Sweden should improve its nation brand in Asia

Liselott Bergman, senior analyst at the Swedish Institute has written a short piece here claiming that Sweden, which usually gets great scores in all nation branding ranks, should not forget that its good reputation tends to disappear as one gets far from the Nordic country. Thus, Bergman claims that Sweden should improve its brand in the critic Middle East and Asia continents – which not only account for half of the world’s population but also include the India and China rising giants.

Swedish brand ranked tenth in the world

We all do it, every day – especially during overseas travel. We take advantage of the fact that the blue and yellow brand is strong throughout the rest of the world. As a Swede, one is frequently met with a warm reception outside of the country’s borders. Despite the fact that Sweden is a small country with fewer than ten million inhabitants, we have a good reputation. And Sweden’s international standing remains relatively good in the midst of the financial crisis.

The Swedish brand’s continued strength is also reflected in global indexes such as Anholt’s Nation Brands Index (NBI), a yearly global assessment of countries as brands which evaluates the countries’ perceived qualities within six key areas: business life, population, government, tourism, culture, and the country’s ability to attract talent – for studies, research, and work.

In the most recent survey from 2008, Sweden came in tenth place out of fifty ranked countries. The strongest brands in the eyes of the outside world are Germany, France, and Great Britain:

  1. Germany
  2. France
  3. Great Britain
  4. Canada
  5. Japan
  6. Italy
  7. USA
  8. Switzerland
  9. Australia
  10. Sweden

Sweden’s challenge

It is not enough that Sweden is considered good. In today’s competitive world, we must have something unique to offer businesses, students and employees. Also, Sweden does not have the same high reputation in the regions where we are less known. This is revealed both in our general studies about the image of Sweden abroad and in our studies specifically conducted in the Middle East/Asia region.

For Sweden to be an attractive brand in the eyes of the world, the country must first of all be well-known, and also perceived as interesting and reassuring. It is primarily countries that are familiar with Sweden who are positive to Sweden and what it has to offer. In a global context, Sweden therefore needs to be significantly more visible. This applies especially to new markets such as India, China and the Middle East.

The fact that Sweden is unknown and weak in markets like Asia and India can have a major impact on Sweden’s future ability to assert itself as an attractive and prosperous society. Many analysts predict that Asia will be an important market once the financial crisis is over and a new boom is imminent. Sweden needs to invest resources to become more visible in these markets – for example through communications in relevant languages and relevant forums, through scholarships and cultural exchanges. But we must not forget to nurture the relationships we have closer to home.

Sweden’s best chance to be attractive is if we as a nation through words, deeds and clear messages convey that we offer the very things people value, such as a friendly and welcoming people, a responsible policy with regard to issues concerning human rights and the environment, and interesting opportunities for individuals to develop – personally as well as financially.

Brief summary of the main findings of the NBI report concerning Sweden:

• Overall placement: 10th (of 50) in the most recent NBI study (1 place lower compared to 2007)
• Top-ranked category: 3rd place (of 50) for governance
• Top-ranked issues: For Sweden’s international commitment to environmental issues and poverty reduction (First and second place, respectively, of 50).
• Bottom-ranked category: 14th place (of 50) for tourism
• Bottom-ranked questions: Sweden’s cultural heritage (18th of 50). Sweden has no pyramids, no Coliseums.
• Most positive countries: Germany and France are the countries (besides the Swedish panel) which rank Sweden the highest – followed by Russia, Italy, Poland and USA.
• Least positive countries: Egypt and India

The image of Sweden abroad, 2009

Swedish Institute’s assignment is to work proactively with the image of Sweden abroad. The goal is to create awareness, confidence and a demand as well as to create relations, networks and cooperation with the rest of the world. For us, global analysis – to continuously monitor how Sweden is perceived and build a good knowledge about target audiences around the world – is central.

Analysis is our tool to be able to early detect and interpret trends and changes in the world. You can read more about the image of Sweden in the Swedish Institute report Sverigebilden 09 due out in June.

Article by Liselott Bergman, Swedish Institute