Some would argue that country brand indices are irrelevant, and that all it offers is a chance for a some consultants to make some cash from their skills in telling us that which we already know.
Some people do think that a country, a city or even a region constitutes a brand in their own right, and now a few countries are currently working on strategies to spruce up their brand images. Those of you from Abu Dhabi will know of the Abu Dhabi Brand Office with its brand guidlines, great brochure, and facebook page (!) defining what Abu Dhabi is. There is a place for this because some people don't know what or where Abu Dhabi is. but in this form it is somewhat like a Corporate Communications department of a large corporate, define what logo can be used and where.
In other cases, in the case of exports, for example, the thinking goes something like this: once a country has become known as an exporter of quality branded goods, the country’s product brands and its place brand will work together to raise expectations overseas. Country branding should then become part of a self-perpetuating cycle: as the country promotes its consumer brands, those brands will promote the country. It's a bit like getting on the rosta to pitch to big clients. But it's a little trickier that this - to think of Dubai as a brand, just as coca-cola is a brand is a big mistake.
The question of brand is a tricky one. Arguably, in many quarters, Dubai has a greater brand presence that Abu Dhabi and the UAE. Why is this - because of what it has done from redefining itself as a tourist spot. But the brnad of Dubai has translated to the whole of the UAE - and the latest 2008 country brand index from Future Brand does not place the UAE anywhere in the top 10, although there is a strong showing in certain areas.
Countries were ranked across 30 distinct categories providing a perspective on strengths, weaknesses and opportunities. The rankings speak to qualities that compel consideration and assets that shape country reputations, perceptions and experiences.
Art & CultureResort & Lodging Options - 1
Ease Of Travel
Rest & Relaxation
NightlifeShopping - 2Fine Dining - 10
Outdoor Activities & Sports
Value For MoneyRising Star - 2Standard Of Living - 10
Ideal For Business
Easiest To Do Business InNew Country For Business - 2Conferences - 7
Extend A Business Trip
Most Like To Live In
Desire To Visit / Visit AgainAdvanced Technology - 10
EnvironmentalismMost Impressive Last Year - 2
So the UAE, doesn't feature in everything, and doesn't feature in the overall top 10, but is strong in a few areas, notably resorts and shopping. And maybe that is what the UAE means to the world these days.
Whatever you think, there will always be those that think national brands are meaningless. Most people, when they think of the UAE, will think of hotels and shopping, whilst some others will think back to the Dubai Ports row or how you could go to jail for having sex on the beach.
Countries do get branded whether you like it or not. Different facets of the brand will resonate differently with various audiences. Outsourcers may like the freezone, tourists may like some of the amazing hotels. Of course, when it comes to the UAE, when it comes to Dubai, when it comes to Abu Dhabi, Sharjah, RAK etc. you'll discover there's more to the country when you start studying it but the branding made you aware of what others perceived it to be in the first place.
And one day, when you see a falcon when you go on your desert safari, you will realise that the falcom you once saw in your subconcious, in a sign or on a stamp - that falcon is a big part of the heritage of the culture. Now, that's branding.Futurebrand Country Brand Index 2008 PDF
Labels: Abu Dhabi as a brand, countrybrand index 2008, Dubai as a brand, futurebrnad, UAE branding