We have been all exposed to several images from Chile during the last few days and learned a lot about the 33 miners, who were rescued after being trapped in a mine clash for over two months. We learned about the miners’ background stories, their experiences, and watched how they returned back to life as President Piñera said. Being aware of its emotional nature and sensitivity, I will not treat the issue as a purely branding practice. Though I believe as a scholar, it is my obligation to highlight some aspects of this triumph of human spirit.
I tried to run a quick keyword frequency analysis on newspaper titles about Chile from 1980s onwards. Chile’s name has never been so close to human spirit, and triumph. Thanks to this magnificent rescue operation, the country will be known for the value it places on human life and for its technical capabilities at least for the upcoming weeks, if not longer. In terms of branding, it is possible to find similarities between this operation and ‘events’ branding, meaning hosting international events – such as the Olympics.
Now, let’s back up a little bit. Let’s forget about the accident and the rescue mission. Let’s go back to May 2010. What do we know about Chile? Personally, all I can say is I believe Chilean peppers are from Chile, Pinochet is a ‘bad’ guy, and Chileans know how to play football (soccer). And here is what happened after the rescue attempt: A major newspaper (NY Times) said “the rescue of the miners this week shows how much Chile has evolved since Pinochet’s rule ended in 1990.” Chilean authorities made their best to impress the media, too. The illustration below, provided by CNN, shows the map of the ‘village’ constructed during the rescue mission. Not surprisingly, the plan includes a designated press room. When the miners reached the surface (wearing the same t-shirt, and looking very clean), they were greeted by their families, the President, several spectators, and of course an army of nearly 1500 journalists. With the help of ‘human aspect’ of the story and successful media management, we stopped asking questions about the causes of the accident, and just enjoyed the glory of humankind over nature.
In short, the incident brought short term high volume media attention to Chile (’15 minutes of fame’ for a country). Chilean authorities were able to use this opportunity very strategically to transmit a modern, caring, unified image of their country to the world.
A perfect rescue mission, and a flawless media management! Let’s enjoy the recently polished brand image of Chile!