14 steps to nation branding: a practical guide
written by Jose Torres, CEO, Bloom Consulting
Nation Branding architects face great adversity in getting the ball rolling and even more so as they fight an uphill battle. It is our hope that this guide will be used as a supportive reference for brand builders throughout the long and arduous process of strategizing a resilient nation brand.
What’s the big idea behind the Bloom Consulting 14 Steps to Nation Branding?
The objective of Bloom Consulting’s 14 Steps to Nation Branding is to offer the sector a step-by-step practitioner’s guide to building a Nation Brand. We’ve taken more than 20 years of experience and compressed it into a blueprint for those who have never before taken on this challenge. This guide follows the methodology of Bloom Consulting and our distinctive take on Nation Branding, built on the foundation of research, strategy, implementation, and measurement.
Fiona de Jong, Head of Australia’s Nation Brand, and the Austrade team have worked alongside us to create the framework of their own Nation Brand strategy. Nation Branding will never be an exact science, but the accumulation of applied experience from both this project and others that Bloom Consulting have worked alongside have repeatedly tried and tested these 14 steps through the process.
Spreading knowledge about Nation Branding
14 Steps to Nation Branding takes a new approach to talking about Nation Branding. We’ve created something that is not too academic, convoluted, or technically inexplicable to someone unfamiliar with Nation Branding. Beyond practitioners and public advisors, we hope this falls into the hands of students. The upcoming generation of businesspeople, government officials, and consultants will be better equipped with a roadmap to Nation Branding. The 14 steps have the capacity to act as a curriculum as much as they do a strategic plan.
Help us to spread knowledge about Nation Branding and shed light on its power.
What to expect from the 14 Steps to Nation Branding?
Without giving too much away, we’d like to offer a little insight into what you can expect from the 14 Steps to Nation Branding…
Step 1. Lay the foundation and create the preliminary structure
Creating a strong foundation is equally as important in Nation Branding as in building a home. Before we pour the concrete, let’s have a look at a few key questions: why are you doing this; what is it going to look like; and where do you begin?
Step 2. Understand current perceptions
Taking a deeper dive into how your country is perceived across the five dimensions of the Bloom Consulting Nation Brand Wheel©, you will assess domestic and international perceptions and measure them against conceived identity to answer the following questions: are you experiencing an image-identity gap; what emotions does our brand evoke; and what do people associate with our brand?
Step 3. Establish target markets
A common mistake we see is that countries and their Nation Brands work overtime to appeal to a global scale of audiences. Instead, we suggest a narrower scope.
Step 4. Set realistic objectives
The challenge in setting realistic objectives is first understanding the challenge itself. Ask yourself, why are we doing this and who are we doing it for? To answer this, please refer to the Bloom Consulting Nation Brand Wheel©. This will help in determining what the real objective is and you’ll be able to work backwards from there.
Step 5. Mitigate project risk and strategise crisis management
Plan for the future before the future plans for you. By no means will your team think through every possible scenario, but having a playbook ready and standard operating procedures in place will surely be helpful during times of uncertainty.
Step 6. Define your Central Idea
Your Nation Brand should be treated as a vessel through which the country’s identity is carried out and globally distributed. Do away with misconceptions about your nation and its people.
Step 7. Be on-brand, stay on-brand
Don’t go wandering. Define your Central Idea and stick to it. Nation Brand success is contingent on consistency across all place brand touchpoints. How can we do so? Understand what it means to be on- and off-brand by creating a short set of questions (10 or so) which will help to answer whether place brand touchpoints are on-brand.
Step 8. Audit and activate touchpoints
Place brand touchpoints are diverse in nature as they are the platforms through which a brand is experienced. The four quadrants of the Bloom Consulting SpiderBrand© are actions, activities, and policies; stakeholder engagement; Digital Identity; and marketing. Each has the power to influence individual image and national reputation.
Step 9. Build your Nation Brand management model
You have identified your needs, you have your programmes ready to activate, and you have the tools to be successful. Now it is time to ask yourself, what is the ideal governance model to ensure the previously established touchpoints and measurement tools are implemented correctly? The proper structure will be necessary to maintain the reputation of go-to Nation Branding institution.
Step 10. Engage with stakeholders
Next up, the Achilles’ heel of Nation Branding - stakeholder engagement. Mapping and connecting the dots of who will be the necessary stakeholders beyond the advisory board is key. The executive team will seek to escalate brand matters and initiatives beyond the internal structure through meetings, workshops, and tireless communication.
Step 11. (Don’t) Launch the brand & (don’t) create a logo
You are not launching the brand or creating a logo. Nation Branding is at no point definitive; it is an ongoing process which must be treated as such. Conducting an official launch with a costly logo can spark controversial feedback and misunderstanding across a range of stakeholders, participants and onlookers, whether domestic or international.
Step 12. Monitor and measure your brand
It is important to use the same variables which were previously addressed to successfully measure whether your Nation Branding initiative are taking hold. Has there been greater, more positive, interaction with new and existing place brand touchpoints?
Step 13. Make the move to Nation Branding 2.0
Nations need to take into account their Digital Identity. As we’ve explored in earlier steps, this is no longer unavoidable. Being an early adopter of this fundamental shift in power will give you the upper hand needed to succeed in years to come.
Step 14. Reflect, assess, repeat
You and your brand builder have taken the first steps to Nation Branding, but now it is about strength and resilience. Unfortunately, the work is not complete and never will be. Brand management will be an ongoing process.
It goes without saying, we hope you enjoy our guidebook. The daunting yet exciting task of building a Nation Brand can be overwhelming and confusing. It is our objective to provide some level of comfort and clarity to those who are daring enough to take on the challenge!