Nation Marketing and Nation Branding are not interchangeable. While Nation Marketing is the promotional activities you carry out to engage target audiences, stir a reaction, and create demand, the Nation Brand shapes the backbone of these pursuits. The Nation Branding process aims to establish how you want people to perceive the nation and what for. In this article, let’s take a closer look at the distinctions between these two often-confused but separate disciplines.

Nation Branding builds reputation in the long term 

Nation Branding sets the foundations of the stories you tell via Nation Marketing. It is the essence that fuels the activities designed to drive the interest of potential tourists, investors, and fellow target audiences. While it may involve developing slogans, symbols and other identity elements, Nation Branding is not the tactical marketing activities themselves, like advertising, blogging, and social media campaigns. 

The Nation Brand stems from what we at Bloom Consulting define as the Central Idea © – the positive emotion or feeling that a nation triggers in audiences’ hearts and minds when they experience, hear, speak, or think about it. 

To identify the Central Idea © and therefore establish the Nation Brand, one must look inwards. The process is based on listening to and observing what stakeholders across all levels of the nation are thinking, doing, and saying to shape their shared experience. It also calls for an inventory of the assets that the nation possesses and the features that set it apart.   

Importantly, Nation Branding is a long game. A Nation Brand is intangible, but not artificial, responding to and echoing the successes, challenges, pains, and gains of the nation. Still, at its heart, it remains consistent and can act as a benchmark for marketers to establish their key performance indicators (KPI) when using the Nation Brand for Nation Marketing purposes.

Nation Marketing drives demand for the brand

Nation Marketing does not involve announcing the Central Idea © out loud. The Central Idea © should infuse every one of the nation’s actions and policies. Nation Marketing helps with promoting a nation’s assets.

It is the proactive pursuit of attention from target audiences and the actions that you carry out to generate interest for the features, products and services that fit under the umbrella of the Nation Brand. Common tactics include content creation, sponsorships, search engine optimization, and advertising. Popular channels are websites, social media, events, and influencers. It can be a series of short-term campaigns, each focused on a specific asset or feature of the nation. Nation Marketing is not necessarily a long-term endeavor.

Compared to Nation Branding, Nation Marketing is outward-focused. It is about listening to the needs, wishes, and pain points of your target audiences and how you can leverage your Nation Brand to respond to their concerns with specific solutions, such as a holiday for travelers, education for students, or real estate and local talent for investors. KPIs may be increased tourist arrivals and net FDI inflows, for example. 

Nation Branding and Nation Marketing – a powerful tandem 

Now that we have established how Nation Branding and Nation Marketing differ, let’s turn to what makes them a mighty match. 

Nation Branding vs Nation Marketing
Image: Nation Branding vs Nation Marketing.

By starting with Nation Marketing without first establishing a Nation Brand, you risk creating confusion with disparate messaging. This lack of consistency can affect trust towards and credibility of the nation in the long term since the activities that you do carry out may not result in a clear perception.  

However, once the Nation Brand is defined, and all stakeholders are aware of how to not only live it but proactively use it for the common good, the Nation Marketing activities will become consistent and aligned with each other. Still, communicating with stakeholders will never be “finished”. Consistency and alignment are the result of ongoing dialog. A Nation Brand cannot simply be presented once.

With an established Nation Brand, marketers have the necessary criteria to filter whether an activity is on-brand or not. It is through this alignment that a Nation’s reputation builds over time, creating the desired perceptions in the minds and hearts of target audiences. 

Importantly, neither Nation Marketing, nor Nation Branding starts and ends with a logo, slogan, and launch campaign

Perceptions are built over time

To recap, Nation Branding is a question of how the nation wants to be perceived and what for, while Nation Marketing is the actions delivered to build the perception and drive demand for the nation among its target audiences. The better the perception, the higher the demand. 

Bloom Consulting has developed a proprietary methodology for defining the Central Idea © and has worked with several Nation Brands on the development of their Nation Branding strategies. See, for example, how we worked with Australia