The importance of country branding

22/10/2013

Colombo, Sri Lanka

Colombo, Sri Lanka

When I look at international trade and business opportunities around the world, I am more and more surprised every day; not with the abundance of opportunities but with the fact that nobody knows about them or has negative perceptions about a specific business environment itself.

For example, Goldman Sachs identified 11 countries meant to become the largest economies in the 21st century along with the BRICS countries. However, most people would never even think about visiting half of these countries, let alone conduct business with them for one reason only: negative perception.

As an example, Bangladesh is one of the world’s most populous countries and arguably one of the poorest in Asia and the world. Of course we may see most of our Calvin Klein and Hilfiger apparel coming from there, but would most people know it is manufacturing ships and vessels for countries such as Germany and Finland?

Let us take another example in Sri Lanka. Although it is not considered to be among the next 11 emerging economies, Sri Lanka is still one of the fastest growing GDPs in Asia. It is the only country in the world that has free trade agreements with both India and Pakistan; and while this may not mean a lot to some people, it still constitutes an ideal platform for doing business and gaining access to one third of the world’s population. The London Stock Exchange is run by Sri Lankan technology yet most attention is always focused on the terrorism they suffered for nearly 30 years, thus not allowing themselves or foreign partners to capitalize on their areas of potential, such as their evident booming IT sector.

Changing perception is not an easy task and requires a collective effort between government and private sector.

It is important to note that the overall concept is not to omit or hide the negative aspects of a country but merely to give justice to the positive aspects. This will be conducive towards investment and will create opportunities for companies that wish to seek alternate trading partners or simply diversify their investment portfolio.

Sector- and country-based supplements for emerging economies on a consistent basis can have positive effects when distributed through proper channels. Influential business leaders, politicians, university graduates, high income earners are indeed the decision makers of a country and those whom need be communicated on a regular basis of the opportunities around the globe.

It is true that someone can have the best product or service in the world, but if people do not know about it then the product or service will not sell.

How do these country/sector branding campaigns work? Very thorough research is conducted on the various sectors of an economy which present significant growth and opportunities for investment by meeting the top decision makers of the country.

However, a simple “investment” analysis containing figures and numbers is not as digestible to people as having the policy makers and country leaders (both private and public sector) discuss in their own words how they are shaping their own worlds toward ongoing development. This is where the credibility lies; primary research in its purest form at a specific moment in time. This type of branding for emerging economies may indeed be needed more than ever these days, or in reference to the current global economic situation and the huge business opportunities available in emerging economies, “when the lights go out, it is the blind man who has the advantage.”

 Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the contributing author, and do not necessarily reflect those of the Forum for International Trade Training.

Article originally published September 4, 2012

About the author

Eduardo Garcia-Zapatero

Author: Eduardo Garcia-Zapatero

Marketer, journalist, public relations executive and business developer specialized in government and corporate communications. Introduced the Bulgari hotel amenity division into Brazil with an initial commercial value of USD $700,000 and re-structured Latin America's operation for a leading hotel amenity supplier with offices in Toronto and Miami, increasing its Latin American presence and revenues. Also responsible for showcasing investment and trade potential of emerging economies within developed countries through strategic communications channels. Work experience with governments and the private sector in Brazil, Bangladesh, China, Sri Lanka, Nigeria, Ecuador and Peru. Personal advertising sales track record surpasses USD $1 million from governments and the private sector in Asia and Latin America. Currently undertaking the production of global investors' guides in the middle east.

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