Countries that become brands offer a competitive advantage over other countries
When a serious business enters the market, it ensures that it does so after conducting a thorough research and after a careful analysis of the nature of the business it intends to conduct, its purpose, and who it intends to sell its products and offer its services to.
It spends countless hours working on developing its brand, on creating its guiding philosophy — its vision, mission, objectives and values. It narrows down the types of people it wants to employ and do business with, the type of products it wants to manufacture and the reason why its products are needed in the market. It does everything it can to build a brand identity that is marketable and campaign-able; an identity that connects with its target audience.
This brand identity becomes its core public persona. Specific colours, logo, design, and taglines seen over social media and flashy billboards in major areas of large cities constantly remind people of its existence — that it is the best alternative to whatever they are consuming or using at the moment or that it is the new cool product that needs to be tried and should be tried.
Eventually, people start to notice. They try the product. Some love it and develop loyalty for the brand. Some remain indifferent. Those who love it recommend it to their friends. The word spreads. If the company has a great product or service and maintains its standards, it attracts more sales, which leads to more investment, enabling it to scale up for growth and expansion. If not, it goes back to research and evaluates its methods to figure out the best way to succeed.
In this respect companies are not very different from countries. Both exist for specific reasons. Both have a specific identity that people connect and resonate with. A company has its logo; a country has its flag. A company has specific colours that are part of its design language and a country has its own colours showcased on its flag. Each colour represents something significant. Both have their taglines and slogans and a specific tone of voice. Both have resources that are used to generate wealth and prosperity. Both have their internal political and social ecosystems and both have their flaws and imbalances. More importantly, both are recognised through their brand identities — their personalities.
Pakistan needs its own brand identity that can create a positive narrative around the world. It needs this for tourism, for development, and to defend itself against internet and social media warfare.
Pakistan was created with a promise of social justice. Its purpose was to allow the Muslims of the subcontinent to live in a land where they could practice their faith without fear of persecution. Pakistan has a purpose: to continue to provide a haven for the Muslims of the subcontinent and enable prosperity for all its citizens, including people from other beliefs.
Pakistan has a “why”. What it lacks is a “how”. It lacks a marketable and campaign-able identity. It needs to showcase the beauty of its cultures and vistas to the world. It needs to allow the world to invest in its development. Like a brand, it needs to constantly remind the world of its existence, of its beauty, and of the countless opportunities it provides.
Brands that are known around the world spend millions and billions to send the same message to the same demographic every year. Why? So that generation after generation, it can keep reminding people of its values, its purpose, its products and its existence. If it doesn’t, it risks being lost in the sea of brands that are trying to catch the same audience. It also risks being a brand of the past. As a global brand, Pakistan needs to send out a strong and attractive message around the world to make everyone from governments to citizens, to overseas Pakistanis, investors and tourists form a better and friendlier perception of the country.
If it doesn’t, it risks being labelled as whatever the world media wants to label it as. Without a purposeful global narrative of Pakistan that stems from within, it risks being given a narrative that only serves the country’s rivals and detractors. In the age of misinformation and disinformation, it’s quite easy for anyone to use platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter to spread fake news, malign political parties, start unrest, and shape perceptions about a country and its conditions.
Pakistan needs its own brand identity that can create a positive narrative around the world. It needs this for tourism, for development and to defend itself against internet and social media warfare. Countries that become brands offer a competitive advantage over other countries. This allows them to grow exponentially, showcase their strengths, and create an environment where its citizens create positive and healthy conversations about the country — online and offline. These healthy conversations form healthy perceptions, which lead to healthier social and economic outcomes. Pakistan needs a stronger brand identity, and it needs a healthier narrative.
The writer is a marcomms professional who constructs narratives for brands and businesses