Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Branding State and Civic Entities

To many it sounds strange to talk of “branding” a state or civic entity, but it is quickly becoming common practice among nations, regions, cities, and communities. Branding has spread rapidly beyond the confines of the corporate world of consumer products to embrace all entities ranging from the individual person to supra-national organizations, such as the European Union.

Branding Moves Beyond the Corporate World

From the perspective of a state or civic entity it has become essential to articulate its brand to attract and retain desirable citizens, ensure economic development and prosperity, wield appropriate political influence, and deliver social well-being.

This new concept of the Brand-state, with its stress upon image and reputation, is becoming an essential element of the strategically well-managed government or community. Like a well-branded product or service such as Coca-Cola or American Express, the top leadership of state and civic entities is now challenged to think in imaginative new ways about the brand of their realm, and the particulars of brand management, such as brand positioning, brand strategy, brand quality (quality of life), brand satisfaction (citizen satisfaction), and overall brand loyalty.

Wise corporations have invested heavily in their brands to enhance their position in the market, establish competitive advantage, and drive their market capitalization. Now, social and political entities are realizing that the lack of a well-articulated brand can cause them to lose in the state or civic marketplace of citizenship and economic development. Increasingly, nation-states, such as the United States, England, Belgium, Poland, and even Estonia have stepped forward to engage professional branding assistance to ensure that what they stand for promises a desirable future.

This attention to brand asset management is a shift from the traditional operating paradigm surrounding politics and power, to a new world of identity, image, and influence. Smart states are building powerful social brands around carefully crafted identities that are reflective of both what they stand for and who they wish to become. This is no different than what the most successful companies have been doing for some time.

When the value of brands makes up 40-70% of the combined market capitalization of the most successful corporations in America, it is clear that the times have changed and all players must learn to capitalize upon their intangible, brand-articulated assets. Such attention to branding state or civic entities has become strategically wise, economically prudent, politically desirable, and absolutely essential.

The New Public Diplomacy

Today, across all levels of the government, this branding of state or civic entities is being called “public diplomacy.” Public diplomacy represents a change from the old-style “art of politics” where diplomacy operated at an official-to-official level. Public diplomacy, understood as the art of brand-building and reputation management, is directed instead at the various target audiences of the citizenry and the business community.

With both citizens and businesses perceived as consumers of public policy, successful public diplomacy requires a commitment to new ways of thinking and new structures. Self-aware, political entities have abandoned their previous take-it-or-leave-it attitudes, and are, proactively repositioning themselves to achieve new relevance and share of mind with their constituencies and stakeholders. Essentially, they are discovering that they must promote themselves aggressively to achieve enhanced market share.

With this recent rise of the brand-state, those entities which lack a strategically compelling myth around which to rally their citizens, will not survive nor flourish, nor will their citizens experience increasing well-being. Thus, state and civic entities are now compelled to reinvent themselves by applying the same branding and marketing techniques employed by the most successful corporations. Now, each state or city must find its special niche in the public marketplace and position itself against a set of compelling meanings that have become the measure of state or civic success: efficient order, social benevolence, prosperity, and well-being.

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