Branding agency FutureBrand, together with PR agency Weber Shandwick, released this week the new edition of their long-awaited Country Brand Index. We covered the launch of this popular report on our last blog post, Country Brand Index 2009 released, but now it’s time to have a closer look at the results.
Brand USA climbed to the top position in the Country Brand Index 2009 rankings with the infusion of global goodwill brought by the election of Barack Obama (as had also happened with the Nation Brands Index 2009 edition). More than just the symbolic effect of the election, the new administration softened the tone of America’s dealings in world affairs, as evidenced in part by President Obama’s recent award of the Nobel Peace Prize. The heavy-handed, “big stick” approach of the Bush administration has been replaced by discourse and diplomacy. With these changes, the US experienced significant improvement across a number of related image attributes: Political Freedom, Standard of Living, Most Like to Live In, Environmentalism, Safety and Rising Star. Obama has re-branded America to the world’s eyes.
Brand Canada, with strong, diverse business and tourism offerings and a solid marketing effort, solidified its position as the #2 country brand in 2009, achieving Top 10 rankings in 22 of 29 image attributes and showing strong performance across almost every measure of country brand strength.
After three consecutive years as the #1 ranked country brand, Australia fell to the #3 position after experiencing a modest softening across familiarity, preference, advocacy and several image attributes. There were no dramatic declines, but with the performance of the US and Canada in 2009, Australia dropped two places. The country remains one of the most compelling destinations, however, ranking #1 for both Desire to Visit/Visit Again and as a place to Extend a Business Trip.
4. New Zealand
With its “100% Pure” branding efforts, New Zealand has created a powerhouse country brand. The nation with the smallest population among the Top 10, New Zealand is strong on the political dimensions with Top 10 rankings in Political Freedom, Environmentalism and Safety. Top 10 rankings in Authenticity, Friendly Locals, Natural Beauty and Outdoor Activities & Sports explain why New Zealand is also one of the most desirable tourist destinations.
The #1 most visited country, France vies with the US as the most famous country brand in the world. France is one of the best developed country brands overall with strengths across every measure from awareness to advocacy. Perhaps best known for its Art & Culture, Fine Dining, Nightlife and Shopping, France is also a Top 10 brand in Advanced Technology, History, Quality Products and Standard of Living.
The country of “la dolce vita”, Italy remains one of the best performing country brands overall. With a brand image focused around the country’s strengths in Art & Culture, Fine Dining, History and Shopping, it is not surprising that Italy is one of the most desirable destinations.
At #7 overall, Japan has one of the strongest country brand images of any country in the Top 10. Affirming its strength as a business Japan is ranked #1 in Advanced Technology, Conferences, New Country for Business and Quality Products. However, Japan is also rated #1 for Nightlife and Authenticity and is in the Top 10 for Art & Culture, Fine Dining and Shopping, making this one of the most well-rounded nation brands.
8. United Kingdom
The United Kingdom is one of the most respected and best-loved country brands with solid performance across every measure of brand strength. Another well-rounded country brand, the UK is strong in image rankings related to business, politics and tourism.
Germany at #9 cracked the overall Top 10 in the Country Brand Index for the first time in 2009. It has been a strong nation brand in each of the four previous studies, finishing just out of the Top 10. This year – with #1 rankings for Ease of Travel and Standard of Living and Top 10 rankings in everything from Art & Culture, Families and Nightlife to Advanced Technology, Ideal for Business and Quality products—Germany earned a place among the leading country brands.
Spain returns to the Top 10 overall nation brands in 2009 (it didn’t appear among the top ten country brands at the Country Brand Index 2008) with a strong showing in every measure of country brand strength. Spain ranked in the Top 10 for every key measure, from awareness to advocacy, and is a Top 10 brand for Nightlife and Ease of Travel.
