ISB Updates

Why nations need to brand: The way forward for India

Should only makers of products and service providers resort to branding? Can nations be brands too, and why do countries need to sell themselves?

Delving into these and other issues pertaining to country perceptions, Professor David Reibstein, a William S. Woodside Professor and Professor of Marketing at the Wharton School, told a packed gathering at ISB, that nations should in fact concentrate on improving their image as it can impact economic prosperity. Our actions, visible on a global scale, have economic consequences far beyond the direct cost of those actions, he said, emphasising on the need for nations to pay attention on how they are perceived by others. The idea on how the world perceives a particular nation may impact its foreign direct investment, exports and tourism, and therefore its economy.

Companies are fully aware of the economic value of their brands and so nurture them carefully. In this era of social networks and in a world of ever-increasing global interaction and exchange, it is time for the same to be applied to the branding of nations.

“Nation brands are comprised of perceptions that people have of a nation and are derived from all sorts of experiences - perceptions about what people can
expect if they visit an area, buy goods from that area, or invest capital there.” Reibstein said during his address at the Indian School of Business,
Hyderabad campus. “The opinions we form are based on our own experiences as well as what we learn from others,” he added.

David Reibstein has featured in Fortune as one of the eight ‘favorite business school professors to watch’. A former chairman of the American Marketing Association, he is the Co-founder of and has consulted for companies ranging from Fortune 500 firms to start-ups, including Google, GE, British Airways, and Royal Dutch Shell. He has been spearheading the research on nation branding and was involved in designing, collecting and analysing the data on Best Countries Rankings.

His team conducted the largest ever study, in collaboration with U.S. News and World Report and BAV Consulting, to investigate the concept of nation branding. The mammoth task generated a comprehensive set of data that highlighted the economic importance of how others view our country. The first Best Countries Rankings were released in January 2016 at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

India ranked 22 among the 60 countries eligible for this year’s rankings. Almost 16,200 respondents from 36 different countries all over the world rated the 60 nations on 65 different dimensions.

For India to reposition its image, it must change the perception of the underlying attributes of the dimension. Policy changes may be necessitated if negative perceptions accurately reflect reality, while changing misperceptions may be the answer to negative perceptions being inaccurate. Countries that want to influence the world’s perceptions about them try to shape our impressions just as businesses try to influence customers’ perceptions of their brands through advertising.

“Nations have brands whether they like it or not. For a nation to alter perceptions it must make a focused effort to change the perception that other people have of the nation,” Reibstein asserted.