The importance of identity to a successful country or city cannot be over-stated. Most winning cities are the ones with a strong sense of identity, for example, London, Milan, Paris and New York.
However, establishing a unique identity is no easy task and will be the focus of discussion at this month’s Inside Stories session scheduled for 7:30pm, Tuesday, September 25, at the Public Authority for Civil Aviation Training Centre in Al Hail North.
“Places are often shaped and reflect the identity of their people — and these identities are built on the self — who they are, families, religion, architecture, culture, art, cuisine, heritage, values, work, education, geographic location, climate, as well as historic and economic ties,” explained Ithraa’s Marketing & Media Director, Taleb al Makhmari and organiser of the popular monthly Inside Stories sessions.
In fact, places have long felt a need to differentiate themselves from each other, to assert their individuality in pursuit of various economic, cultural and social objectives. The conscious attempt of governments to shape a speciﬁcally-designed place identity and promote it to markets, whether external or internal, is as old as civic government itself.
The Inside Stories panel includes HH Sayyid Adham al Said (Moderator), Founder & CEO, The Firm; HH Sayyid Faisal al Said; Paul Ross, Director, Middle East, London Advertising; and Dr Khaldoon Nusair, Associate Professor and Head of Marketing Department, Sultan Qaboos University.
“Branding has assumed centre-stage as countries are increasingly forced to compete against each other for investment, talent and visitors,” explained Al Makhmari. And this has caused policymakers across the world to ask: “What is a brand? How should it be developed and with whom? Which communication tools should be used? And how should the brand be managed?”
Al Makhmari stresses that branding is not just about a logo but the intricate details — as small as clean streets and as deep as a country’s stance on public transport, urban development and climate change.
Nation branding is all about marketing Oman’s assets domestically and internationally. It is important that this process be based on fact rather than fiction. “If we attempt to manufacture a brand, instead of creating an environment that will promote itself, we are doomed to fail,” said Al Makhmari.
Most successful places have a brand that has developed organically, for instance, Milan is fashion, Brazil is football, France is cuisine while London is Big Ben and red double decker buses. For many places though, it is impossible to sum up the brand in a word — they are multi-faceted and evolving.
All our decisions, from buying tea in the supermarket to relocating a company, are based on rationale as well as emotions. Places are just like companies — those with a strong brand ﬁnd it much easier to sell their products and services and attract talent, visitors and investment.
According to Al Makhmari, “branding is a tool that can be used by Oman to deﬁne itself and attract positive attention in the midst of global information overload.”
Unfortunately, there is the common misconception that nation branding is a communications strategy, a strap-line and logo. It is much more than this. It is a strategic process for developing a long-term vision for Oman that is relevant and compelling to key audiences.
“Ultimately, Oman’s brand is its DNA, what it is made of, what it passes from generation-to-generation. It is authentic and indicates what makes us different from others.
Producing a positive image is essential if we are to promote ourselves as a destination for people to live, work, play and visit,” concluded Al Makhmari.