and Place Marketing
By Sam Vaknin
I. The Marketing Plan
In the decades since World War II, economics
prowess replaced military power as the crucial
geopolitical determinant. The resilience of a
country is measured by its inflows of foreign
investment and by the balance of its current account
- not by the number of its tanks and brigades.
Inevitably, polities the world over - regions,
states, countries, and multinational clubs - behave
as only commercial businesses once did. They actively
market themselves, their relative advantages,
their history and culture, their endowments and
assets, their mentality and affiliations. In short,
they aggressively promote their brand names ("brands"
throughout this article).
To cast countries in the role of brands implies
that they act as "producers" to some
"consumers" out there. But what do countries
- as distinct from firms - produce? And who are
the consumers enticed by said statal brand placement
and regional location marketing? And how does
the process of exchange take place - who gives
what to whom and where?
Few governments know the answers to these economically
crucial questions. Ministers of finance and industry
the world over religiously repeat the mantras
of "attracting foreign direct investment"
and "encouraging entrepreneurship".
They recite the list of advantages proffered by
their country to the lucky investor, manager,
scientist, expatriate, or businessman. But they
lack a deep understanding of the process and meaning
of nation branding.
Few countries - Britain being the notable exception
in the past decade - conduct serious market research
and bang heads together in think tanks or inter-ministerial
committees to redesign the national brand. Even
fewer maintain long-term, sustained branding campaigns
supported by proper advertising. Only recently
did a few pioneering polities hire the services
of nation branding experts. None has in place
the equivalent of a corporate "brand manager".
One of the critical mistakes of countries the
world over is the self-centered lack of emphasis
on customer satisfaction. Meeting and exceeding
the "client's" expectations is merely
an afterthought - rather than the axis around
which the planning, evaluation, control, and revision
of the marketing mix revolve. At best, countries
concentrate on concluding specific transactions
instead of on the development and cultivation
of long-term relationships with their "clients".
It is as though countries arrogantly refuse to
acknowledge their dependence on the goodwill of
individuals and firms the world over. The traditional
and impregnable supremacy of the sovereign nation-state
has gone the way of the dodo - but decision-makers
still have to be appraised of this startling development.
Most countries - and nowadays there is a surfeit
of sovereigns - are nothing more than bit players
in the global marketplace. It takes getting used
to. Many politicians mentally equate self-marketing
with humiliating mendicancy.
Instead, decision makers should hire marketing
(and, more specifically, brand name) experts to
prepare a thorough and comprehensive place marketing
and nation branding plan for them:
Strategic Marketing Analysis
I. Identify what needs and whose needs can the
country meet and satisfy. What preference groups
(of investors, for instance) or even market niches
(e.g., stem cell scientists) should be targeted
to optimize economic outcomes?
II. Compile databases of past clients of the
state, its resources, offerings, laws, regulations,
international treaties, and economic opportunities
(e.g., state companies to be privatized). These
allow for micro-branding (or segment branding
as opposed to mass branding): tweaking the national
brand to suit the preferences, likes, dislikes,
and wishes of specific target groups, down to
single, important, individuals.
III. Position the country in relation to its
competitors, emphasizing its natural and human
endowments and its relative advantages. The process
of positioning aims to identify the nation with
an image, perception, concept, or trait which
captures its essence and furthers its appeal to
the clients it had identified in stage I above
(investors, other countries, diplomats, scientists,
and so on). Great care should be taken to align
the positioning messages with realities on the
ground. Anything perceived by the preference groups
as being a lie or an exaggeration will backfire.
IV. Marketing is about optimal allocation of
resources in view of objectives and opportunities.
The classic STP model calls for:
I. Segmentation - Identify potential customers
- for instance, foreign direct investors, or expatriates
and the diaspora.
II. Targeting - Concentrate on those "clients"
you can serve most effectively, to whom you are
most valuable and thus can "charge"
the most for your offerings
III. Positioning - Communicate effectively the
main benefits you offer to the targeted group.
The marketing mix comprises 4 P's which are perfectly
applicable to nations as they are to businesses:
Product - Your "products" as a country
being tax incentives, infrastructure, natural
endowments, human resources, a geographic vantage
point, helpful laws and regulations (or absence
Price - Demonstrate a relative or absolute advantage
in terms of return on investment
Place - Facilitate the unhindered exchange of
goods, services, and capital (tax holidays, free
processing zones, no red tape, double taxation
treaties and free trade agreements with other
Promotion - The advertising and dissemination
of news and information, lobbying, public relations,
media campaigns, etc.
But what products do countries offer and market
and how are they tailored to the needs of specific
This is the topic of our next article.
Sam Vaknin is the author of Malignant Self
Love - Narcissism Revisited and After the Rain
- How the West Lost the East. He served as a columnist
for Central Europe Review, PopMatters, Bellaonline,
and eBookWeb, a United Press International (UPI)
Senior Business Correspondent, and the editor
of mental health and Central East Europe categories
in The Open Directory and Suite101. Until recently,
he served as the Economic Advisor to the Government
of Macedonia. Visit Sam's Web site at http://samvak.tripod.com