The next 10 country brands
The Next 10 is a list of the nations that ranked 11–20 overall as country brands at the Country Brand Index 2009. As you will see, these countries represent a broad range of geographies, types and sizes:
Switzerland, Ireland and Greece are all strong Western European country brands that aggressively promote their destinations and broad country offerings. These brands, while not often in the Top 10, have been top-performing nation brands in every Country Brand Index since 2006. Bermuda, Aruba and the Maldives are three of the premier beach destinations and tourist hot spots in the world. Bermuda is well regarded for its business focus, quality of life, beaches and easily-reached location.
Aruba creates a comfortable and approachable destination amid stunning beaches and perfect weather. The Maldives leverages its unique geography and “one island, one resort” policy to create considerable interest in its one-of-a-kind experience, both for tourists and investors.
Singapore, Finland, India and Thailand are the most significant country brands on the rise, according to the Country Brand Index 2009. Singapore has built on its foundation as a business hub to effectively promote tourism attributes like Shopping, Fine Dining and Nightlife. India continues to grow as a business powerhouse, which complements its strengths in Authenticity and Art & Culture. Finland has continued to gain momentum, moving beyond strengths in Environmentalism and Standard of Living and establishing perceived strengths in Ideal for Business and Advanced Technology. Despite questions about security, Thailand has capitalized on strengths in Value for Money, Nightlife and Friendly Locals to become one of the top Rising Star countries. Each of these country brands has the potential over time to find an enduring place in the Top 10 overall ranking in the next editions of the Country Brand Index.
The world’s worst country brand: Lybia
Finishing last in the Country Brand Index 2009 overall rankings for the last two years, Libya has earned the distinction as the worst country brand. In 2008, Libya was ranked 78 out of the 78 country brands tracked and this year the nation ranked 102 out of 102.
Why does Brand Libya fare so poorly at the Country Brand Index 2009 despite the fact that UN sanctions were lifted in 2003 and total international visitors to Libya increased by a compound annual rate of 5.8% from 2001 to 2007? Libya has strong oil reserves, a growing economy and tourism industry, excellent Mediterranean beaches, striking topography and a rich history that dates back to the Phoenicians. There is no fundamental reason why Libya shouldn’t be a nation brand on the rise, but it’s not.
Looking at the HDM analysis of Libya, it is clear that the brand is not well known and that those who know it don’t think well of it or want to visit. The few who do visit rarely recommend Libya to friends and family. In terms of associations, from living standards (Standard of Living, Safety, Most Like to Live In, Environmentalism) to infrastructure (Ease of Travel, Resort & Lodging Options, Advanced Technology) to tourist attractions (Beach, Natural Beauty, Nightlife, Fine Dining, Outdoor Activities & Sports, Rest & Relaxation) to business-related measures (Ideal for Business, New Country for Business), Libya shows a broad base of weakness with no current areas of perceived strength.
It would also appear that Libya suffers as a brand due to the behavior of its government. Recently, Libya was back in the news for hosting a celebration for the terminally ill Abdelbeset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi, the man convicted of bombing Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland,28 and for Muammar al-Qaddafi’s rambling speech at the UN.29 Rather than being promoted for its historical treasures, untapped development market, etc., Libya continues to be linked with the dangerous and the disturbing, resulting in its standing as the lowest-ranked country brand two years running. Despite its shortcomings, Libya has the assets, which if effectively managed would enable the country to become a vibrant destination and strong nation brand.
Have a look yourself
This year’s Country Brand Index contains a wealth of relevant and fascinating information on the current State of the Nation Branding world. It will take me days to consume and digest the privileged information the people at FutureBrand have shared in their Country Brand Index 2009. And I’d like to congratulate the people at FutureBrand for having done a fantastic job in this year’s edition of the Country Brand Index – and thank them for choosing me (Nation-Branding.info’s editor Andreas Markessinis) as one of this year’s panel of nation branding experts. It was a pleasure giving my insights on the industry.
In any case, if you’re still in doubt, I’d strongly encourage you to read through the Country Brand Index 2009 in its entirety – and with attention. It’s worth the time and effort. Here you have a slide presentation of the executive summary report: