to scene. Nation branding allows the national identity to be more known, be more attractive, be more resounding and be more clearly pictured. For external audiences, yes, but also for internal consumption. Through nation branding, the State can develop a shared sense of purpose, which comes from a feeling of collective nationhood, or at least citizenry, and that gives both natives and migrants a feeling of belonging and warmth.

With a better and more attractive image, nation branding helps the country to smoothly accommodate migrants into their new host country. It’s what America did for dozens of years. It had the idea, the discourse and the magnet power to attract people from other countries and allow them to become and feel Americans, and be proud of it. Brand America prompted newcomers to feel at home at “the land of the free, home of the brave” – it’s just that it wasn’t called nation branding back then.

Such a phenomenon is what the regular branding consultant from the corporate world will call “brand aligning”: to incite employees to align with the corporate brand idea, vision and mission. Similarly, a powerful nation brand can make newcomers feel honored to be part of a country because they can feel identification, and thus help them not only melt in, but be passionate about it. Just as corporate branding campaigns can raise the morale, team spirit, and sense of purpose of a company’s employees, nation branding can provide a country with a healthy collective national or civilian pride – but the people have to buy into it.

This sort of identity today, as always, is still the glue that makes a society stay structured and stable inside the boundaries of a country. Nation branding also helps the national identity to express itself more accurately: it provides themes, stories, images and a coherent discourse about the nation so that everybody knows well what a country stands for. It helps national identity to be understood and cherished, by natives but more importantly by newcomers. And this kind of voluntary, emotional attachment to a country is more effective than attracting people – it’s about winning hearts.

 

– Article by Andreas Markessinis