Dubai Port World’s qualified bid to acquire P&O was vehemently opposed in
if you ignore the
emerging global success stories such as the Emirate Airline, or Orascom Telecom, or
In other words, how can businesses from the Muslim world control the message before others keep shaping it?
Interbrand – A global leader in Branding
The above question was the premise that kicked off a short conversation with Mr. Jeff Swystun, the Global Director of the leading branding company in the world, Interbrand.
Mr. Swystun is responsible for firm strategy, communications and knowledge management, innovation and managing Interbrand’s own brand.
Interbrand, is also the consultancy behind the BusinessWeek ranking of the Best Global Brands Report which presents the ranking of the Top 100 most valuable brands of the world. This ranking which gives a pure value to corporate brands—known as brand valuation, is perhaps Interbrand’s most important contribution to the development of the branding practice. Its sophisticated 5 step discounted Economic Value Added methodology helps companies value their brand assets in a credible and tangible way.
Even with such depth of branding expertise, Interbrand’s Mr. Swystun is quick to acknowledge the stark challenges faced by the Muslim world corporate sector, but nevertheless offers some concrete strategies around corporate sectors role in an emerging practice of ‘Place Branding.’
What is Place Branding
Place Branding is a practice that is gaining momentum across the globe with which a country or city collaborates with its stakeholders to deliver a consistent global message around tangible positive attributes. The efforts aim to permeating consistent positive brand associations.
“When targeting tourism – a lot of places have beaches, and mountains and beautiful sand, whereas when the target is broader economic development - a lot of places have a great rule of government, fair trade and access to infrastructure for businesses. So there is little differentiator in place. Where the differentiator comes about in a geographic region is the people who populate it and what makes them unique. At the end of the day that’s the attraction.”
Anholt, another leading branding expert known
specifically for Place branding, also shares Mr. Swystun’s
views. Even in his hexagon of six aspects that shape a Nation Brand, he
identifies ‘Culture’ as playing the most prominent role in branding a nation
for a fuller more durable understanding of the country and its values. Afterall,
really boils down to you’ve got to hit on live, work and play. I think
they’ve hit on the work and play, but to me they are like a transient
the role of building upon the very positive place attributes,
Place Branding – no more a domain of the governments
has been thought for a long time that Place branding is only the purview of
the local governments. However, lately more and more local corporations are
actually driving it. Mr Swystun gives the example
Mr. Swystun adds, “The issue is that government spend takes place regardless; at the same time festivals, arts and other culture events are also taking place, and businesses are also making their separate efforts, etc. Wouldn’t it be powerful if all of them were saying the same thing?”
Corporate Sector – Leading and participating in Place branding
No doubt, the perception of our nations and the region has a strong effect on our ability to compete for investments or exports. So there’s certainly much at stake for the business community to get involved with Place Branding.
“For any kind of branding, specifically place branding, if you don’t manage your image or brand positively and proactively, the market will define who and what you are. So that’s the biggest challenge in getting out ahead of stereotypes, anecdotes, historic references, and building something more progressive and positive.”
Mr. Swystun suggests that corporation’s role in place branding is multifold; one is that they can be a driver for it by getting together and taking the initiative, or they can fund it, or they can be a participant and articulator of what a place brand is going to be.
“What should happen is that local corporations should step-up and say that we do business all over the world and we’ve got an image problem, and that we need you—government, to work with us in changing perceptions of who and what we are.”
For an effective Place branding initiative first a common brand platform is identified. This is done by carefully evaluating the strengths and key attributes that shapes the brand positioning and then identifying key target audiences and channels. This is what firms such as Interbrand do.
“Corporate guys can then be the catalyst for progressive change. Because they have influence and because they have contributed so much to the health and welfare of the geographic region, they can kick off these communication efforts and either lead or participate in them equally and move the government along. Generally they are more progressive communicators anyway. They are in business. They know how to standout and have the notion of branding somehow or the other,” says Mr. Swystun.
faced with the difficult question of what can corporation’s do who suffer
from the stigma of terrorism in the region, Mr. Swystun
is first clear in stating that place branding requires that true issues be
addressed. Certainly, branding
best example of that is
“Even-though, their were these centered troubles in Belfast, this other region in Ireland, all of a sudden became the Silicon Valley and they are attracting tons of high-tech business.”
“They did it with a combination
of substantive policy change around taxation, providing skilled labor pool, and then they did that in hand with a new
image and an enhanced brand. So if they just came out and said, do business
an absolutely fascinating case where they were able to overcome a very strong
reality and perception as to the situation in
Has to be real – not fake
One key cautionary point that Mr. Swystun emphasizes is that the promise of the brand has to be real.
“Brands should be both inspirational and aspirational. Inspirational to the internal audience, so you are motivating them to behave along the brands values and guidelines. Aspirational so it takes you to a future point. The problem happens when you are too aspirational, i.e if the delta is too great, and if you are over-promising and you cant deliver against it.”
if you make a false claim and you entice people to use your brand, whatever
In the end, as the business entities from the Muslim world, DP World or any other companies from the Muslim world competing globally, continue their global forray, the hope is that real, strong positive cultural and brand attributes would be present to counter any existing stereotypes that hurt their brands.