VIEW: Brand Pakistan —Saad Hafiz
There should be little doubt that it will be a daunting challenge to reverse and revitalise a negative Pakistan brand suffering from low credibility, terrorism, poor governance and corruption
Nation branding is an increasingly important and influential field of theory and practice, which attempts to measure a country’s reputation and provide guidance on a country’s image management around the world. This is because the branding and image of each nation state is becoming increasingly important in a nation’s sustainable competitive advantage. Nations like corporations must craft complex strategic communications strategies to achieve their aims through planned communications campaigns.
The annual Anholt-GFK Roper Nation Brand Index (NBI) has become recognised as the most credible measurement of a country’s international brand image. The six categories that combine to form the NBI rating are exports, governance, culture, people, tourism and immigration/investment. The overall NBI ranking is based on the average of these six scores.
Despite the growth of emerging nations, the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) in particular, the table confirms that western economies, especially members of the G8, still dominate the upper echelons of the 2011 NBI index. Unsurprisingly, China, India and Turkey who have built a solid image of economic progress and political stability are considered among the top 10 “rising stars” in the NBI index.
The 2011 NBI study also reflected significant recent developments from many parts of the world. Egypt, which has been going through upheavals, has dropped six positions to 33rd, making it one of the only two with a one-year dramatic change in position over the past four years. South Korea has been making steady gains, moving up to 27th this year from 30th in 2010 and 33rd in 2008. Cuba, while still ranking 40th, has recorded one of the two largest score gains this year, passing Saudi Arabia to hold 44th place.
While Pakistan did not figure in the NBI study, it may be worth examining the state of the Pakistan brand against the NBI criteria. It is said that a Pakistan brand does not exist, but having an unsalable, ineffective or poor brand does not mean that there is no brand at all. Pakistan has certainly forced its way into global consciousness over the past few years mostly for the wrong reasons, which has diminished and muddied its brand. A brief explanation of the criteria underlying the NBI ranking when applied to Pakistan is as follows:
People: measures the population’s reputation for competence, education, openness and friendliness and other qualities, as well as perceived levels of potential hostility and discrimination. The world currently sees Pakistan being overwhelmed by unprecedented displays of fundamentalist, religious and anti-western feeling. This negative image is very harmful for a country of some sophistication, which boasts a western educated elite and which produces brilliant novelists, artists and scientists.
Governance: measures public opinion regarding the level of national government competence and fairness and describes individuals’ beliefs about each country’s government, as well as its perceived commitment to global issues such as democracy, justice, poverty and the environment. While Pakistan continues to have some of the worst human development and service delivery indicators in the world and serious governance issues and official corruption, the consolidation of democratic institutions, although subverted by patronage, is encouraging.
Exports: determines the public’s image of products and services from each country and the extent to which consumers proactively seek or avoid products from each country-of-origin. Pakistani exports such as Sindhri mangoes, Basmati rice and Ajrak textiles are well established abroad. Pakistani companies produce quality goods for global brand names like Adidas, Nike, Levis and Ikea.
Tourism: captures the level of interest in visiting a country and the draw of natural and man-made tourist attractions. Notwithstanding the serious security issues, Pakistan with its cultural and physical diversity is an interesting destination to visit from a tourism perspective.
Culture and heritage: reveals global perceptions of each nation’s heritage and appreciation for its contemporary culture, including film, music, art, sport and literature. Through all the economic and social turmoil and the challenges of terrorism, music and art and literature and a vibrant press continue to thrive.
Investment and immigration: determines the power to attract people to live, work or study in each country and reveals how people perceive a country’s economic and social situation. Pakistan remains in dire macroeconomic straits. The country’s growth has slowed to less than three percent since 2007, while rapid growth in food and oil prices cuts into living standards. The rich and others who can manage it are increasingly talking about going abroad due to security issues in the country. On the flip side, there is an evolving middle class contributing to a visible consumption boom in the economy where companies are enjoying a period of rising domestic sales.
There should be little doubt that it will be a daunting challenge to reverse and revitalise a negative Pakistan brand suffering from low credibility, terrorism, poor governance and corruption. A starting point could be to focus on the country’s strengths. Pakistan is the sixth largest state in the world located in a strategic position, a fledgling democracy with a population of 180 million representing a potentially large market with an emerging large middle class. It is mostly self-sufficient in food production; the economy of Pakistan is the 47th largest in the world in nominal terms and 27th largest in the world in terms of purchasing power parity (PPP) growing until recently at an annual average rate of six percent over a 40-year period, one of the highest in the developing world.
In the end, the key to sustaining a positive and competitive global brand may be to convince a sceptical world that Pakistan has abandoned the use of terrorism as a national security and foreign policy tool. The negative global perception will not change overnight, but the perception that the nation is at peace with itself and the rest of world will help. The initial step may be to convince the Pakistani people to accept their responsibility in trying to rebuild trust for the country within the comity of nations.
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