country branding Archivos | Allegro 234

country branding Archivos | Allegro 234

Brand Spain | Towards 2020

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On Thursday 30 May, we attended a working breakfast in ESADE – Madrid, in which Carlos Espinosa de los Monteros, High Commissioner for Brand Spain, outlined his project.

Are the Spanish aware of the importance of Brand Spain?

The answer is no, but perhaps more importantly, Do the Spanish understand the significance of Brand Spain / Country Brand / Made in Spain? And, do they understand the advantages of good international standing?

First, let’s look at what the term Country Brand means. Simply put, it is the way people from abroad perceive a particular country, in this case, Spain.

A more comprehensive, and slightly more complex, explanation involves long-term government policy. What guarantees the continuity of Brand Spain is that it emerged and grew from a broad consensus that goes beyond political upheavals, and the aim of the project is to improve the image of Spain both at home and abroad in the interests of the common good. In a globalised world, a good country image is an asset that strengthens a country’s international political, economic, cultural, social, scientific and technological standing. This is how Brand Spain high commissioner Carlos Espinosa de los Monteros describes it.

Improving Spain’s image can have economic benefits. An example of this is Made in Germany, where consumers are prepared to pay more for German products because of the country’s reputation for quality. From this we can see that a good reputation can be used in our case to channel investment, obtain better conditions for loans, or to capitalise on the risk premium-to-image ratio (the better the image, the lower the risk premium).

Can a country change its image?

The answer is, yes. A good example of this is, again, “Made in Germany”, a brand that can be traced back to the start of the industrial revolution in England. At that time, German manufacturers copied English trademarks and used them on their products, even though they were considered to be of poorer quality. In order to protect the home market, the English parliament passed a law by which all imported German products had to bear the “Made in German” stamp, and what started off being a sign of bad quality had, by the turn of the century, become synonymous with excellence due to the efforts and perseverance of the German manufacturers.

With this example in mind, the first conclusion we can draw from the high commissioner’s comments that the brand image of a country is based on two components:

  • Structural: made up of aspects that endure down the years and which, if the need arises, change slowly.  Two of the most important structural components are the history and values of each brand.
  • Circumstantial: this component is built up of news and reports coming from different channels. The aim is to eliminate any negative aspects as quickly as possible to ensure they do not affect the structural component.

According to Carlos Espinosa de los Monteros, Brand Spain has divided this initial process into three stages:

  • Find out what others are doing, in other words, benchmark.
  • Discover the best practices.
  • Understand the country experience, and how to achieve brand supremacy.

The conclusions to be drawn from these three stages are:

  • We will see medium- to long-term results, maybe in one or two decades.
  • We must focus on internal developments, in terms of training, information and dissemination, both at home and abroad.
  • We have to take this on as a nation, as a country committed to integration in which we all have to get involved and play our part, and above all, avoid political connotations

The programme

The first stage of the programme involves:

  • Diagnosis: Analysing different indexes, following qualitative criteria (life-style, appeal, cultural values, etc.) and quantitative indexes (capacity to organise, institutional administration… in other words, all aspects that add weight to investors’ decision making process). Studies carried out by the high commissioner’s office have shown that broadly speaking Spain is ranked between ten and twenty on the international scale. In global terms, this is pretty close to the real position: based on its macroeconomic parameters, Spain should be in fifteenth place in the world ranking.
  • Objective Where are we headed? Our aim is to secure the position of Brand Spain by maximising its image through certain values.
  • Tools: to help with this difficult process we will make use of a number of tools, a particularly useful example of these being the audiovisual industry abroad, which does an excellent job of improving Spain’s image and has helped define an editorial line and a range of content aimed at leaders of opinion in other countries.

The following are the five attributes by which Spain intends to be identified:

  • Traditional – Modern: a combination of both, because while we don’t want to turn our backs on our history, our culture, and in short, our traditions, we do want to contribute modernity – let us not forget Spain’s top quality contribution to technology: of the 10 most important construction projects currently underway worldwide, 7 are being built by Spanish companies.
  • Strength – Solidarity: We are still part of Europe, a continent that is the object of both envy and desire, that signifies a certain standing and importance… let’s show that our economy is solid, let’s capitalise on our assets, for example, our language, Spanish, which is expected to be the most widely spoken language in the world by 2050. Another of our highly prized assets is our solidarity: we lead the world in organ donation, we have standard-setting institutions such as the institute for the blind, the ONCE, and we have a long history of social development and cooperation.
  • Diversity: a characteristic that can be seen all around us: culture, language, climate, fauna, flora… as a country we are a source of wealth; we spark curiosity, and have a wide appeal.
  •  Flexibility: we live in a changing world, and one to which we have to adapt constantly. Over the past 50 years, Spanish society has demonstrated its capacity for political, economic and social transition, and the country has undergone a profound transformation.
  • Reliability: We need to show by our actions that we are trustworthy and reliable, that we are a good ally, and that we fulfil each and every promise we make.

