South Africa hasn’t cracked the nod as a ‘country brand’ according to global research by FutureBrand. Although the highest ranked African country, South Africa’s position on the Country Brand Index remains unchanged at 40. Only 22 countries out of the 75 measured qualify as ‘country brands’, says the creative future company.
A country brand, says FutureBrand, is able to demonstrate “a measurable competitive advantage over their peers as a result. For example, people are more likely to visit, recommend and do business with them. And twice as many people say they would buy products from a country brand than they would from a ‘country’”. Key drivers of country brands include having a reputation for high quality products, a desire to visit or study in a country and perceptions of good infrastructure, FutureBrand says.
“This year’s research shows that having a strong country brand brings measureable competitive advantage in terms of visitation, advocacy and investment, as well as consumer preference for products and services. So it continues to be vital to manage country identity and reputation as you might a corporate or consumer brand. For those countries that do not yet qualify as ‘brands’, the Country Brand Index offers valuable insight into the levers you can pull for stronger perception across the dimensions that drive visitor choice,” says Tom Adams, global head of strategy at FutureBrand and co-author of the report.
South Africa was one of the countries surveyed. FutureBrand collected quantitative and qualitative data from 2 530 opinion-formers and frequent international business or leisure travellers in 17 countries: US, Canada, Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, UK, Germany, France, Russia, Turkey, South Africa, UAE, India, China, Thailand, Japan and Australia.
FutureBrand used its proprietary Hierarchical Decision Model (HDM) to formulate its questionnaire. The HDM takes seven areas into consideration: Awareness, Familiarity, Preference, Associations, Consideration, Decision/Visitation and Advocacy. For the purpose of ranking, the research weights in favour of Associations across six dimensions and their related attributes – from Value System to ‘Made in’.
Dr Petrus de Kock, general manager of research at Brand South Africa, says the FutureBrand study is clearly weighted towards highly developed Western countries. “It’s a bit unfair not to compare apples with apples,” he says. Earlier this year, Brand South Africa released the findings of the 2013 Thrive International Investor Perceptions Survey. It found that South Africa “competes equitably with other emerging markets in the study – including the continent and BRICS countries”.
De Kock says South Africa does have areas that need building such as technology and economic diversity, for example. “We do need to showcase our other unique stregths,” he says, pointing out that South Africa scored highly for its natural beauty and as a holiday destination. It featured slightly on range of attractions and historical points of interest. But it barely featured at all on the index for safety and security, health and education, tolerance, advanced technology, good infrastructure and whether students would like to study here.
FutureBrand said in the report that this year’s study reinforces the perennial paradox of awareness: being well known does not always correlate to strong positive associations.
“For example, Italy enjoys higher awareness levels than Japan in our sample (89% compared to 84%) but is 17 places lower in the rankings. Similarly, Mexico enjoys 80% awareness but is in the bottom third of the rankings. Conversely, Finland, Singapore, Iceland, the UAE and South Korea are all in the top 20, but have awareness levels below 70%. So if being well known is not enough to drive positive perceptions, how should we understand the impact that global events can have on country brand strength?” it says.
The report pointed out that major international sporting and cultural events have a positive impact on awareness. “We saw this with South Africa and Canada in 2010, which enjoyed significant uplift in awareness following the FIFA World CupTM and Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympic Games respectively in our study. Importantly, however, South Africa’s ranking position remained the same whereas Canada improved,” it reported.
De Kock says the FIFA world cup “did wonders” for brand South Africa but admits that “maybe we could have done more”. Nevertheless, he says South Africa has scored when it comes to hosting large events, that we have a reputation – better than Brazil or India, for example – for being able to pull off successful events. “We have made our mark in this respect,” he says. And he points out the the World Cup legacy has benefited South Africans, pointing to transport and infrastructure upgrades. Our conference and convention business does well, too.
There is no doubt that major international sporting and cultural events have a positive impact on awareness of the host country. We saw this with South Africa and Canada in 2010, which enjoyed significant uplift in awareness following the FIFA World CupTM and Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympic Games respectively in our study. Importantly, however, South Africa’s ranking position remained the same whereas Canada improved.
Key findings included:
1. Awareness does not make a country brand: For example, Italy enjoys higher awareness levels than Japan (89% compared to 84%) but is seventeen places lower in the rankings. \
2. Country brands are associated with consumer brands: On average, respondents demonstrated awareness of a larger number of consumer brands across more categories for the 22 country brands. For example, Japan elicited associations with Toyota, Nintendo, Honda, Sony, Toshiba and Panasonic.
3. Country brands are seen to have expertise across categories: France is most strongly associated with Fashion (65%), Germany with Automotive (77%) and Japan with Technology (78% – the highest score of a country in a category).
4. Country brands have most momentum in technology, innovation and sustainability: Top country brands are seen to have more momentum in technology and innovation or environmental friendliness than political, economic or cultural significance.
5. New York, London and Beijing will be the most influential global cities: There is often a correlation between perceptions of city influence and country brand strength, but not always. The ranking of the twenty most influential cities does not include any in Norway or Denmark – both top ten country brands. And seven of the most influential cities are not in the top twenty country brands.
So what are the world’s top 10 country brands?
7. United States
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