Countries as brands

Date of publication: September 1, 1990

Author: John Fanning


It could be argued that the most significant development in recent years has been the growth of world trade. The benefits which have accrued to those countries who have participated actively in the phenomenal rise of world trade may also be seen to have provided the spur which ultimately provoked the profound changes currently taking place in Eastern Europe and South Africa. One of the first manifestations of the growth in world trade was the emergence of the multinational corporation - powerful global organizations often with turnovers exceeding the entire gross national product of half the countries in the United Nations. A more recent result is what has been described as the "increasing pluralization of consumption" i.e. people being exposed to more products from different countries. The latter development in particular raises the question of the image people have of different countries and the impact of this image on a wide range of purchasing decisions. This in turn raises the issue of national stereotypes. The question of national stereotypes has been dealt with extensively in the literature on prejudice and ethnocentricism. In some of its more extreme manifestations this century, racial prejudice or feelings of racial superiority have led to war. The major wars and all of the "minor" trouble spots that continue to erupt from time to time can be blamed partly on the consequences of the stereotyping of one community by another. But the subject of this paper is to do with the consequences of this stereotyping for a country's economic performance. The paper argues the case for considering countries as brands and discusses the problems of managing and measuring national brand images.

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