People often mistake the notion of branding a city or country with a logo or graphic devise. This is never the answer.
Successful place branding only ever occurs when reputation is built over time through consistent and compelling experiences provided to consumers and stakeholders through many different touch points -- including tourism, culture and heritage, environment, education, sport, health, community engagement, business and investment.
These different streams of relationships with the outside world support the DNA of nation branding. Each different place has a different DNA make up, both in terms of their current positioning and their aspiration.
The danger is that any one story can dramatically impact on a balanced view of a place.
For Bangladesh, much external perception is based on the image of Bangladesh as a poor country, devastated by national disasters, environmental and health problems. So the aim is to develop a brand platform based on the country's most valuable assets to provide a balanced positive view about the opportunities that exist in Bangladesh.
Building Brand Bangladesh
The task of building Brand Bangladesh commands a different way of thinking. It commands an innovative approach, embracing fast moving, born-global expertise to create an outcome that challenges traditional branding thinking and practice. It commands a special set of values that mirrors Bangladesh's aspiration related to its place in the world.
These key values need to include the following:
* Honesty, and
Bangladesh's DNA is created by the shared perceptions and beliefs of people engaging with Bangladesh and its people, linked to the shared perceptions, beliefs and actions of all Bangladeshis.
The DNA cannot be defined without considering both. It needs to draw on both internal and external engagement.
As with any external facing brand, the national brand ultimately has meaning through the expressions and behaviours of Bangladeshis both individually and collectively. These will always be the defining aspects and proof points of the brand, the national identity.
Branding the country requires a holistic approach, taking into account the broad spectrum of ways we as Bangladeshis engage with the world. It is not and cannot be an exercise in creating a single message or slogan to represent the DNA. Instead, the task is to design and create a living a continually evolving blueprint for how we engage with the rest of the world. This is an exercise in genuine connectivity and a belief in our place in the world.
This calls for an insight-driven creative process that can build multiple strands of expressions connected to our most important points of engagement -- in business terms, our top 10 markets.
It calls for an understanding of the major channels of engagement, so these can help to inform and accelerate the process.
The channels of engagement must cover everything from official touch points such as Government representation and bilateral and multilateral negotiations through to individual business engagements, media exposure and sporting and cultural activity. The most important thing in a business branding sense is for those who are active in international business through industries, such as Ready Made Garments and IT, to project consistent values, personality and messaging to those with whom they are doing business. Each individual transaction either adds value to or detracts from the total brand proposition.
Our approach to nation branding is built around the Brand Generation Model, and now implemented around the world in places as diverse as Botswana, Jamaica and of course Australia. This modelling has been proven to provide a simple and understandable platform from which all key stakeholders can contribute in a unified manner.
It is our belief that the national brand will be most potent when it is activated in a fresh, authentic, compelling and consistent manner across multiple channels. This requires a long-term investment by Bangladesh through its private and public sectors, not a short-term fix.
We need to create something of lasting value than can be multiplied many fold through multiple channels. We need to turn one million of annual spend into hundreds of millions of dollars of impact in the market.
In simple terms we need all Bangladeshis telling the right story in the right places at the right times. And believing it!
The national identity needs to drive and support Bangladesh's engagement in the world as a:
l global citizen and contributor
l business partner, and
l preferred destination.
Never has there been a more important time for this. On the positive side, Bangladesh has an enhanced economic standing and credibility. Some have described it as one of 'the next big players in the world market'. On the other side of the ledger, Bangladesh continues to receive ever-increasing scrutiny from the international community about the values that drive its business performance, human rights and social development outcomes.
Expressing the national identity is essentially about making a promise -- a promise to those who engage with us and a promise to ourselves. In a modelling sense, this promise sits at the heart of three defining zones -- place, people and policy. This promise must be built around the core expression of the promise of Potential, or single organising idea, which sits at the heart of people, place and policy.
Policy is expressed through the discussions and decisions by government and its representatives, coupled with the resulting messaging driven through all forms of international media play a major role in creating promises to the world.
While this cannot be totally controlled through a national branding effort, the blueprint that is created can help to guide an understanding of the potential impact of actions in the policy arena on the agreed national identity.
Alongside policy considerations, branding needs to thoughtfully consider promises created around place and people. Tourism marketing has long led the charge for most countries, mostly through traditional advertising and media channels. In terms of total direct spend, this is no doubt going to continue. Tourism campaigns traditionally have focused heavily on the promise of place. This is a risk for Bangladesh, as its most valuable asset is its people.
Bangladesh's DNA supports the promise offered by its people. Branding Bangladesh is more about people and less about place.
The author is managing director, Generation Alliance