Nation Branding and Place Marketing – The Product
By Sam Vaknin
II. The Product
What products do countries offer and market and how are they tailored to the needs of specific market segments?
In a marketing mix, the first and foremost element is the product. No amount of savvy promotion and blitz advertising can disguise the shortcomings of an inferior offering.
Contrary to entrenched misinformation, the role of marketing precedes the development of the product. The marketer gathers information regarding the expectations of the target market (the customers). In the case of a country, its clients are its citizens, investors (both foreign and domestic), tourists, export destinations, multilateral organizations (the international community), non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and neighboring nations-states.
The marketer communicates to statal decision-makers what features and benefits does each of these disparate groups desire and suggests how to reconcile their competing and often contradictory needs, interests, preferences, priorities, and wishes.
The marketer or brand manager then proceeds to participate in the design of the country’s “products”: its branding and public relations campaigns both within and without its borders, its investment laws and regulations, the development and presentation of its tourist attractions, the trumpeting of the competitive or unique qualities of its export products, the tailoring and monitoring of its mutually-beneficial relationships with neighbors, NGOs, and international organizations.
In designing its “products” and, thus, in acquiring a brand name, a country makes use of and leverages several factors:
1. Natural Endowments
The country’s history, geographical location, tourism sites, climate, national “mentality” (hard working, forward looking, amicable, peaceful, etc.)
2. Acquired Endowments, Public Goods, and Externalities
Level of education, knowledge of foreign languages, quality of infrastructure, the court, banking, and public health systems
3. Risk Mitigation
International standing and the resolution of extant conflicts (political risk), the country’s laws, regulations, and favorable international treaties, its credit history, insurance available to investors and exporters
4. Economic Prowess
Growth promoting policies, monetary stability, access to international credit, the emergence of new industries
Governments can influence many of these factors. Granted, there is little they can do about the country’s past history or climate – but pretty much all the rest is up for grabs. Aided by input from its brand managers and marketers, a country can educate its population to meet the requirements of investors and exporters. It can improve infrastructure, reform the court system, pass growth-promoting laws, cut down red tape, support monetary stability, resolve conflicts with the international community and so on.
It is important to understand that the “products” and brand name of a country are not God-given, unalterable quantities. They can and should be tailored to optimize the results of the marketing and branding campaigns.
Maintaining the country’s brand name and promoting its products are ongoing tasks – not one off assignments. They require a constant infusion of financial and human resources to conduct research and development to evaluate the shifting sentiments of the country’s clients. States and regions are no different to corporate entities. They, too, must gauge and study their markets and customers at every turn and respond with alacrity.
Exactly like commercial outfits, political entities seek to extract a price for their offerings and products. Increasingly, the price they can obtain is settled by highly efficient global markets in perceptions, goods, and services. As competition stiffens and the number of state-players increases, the barriers to entry become more formidable.
This is the topic of our next article.
Sam Vaknin is the author of Malignant Self Love – Narcissism Revisited and After the Rain – How the West Lost the East. He served as a columnist for Central Europe Review, PopMatters, Bellaonline, and eBookWeb, a United Press International (UPI) Senior Business Correspondent, and the editor of mental health and Central East Europe categories in The Open Directory and Suite101. Until recently, he served as the Economic Advisor to the Government of Macedonia. Visit Sam’s Web site at http://samvak.tripod.com