Currently, I am reading No Logo by Naomi Klein. As most of you might know, No Logo criticizes the mega/super brands; is also known as one of the most influential anti-globalization books. Well, I am learning a lot of new things about branding and how to create brand identities from a book that highly devalues branding. This week, I wanted to write about what I learned about branding from No Logo (I am sorry, Ms. Klein), and discuss Simon Anholt’s speech below based on communication and branding.
Anholt starts out by telling us to ‘forget about branding’. He claims when it comes to cities/places; promotion is not enough to change the perception. He says he has not been able to see one case study where a city/place/region has demonstrably and measurably increased its reputation through marketing communication…
I have three main ‘issues’ with and one methodological objection to his statement:
1) Promotion and marketing communication are two different terms. Communication in nation/place branding is, and should be, strategic communication. In the strategical conceptualization of the term, promotional activities will stay only as tactics and operations. The entire communication framework is broader than promotion. Therefore, Anholt fails to see the complete communication mechanism in the branding processes. I agree that promotion is not enough to increase reputation, however strategic communication is a prerequisite.
2) Anholt wants to see a measurable increase in a country’s reputation… Currently, I know two measurement scales in nation branding. One belongs to Anholt and GfK – Nation Brands Index (NBI), and the other one to East-West Communications. I am not really sure whether NBI is methodologically sound, as I have not had access to the documentation. East-West Communications bases its arguments on a simple content-analysis. Long story short, I do not know any place reputation measurement scale. Therefore, it might be very difficult to find a case where a city/place/region has measurably increased its reputation (It is important to note that Anholt distinguishes branding from promotion for tourism or economic development. Therefore those figures cannot be used to measure the success of a branding campaign. Otherwise, we could have easily used Polish Plumber to disprove his argument).
3) Several branding campaigns start ‘re-actively’. In some cases, there is a need for policy advisors to change their policies, to restructure their economies, etc. However, in several other cases, the need for branding/re-branding is sparked by misinformation and misperception. Therefore, in fact, the main of the reputation management (branding/rebranding) is to provide the facts and figures to target audiences. In other words, there are several branding cases where communication is the main component. A project I have been working on, RediscoveRosarito, is such a case study. The main aim of the project is to debunk the myths of danger created by mainstream media.
4) Well, I just want to tweak Anholt’s words. He has not seen any case where communication succeeded. Is there a story of success where communication had no role? If the answer is no, we cannot overlook the importance of communication in branding.
Shortly, what I want to say is, strategic communication is not the only component of a successful branding campaign. However, a campaign that does not appreciate the dominant role of communication in changing perceptions is not very likely to accomplish its objectives.
PS: Before I forget, as far as I can recall, Poland was working with Wally Olins for branding. Did Poland change its mind? And secondly, can any one name one of Anholt’s branding campaigns?