When it comes time to Nation Building. Where are the brands?
By Tom Dougherty
More Care Given to Laundry Detergent
It is odd how most nations never spend the resources managing their brand that P&G does in selling disposable diapers and laundry detergent. It would be quite revealing if we were to look at a country’s brand the same way we would if it were a fighter brand trying to grab market share and influence new customers. It seems that no thought is given to branding in nation building.
When we approach sovereign brands in this way, we repeat the first caveat we give to our business clients: do not confuse their current customer base with those who currently do not use the brand. The marketing (influence) goal is to not alienate the current customers, those that buy the brand and invest in it, and at the same time have influence on those who are current rejecters of the brand.
We always caution brands to be particularly careful about “preaching to the choir” and to make sure that we dispassionately look at the precepts (beliefs) of those we are not yet influencing. We call this an “outside-in” view of the market. Anything short of this is simply marketing masturbation. (Read the Stealing Share market study on packaged goods here)
Seeing the brand (read — Nation) from this perspective is difficult work. It means suspending any pre-conceived notions about the brand and having a willingness to accept the perceptions of the target (foreign) market as a key in defining the brand strategy. We are always careful to council our business clients that “perceptions and precepts do not need to be true to have power, they simply need to be believed.”
Such dispassionate outside-in perspectives ensure that the brand strategy and equity we develop and define will take into account the belief systems of those it wishes to influence and hold within its DNA the seeds of persuasion.
Nations, like consumer brands, need to facilitate a change in attitude amongst those that currently reject the brand in order to be effective. We measure the brand strategy’s effectiveness against this change in consumer attitudes. “If you can’t count it, it does not count” a former colleague of ours used to say and he said it quite convincingly.
Branding in Nation Building. Reflect To What They Aspire
It is simply a fact of life that if the brand (or Country) does not seek to find synergy with the beliefs of those it wishes to influence it will have no influence. If it does not emphasize with the unconvinced (antagonists), they will not receive it. And, if they do not receive it — it will NEVER be able to influence them.
Remember, a key tenet of corporate brand development designed to steal market share and therefore influence the decisions of the target audience is that the potential customer must see themselves IN the brand. They should see the brand as reflective of the precepts that drives their lives and defines their aspirations. Only then they will covet it.
Self-Centered Means Brand Failure
How much more effective could a country or nation be if those it wished to influence coveted its brand? Instead, the brands of nations seem to be more concerned with an inside-out perspective of the market than an outside-in perspective.
In our corporate brand work, we see these self-centered brands as delusional —ripe for the taking, and the keys to their defeat have been sown in the very soil that surrounds their foundation. Surely such important brands deserve at least the same care and management as soap powder and fast food?