T V SARNGA DHARAN NAMBIAR –
It’s obviously a humongous task. I mean, the application of corporate marketing concepts and techniques to countries, in the interests of enhancing their reputation in international relations. But that’s nation branding, says Pauline and Geoffrey in Diplomacy in a Globalizing World.
With the world continuing to shrink and transforming itself into a global village, people are presented with mind-boggling choices as to where to do business, find employment, and spend holidays. What differentiates countries and helps them attract investments and tourism inflows is their reputation, making nation branding crucial for nations. What’s at stake is not just a country’s cultural and political influence at the global world, but its economic potency as well.
But the crucial question is who steers a nation’s branding? The government or people, or both? Both; because, without key inputs from and involvement of the people, nation branding won’t get anywhere.
That’s why Ithraa, Oman’s inward investment and export promotion agency, ventured to hold an online poll on brand Oman and gauge people’s perceptions about the same.
Significantly, the poll results suggest that a great majority of the people in Oman believes that there’s a strong case for refurbishing the brand identity of the Sultanate. They hold the view that the global perception about the Sultanate doesn’t reflect the ground reality. A great majority of the respondents feel that the brand Oman’s strongest asset is its people, and the prominent defining element of the brand is its culture and heritage.
The fact that less than one-fifth of the poll participants find a strong association between brand Oman and the country’s tourism and lifestyle points at the scale of effort needed to enhance tourism and vigorously promote it internationally.
In its upcoming Nation Branding seminar, Ithraa will be brainstorming on how a positive perception among the Sultanate’s residents, both national and expatriates, about the country and their willingness to be its brand ambassadors can enhance its national brand.
The core objective of the whole branding effort is to perfect its international image, and woo not just investments, but tourists and talent as well, along with earning global respect for Oman. The sanctity of the ‘Origin Oman’ label too figures prominently in Ithraa’s branding exercise.
We get to see the Oman brandmark — with its appealing dawn purple, Musandam green, sky blue and Salalah Green colour elements —frequently across advertisements, websites and tourism and trade shows. It is essentially made up of the symbol that highlights the four sublime elements that make up the Sultanate’s culture and traditions, and the distinct wordmark ‘Sultanate of Oman’.
According to Ithraa, the Oman brandmark stands for a unifying Omani narrative defined by the four elements of marine life, topography, ancient trading history and legendary frankincense. And all these are blended beautifully, keeping their distinct identities, through thoughtful Arabic calligraphy.
The Oman brandmark has been defined to be an expression of pride, unity, confidence, ambition, partnership and commitment to the nation, and as such, Ithraa works on creating enhanced awareness about the brand so that it is valued and cherished as a precious national asset.
According to Ithraa, what is aimed through a strong nation branding is to change behaviour and create unity in the way stakeholders talk about Oman when promoting the Sultanate’s benefits to residents, visitors, tourists, investors and businesses.
Meanwhile, GfK conducts comprehensive, annual global nation branding surveys together with Simon Anholt, an independent policy adviser. The Anholt-GfK Nation Brands Index is used by governments, organisations and businesses to understand, measure and craft a strong national image and reputation. The index assesses each country‘s brand image by factoring in six dimensions: exports, governance, tourism, culture, people and immigration & investment.
The Anholt-GfK Nation Brand Index 2017 measured 50 countries, including three GCC countries: UAE, Qatar and Saudi Arabia. With intense branding efforts under way, let’s hope the Sultanate will emerge at the top of the Nation Brands Index in the