This is the moment to start creating a country brand to be admired, so let’s begin by starting to know who we are, let’s believe in ourselves and let the world see who we are, so that they can also believe in us, and in our brand – BRAND SPAIN.

The tale of the brave bears | About country brand experience

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‘It was early in the morning and I was ready to departure to the Country of the Bears. Again I was going to delve into their forests which goes from the mountains to the sea. It wasn’t an unknown land for me, but this time was different. I would know not only new towns, but also more and new bears .

After several hours, I went deeper into the forest and slowly I arrived to the first bear‘s town. I noticed, when entering the city, that there was few office buildings (in the woods, animals also have this kind of urban areas), on the contrary, what I saw were factories. The first thought that came to my mind was… Bears are so tough, brave, and industrial workers.

That image, that perception, followed me throughout the journey. At a exquisite bar in the center of the town, I met one of the bears that wanted to know. With that bear, we kept a fairly fluid contact via messages in bottles… bottles that we use to find at the ‘sea of bottles with messages’, where only few of them are worthwhile.

 The meeting was casual, we were animal whith good references. The brave bear was also warm, respectful, friendly … and yes, with industrial spirit … and you could smell it in each and every grunt. We visited its village, full of bears (obvious) and open to the rest of animals of the forest… There was room to squirrels, rabbits and other less fierce animals. Even the bears games that they have downtown, which looked like silent monuments, represented their laconic, austere and silent spirit. Fond memories of that meeting will remain in my mind… forever!

I followed my way and got to my second meeting in anther city of bears (of course… this tale speaks of these animals) called “Mydragon“. Again, the industrial suburbs, deeper than in my first visit…  a more intense experience.  

I arrived to the cave of bears that were waiting for me … Anecdotal evidence: some of them wear rings as a bear‘s symbol and it looks like all of them have their hair cut with the same hairdresser ;-).

They showed their cave, their working environment, which, although creative, still smelt like a factory. I liked it!

With them I took the road to the last of my travel destinations in the Country of the Bears. From the mountain we went down to the sea. Forest trees were behind … We were at one of its beaches, actually we were at “the beach“. We ate, drank, shared experiences, that among animals of diverse species are often different, although none were distant.

The story continues and I remember it fondly…

What I learned from the bears

I believe that the first lesson is that there is a clear difference between emotion and representation. I mean, a meeting may be full of emotions, unique and unrepeatable, however it doesn’t need to be expressed and represented with great eloquence.

Bears are tough animals, workers and as the story says, they smell of industry… His character is somewhat dry and in some cases, even distant. But when you are with them, you may recognize their esteem, their closeness and the different way the have of expressing it.

The second lesson is that even this way of being is a differential characteristic. Many times, if not too many, it is thought that what it’s around us, to reach the depths of our being it has to touch our souls.  Particularly, to me, a Mercedes Benz does not touch my soul, although I think it would be an exciting experience.

In its hardness, in its brevity, its seriousness, its dry … bears, using their own way, generate emotions… and that is what makes the difference.

The third learning is that identity is rooted in values of belonging. Bears are proud of their forest and of being bears. For different reasons this is also true for other animals that are over this world, and we can learn from them (the bears I say).

We live talking about self-expression as an issue that is independent of the place where we live and the other animals with whom we share our lifes. Let us be what we are, neither more nor less … We have to know that each of us is different, live our-own experiences in our-own way… and if there is something that unites us, it would be the feeling of belonging in what was always ours.

Branding is an issue of, for and among animals… and I will be never tired of saying … New technologies, those that have developed and are eating many humans, can be tools to be better connected, to learn more (although more superficial), to find others of our species in remote places… but are just that, tools…

Things should return to its natural order … subjects first, objects well behind us!

The country brand experience

The last day I was with the bears, I participated in one of their events (great and for me very grateful, of course). During it, one of the key topic discussed was ‘Are bears good sellers? Do we have a clear differential attribute because we live inthe Country of the Bears?’

After a couple of weeks that I was thinking about these issues, let me share some thoughts:

  • We buy what the bears produce because of their seriousness, their brave and the smell of industry. Do not try to sell as squirrels because you will create uncertainty, confusion … The bears are bears and that is their greatest asset. Follow the recipe of your hearts and do not try to imitate others animals… please!
  •  If the Bears want to sell outside their forest, they must continue (also) being bears However, try to create empathy with the other animals to understand and talk with them in their own languages… This goes for any animal that wants to go to sell to other species
  •  I love and even I have a healthy envy for the pride that the bears show of their forest, the Bear Country. And this is another asset, not to go growling the benefits of the forest, but to put it as a recognized reference that makes them different and unique…
  •  It’s not a question of selling but buying, living our experience, participating and talking… The bears may be harsh and grumpy … but they are warm, emotional, friendly (when they wish… haha) and participatory.
And finally and I promise that I leave you in peace (this post has become very long)… Change bear by Basque and re-read the story! … Cheers!