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The Essence of A Nation: Exploring Country Branding

As a branding agency, we at Octonano like to pay attention to many different angles involved in creating a brand. And as an international agency, we thought it would be fitting to take a look at a slightly different form of branding today – country branding.

Country branding (also known as nation branding) is how a country, or even a city or state, presents itself internationally as a place for people to visit and invest in, and as such, positions its goods, resources, culture, and people in the global scheme. It’s branding on one of its largest scales possible, and it requires a strategy that takes into account both a comprehensive survey of the country’s grounding and specific elements and details that can represent the nation as a whole. With that said, we’ve selected a few key examples of key routes different countries have taken for cultivating their national image.

Japan – Utilize a National Icon

One of Japan’s most powerful international ambassadors is none other than Hello Kitty, who has become something of a national avatar. Earning $1 billion a year for its owner, Sanrio Co., the figure of Hello Kitty is at once recognizable and versatile, with a silhouette and expression that can be utilized to promote many different areas of Japanese culture – including traditional customs and more pop-culture aspects – both at home and abroad. Hello Kitty’s popularity has also helped propagate the reach of Japan’s clout in Europe and North America, given the familiarity many Westerners already have with her character as an introduction to Japanese goods.

Italy – Deliver on Quality Products

In the case of Italy, the country is well-known abroad for the quality of its exports, among them cheeses, wines, couture, and design. Consistent with the country’s reputation as the bel paese, Italy ensures that its products fit this bill of beauty and splendor perceived instantly by the “Made in Italy” label. What’s more, for the most part Italian producers do deliver on this promise of quality, which maintains the credibility of Italy’s association with well-made goods.

India – Let Your Values Take the Lead

Many of the elements that foreigners associate with Indian culture – and have thus come to represent the country – are informed by the spirituality found among Indian people, including Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism, and others. As such, within Indian traditions that have become well-known abroad, such as select Indian dishes, practices like yoga, and celebrations like Holi or traditional Indian weddings, certain collective spiritual values of the country’s people are felt strongly.

Croatia – Create Easier Travel Routes

Croatia is a nation that successfully underwent a rebranding in the 2000s, when it successfully switched from being associated with violence in the Balkans to being considered a dreamy beach destination. How? One of the key tangible changes was that the Croatian National Tourist Board had to improve flight connections and create direct routes into the country, to reinforce perception of the country’s security and accessibility. In 2017, American Airlines introduced the first direct flight from the United States in 28 years, flying directly from Philadelphia to Dubrovnik, proving the value of a user-friendly experience.

UK – Lean into Tradition

Both within and outside the UK, the country’s emphasis on tradition, institution, and protocol is felt keenly, both in official national promotional campaigns (like when two of the country’s biggest icons, HM Queen Elizabeth II and Paddington Bear, enjoyed a proper British tea together), and in more colloquial aspects of what the country is known for (like spreading your clotted cream and jam the “Cornwall Way” or the “Devon Way”). While every country of course has its own strong sense of tradition, the UK uniquely foregrounds their cultural doctrines when building their reputation abroad.

USA – Create an Holistic Experience

The U.S. (which interestingly has no Ministry of Culture), is an example of how a country utilizes a holistic experience of country branding over highlighting specific cultural elements. As a relatively new country, and one famously made up of immigrants at that, one of the most significant ways the U.S. markets itself is through exchange programs for foreigners, such as the Fulbright program, for the sake of expanding international American presence. As such, the U.S. continues to reference an updated version of the social-mobility and assimilation narrative of “The American Dream” in its instances of country branding.

So what can companies learn through country branding? Firstly, companies are advised to follow the examples set by these various nations with regard to branding, and then scale them to apply to the ideation and execution of the company’s brand identity. And secondly, companies would do well to keep country branding in mind when looking to expand into international markets, both when pitching themselves and their country of origin, and when getting to know their international target customer.

Are you ready to expand your company into new markets? Why not collaborate with our international team? Get in touch with us today.


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