Nation Branding – by Michael Schweda

Most important way to promote a country abroad and improve its visibility or image is by using the so called “nation-branding” technique. This is the case also for Slovenia. That this half-Alpine, half-Adriatic country decided to use more and more of “soft power” in managing its reputation becomes obvious with the clear strong messages and slogans delievered in recent years, such as “I Feel Slovenia”, “On the sunny side of the Alps” or the latest slogan from the qualifications of Slovenian football team on the World Cup last year, saying “Slovenia, small country with big balls”. But before getting any further into branding Slovenia let’s first take a quick look at the concept and history of nation-branding from the perspective of Michael Schweda.

Nation Branding is a common used technique which has for aim to bright up country’s image abroad. Communication is the central condition to successfully brand a nation. Another often used term for nation branding is public relation. Over the centuries the communication technique and other methods applied to fulfill with different methods to achieve various aims. We have more to talk of ruler branding instead of nation branding. Indeed the leader of tribes, empires and other kind of societies were first of all more willing to promote their nation but more their own person and clan. Secondly they also intend to leave a trace in history. Due to this reason and the lacking means of communication the branding expressed itself in the form of impressive building to symbolize the power of the ruler. Those physical symbols are still quite used nowadays if we consider huge pieces of infrastructure as the Three Gorges Dam in China or more generally every parliament building from Westminster, Bundestag etc.

A fundamental change in attitude arises during the 18. Century with the spreading of the enlightenment ideas in Europe.  Three central emerging ideas of this period is first a new vision of the world away from the old division into classes (Nobility, clergy and the third estate) towards a system of equality where each member of a society exists as an individual. The second innovative idea is the concept of self-determination in opposition with the deterministic world determined by God only. Those change in the way of thinking changes not only the face of Europe in a tremendous way but also the use and how nation Branding has been applied. The apparition of the individual their right of self-determination jeopardized the legitimacy of different monarch who derived their power from God only and forced the elite of the time to adapt their position by other mean.

The recent concept and idea behind ‘nation branding’ has been invented by Edward Louis Bernays during the 1920s in the USA. It first consisted to uses the ideas of his Uncle Sigmund Freud’s to subconsciously push people to consume certain products, what we nowadays understand as marketing. One famous example was his cigarette campaign in the 1920s on behalf of a tobacco company. The aim of this campaign was to make it socially acceptable for woman to smoke. A campaign as we can testify was more than successful. But soon he realized that those techniques could be applied to politics by controlling the masses from their own irrationally. The horrors occurred during the Second World War was taken as a proof that people cannot be trusted and that they are irrational. Where Bernays once used his uncle idea to increase corporate sales by bypassing the mind of their consumers he then used his skills to sell political ideas and push people to think was is believed to be “right”. The term ‘public relation’ has been coined by Bernays in consequence which he defined as ‘propaganda in peace time’. So is Nation branding only about controlling people inside the country? Is it justified to show only the brightest so give a huge gap between the suggested image and reality. Is it not also dangerous?

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About icdblogsphereteam

We are the Blogsphere Team of the Institute for Cultural Diplomacy. We are the interactive part of the web resources of ICD. We spread culture and mutual understanding among cultures through blogs.
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