I. A. Sheikh reflects on what it will take to bring about change in Pakistan.
As I proceed to my next destination,
, after the conclusion of the 42nd IAA (International Advertising Association) World Congress in St. Petersburg , I am delving deep into the subject of branding nations. The topic was addressed by Serge Dumont, Senior Vice President of the Omnicom Group, who underlined the fact that country branding is vital not only to tourism but to investment as well. The same point was emphasised by a report I coincidentally came across during a coffee break on day two of the Congress. Moscow
But I have to keep the subject of branding nations off my mind until I reach Leningradsky Station and board the
train. I rush out of my taxi and run hard to catch the train a full 30 seconds before it departs. As I seat myself, an American couple greets me and asks if I am with the IAA. I nod, upon which the lady introduces herself as Deborah Malone and her husband as St. Petersburg . I immediately know we have something to talk about. She is the publisher and founder of The Internationalist, a magazine aimed at advertising, marketing and media professionals. She presents a copy of her magazine’s latest issue, which I recognise as the one that carried the report on nations as brands. Brandon
I tell Deb I already have a copy and that “I’ve had a look”. “You’ve been around,” she responds taking back her copy. We start talking about the Nation Brand Perception Report and the two sort of console me about the fact that the Report places
at the bottom of the Asia Index. “It’s ‘perceptions’ after all,” we agree. Pakistan
The Nation Brand Perception Report that is featured in the magazine is an insight into how countries are perceived by the major media worldwide. It is published by East West Communications, a
based company that specialises in communication strategies and media plans for countries as brands. Washington DC
The report identifies grammatically the most common positive and negative messages associated with a nation brand in the news, on television and online. The ranking of the countries is based on the tone and frequency of how it is mentioned in the media. It involves the use of Perception Metrics, a proprietary Natural Language Processing text analytics that provides detailed analysis on how any country is perceived in the world media.
(95.465), Singapore (78.077) and South Korea Hong Kong (71.619) top Asia’s perception index, is placed at eighth with a score of 56.947. India ranks abysmally low at 27th with a score of 4.783. Pakistan
This is all I have to say about the Report.
Instead, I will deliberate on ‘Change: Consequences’ and its relevance to
, a nation that needs to reinvent and reposition itself as a brand. Pakistan
At the IAA Congress, speakers from different parts of the world and with different sets of experiences and expertise kept on telling the over 1200 participants that the dynamics of communication were constantly and consistently changing. Digital media and social networking, they noted, are on the rampage and in a post-recessionary period, things had to be done in new ways, driven and dictated by the consumer behaviour. Today’s tech-savvy, connected and sensitised consumers will question why a certain brand exists (the soul); what it stands for (the heart); and how it is expressed (the body).
As Maurice Levy, Chairman and Chief Executive of the Publicis Group, said:
“Purpose-inspired brand building is the new rule of the game, which marks a shift from the conventional approach of adding value to a product to adding ‘meaningful’ value to the context of a product.”
In other words, the reason why a consumer chooses a brand lies in the greater good rather than in personal good. Tomorrow’s consumers are revolutionaries who have an agenda for change and these ‘radicals’ have the power to dictate their agenda to large brands and corporations.
The same ethical paradigm comes into play when we talk about national brand determinants. Social issues, the plight of women and children, human rights, rule of law, climate change and carbon emissions — everything impacts the perception of a nation as a brand. Furthermore, the perception of governments and country-of-origin issues can dramatically influence the future of local brands.
With such moral issues being at the heart of branding, the challenge for
’s perception managers is much more complex than one would surmise. We are plagued by grave social and moral challenges which continue to gnaw at the foundations of the country; issues such as extremism and intolerance, human rights, corruption, poverty, social injustice, which are then compounded by severe challenges such as energy, food and water shortages. Building Pakistan as a brand amid these circumstances is no small feat. Pakistan
Where do we start from and who will spearhead the effort? Whose responsibility is it to do this? Should we begin with a logotype; a new colour scheme for
; should we start working on a brand book or identity guidelines for our generations to follow? What are the requisites to make this happen; money, resources, political will or ownership of certain values? Pakistan
As for political ownership, I am reminded of an official effort made almost half a decade ago to build a soft image of the country. Ironically, this initiative was undertaken by a dictator-led democratic government. The outcome is self evident.
, the time to brand and position itself was yesterday. And while I write about this pressing issue, the country, rightly or wrongly, endures a ban on Facebook and hundreds of other websites. Pakistan
I. A. Sheikh is Executive Creative Director, Midas Communications. email@example.com