by Ewan MacDougal (guest writer)
In 2003 Thailand launched the “Global Thai” public diplomacy initiative where it sought to boost it’s nation brand by taking a lead in setting up Thai restaurants around the world. What if this was taken further, hypothetically what if all these restaurants started to look like a franchise with the same layout, same menus and same greeting from the staff? Then extend this further so that other businesses that operated under the “Thai banner” felt the same, you could get a Thai massage from a parlour that has the same logo as the restaurant the same incense smell and the same colour scheme, extend this to clothing shops and even local markets in the areas where the diasporas shop and all of a sudden visitors to these shops start to believe that what they are visiting is what Thailand is. If the Thai government could control this brand then they would have taken a lot of ground in their effort to brand the nation.
The problem is there are thousands of these businesses all over the world which operate under a flag, and for the most part each one is operated completely independently, if nation branders want to be able to brand these they may need to borrow yet trick from marketers in big business. The most successful businesses understood the importance of taking control of how their brand was perceived long before Anholt talked about Nation Branding. Today these same big businesses have come to rely upon digital asset management software.
Successful businesses like to portray themselves as having a single personality which oozes out of every public face through the style of writing, types of images used fonts and colour schemes. This corporate style has proved hugely successful at creating brand loyalty and get customers to return again and again. The bigger a company gets the harder it is to manage this brand, so DAM software seeks to make this easier by putting all the fonts, layout templates and instructions online so anyone internal or external can produce a message that people will recognise.
So should countries start creating a database of layouts fonts and house styles for Diasporas around the world? On the positive side a well protected brand can really benefit the business owners who could find that there shop benefits from the brands reputation with plenty of repeat business coming their way. Governments will benefit from being able to have a very direct impact on some of their most influential brand ambassadors.
However nations are far more complex than businesses, if you try and simplify it’s whole brand into one personality you risk losing all the other details that make up a country, people start expecting the country to only be what they’ve expected from the brand and you end up with the hyper real where a country has to start imitating it’s brand.
Nation branders have always struggled when too many aspects of a country have tried to give off separate and conflicting messages, looking at digital asset management could really help nations control this, but where as in business the ultimate aim might be to condense a brand down to one familiar personality nations will benefit more by celebrating their wide ranging voices.