What can other countries learn from the top country brands? An interview with Jose Filipe Torres

This is the last installment of our interview with Jose Filipe Torres, the founder of Bloom Consulting.

This week, we talked about Bloom Consulting’s Country Brand Rankings. What makes it special? How it works? And why you should care… Click to read the first and the second part of the interview.

There are very respectable country brand rankings already. Why did you feel the need to create yours?

You are right, there are many great ranking systems. And they are very respectable too!

 

We have been publishing Bloom Consulting Country Brand Rankings since 2011. Back then; we felt that there was a need in the market for a different type of a metric system for countries to understand how well their brand was performing.

 

So, what makes Bloom Consulting’s Country Branding Ranking different?

What is different is our perspective. Other systems ask people what they think about countries. Other ranking systems are opinion based. Obviously, opinions are paramount, and definitely insightful.

 

But we try to measure it from demand point of view. Bloom Consulting Country Brand Ranking is fact based. We analyze a lot of hard data.

According to Bloom Consulting, there are 6 dimensions for every country

According to Bloom Consulting, there are 6 dimensions for every country

 

Which data are we talking about?

Before I go any further, let me say that we have two separate rankings: One for trade and one for tourism.

 

We analyze economic and tourism performances separately. It demonstrates Bloom Consulting’s tendency to treat trade and tourism brands separately.

 

Economic performance takes into consideration primarily foreign direct investment. On the other hand, tourism performance prioritizes receipts. These two get the lion’s share. But obviously that’s not all. There are other great many criteria. We attribute a certain percentage to those things.

 

But unlike opinions and perceptions, those numbers fluctuate a lot. How do you deal with that?

I am glad you asked that! We take into consideration the last four years to smooth out extreme ups and downs.

 

Countries are not defined in “one year.” Perceptions move slowly. So by taking into consideration the last four years, we can demonstrate towards which direction perceptions are advancing.

What else is unique in Bloom Consulting’s Country Branding Ranking?

In 2013, we introduced a proprietary tool called “the Digital Demand.” It can be used both for tourism and trade.

 

The Digital Demand analyzes search data from major engines. Currently, it can understand nine different languages!

 

This tool allows countries to see who is searching for whom, when and where. It also tells us what is being searched and how often. It is a clear indicator of the popularity of the country.

Bloom Consulting takes 4 variables into consideration.

Bloom Consulting takes 4 variables into consideration.

 

But a country can be popular for wrong reasons. No?

Absolutely. That’s what makes our Digital Demand tool great! If the country is searched for the wrong reasons, the algorithm overlooks that data.

 

What else is unique in your methodology?

We also look at social media performance. That said social media performance accounts for a small percentage in our system. But we are working to improve our approach.

 

Right now we focus on two of the most-popular networks: Twitter and Facebook. Going forward, we intend to analyze other networks too.

 

Obviously social media performance is more than just the number of followers. For instance, Haiti is one of the top countries one in terms of business followers. But clearly they are not a very popular destination for foreign direct investment.

 

What we try to do is to quantify the quality of countries interaction with their followers. That would give us a better idea what is happening in Haiti’s business circles.

How do you see your methodology evolving?

I believe all relevant digital data will become more important. That will give us a better idea about actual “behaviors.” Not only what people think, but also how they act. That’s exactly what we will try to capture!

 

And we aspire to scale up and down our ranking system. In the future, we would like to be able to demonstrate both individual and collective behaviors of tourists and businessmen.

What are the top key takeaways from your rankings?

The leaders stay the leaders! The US is top country brand. Spain and France are tourism powerhouses.

 

Here is the interesting thing: Dramatic events constantly take place in those leading countries. Scandals, dispute, controversies, etc.

 

One would think that those events should negatively impact the top country brands. But that’s not the case at all!

 

In the end our ranking system says that as long as you don’t repeat the same mistakes multiple times, scandals have a marginal impact on your country brand.

 

How do you explain that?

Well, people tend to forget! In six to eight months, provided that a scandal is not repeated, people move on. This is actually quite frustrating if you are banking on other countries’ failure.

 

On the positive side, if a country does something innovative and cool, and if that activity gets picked up by the media (or social media), then you can see some momentum.

 

So in a nutshell, bad news (unless repeated) is not necessarily bad. And good news (unless widespread) is not necessarily good.

 

What can other countries learn from the top country brands?

I think there are two types of country brands: Active and reactive.

 

Top tier country brands like the US, Spain, France and Germany are active brands. The second- and third-tier countries are reactive brands.

 

We have already talked about the Ireland’s case… I don’t think they knew that they were building a country brand. They just actively worked on good policies. That became their country brand!

 

The same goes for the US. They are by far the best country brand. Did they intentionally build one? No. But every one of their activities contributed to their country brand.

 

Especially the Cold War helped them define the American “brand.” They built and promoted an authentic, compelling and different “lifestyle.”

 

So that is the learning! It’s about finding your country’s own authentic differentiation, and sharing it with the rest of the world!

 

Focus on your policies. Create the right policies on how you would like to be perceived. Then deliver on those!

 

If you want to make it to the top 5, don’t imitate others. Find your own path!

 

Click here to read Part 1 and Part 2 of the interview. 

Click here for the tourism edition, and here for the trade edition of Bloom Consulting Country Brand Ranking.

Does every country need a global brand? (continued)

jose filipe torresWe are continuing our conversation with Jose Filipe Torres, one of the vanguards of country branding.

We talked about success, failure, limits and dreams. This is the second installment of a three-article interview series with Jose Filipe Torres. Click here to read the first part of the interview.

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What do countries really mean when they say “We need a brand”?

Meet Jose Filipe Torres, one of the best-known country branding practitioners in the world.

We had an opportunity to pick his brain on the most pressing issues related to place branding. We asked, he answered. Candidly… This is the first installment of a three-article interview series with Jose Filipe Torres. Without further ado let’s turn to Jose and hear what he has to say…

In the field of country branding, Jose is a genuine trailblazer. In 2002, he developed the Portuguese Trade Investment brand. Back then he was working for Futurebrand, and that was the first ever country-branding project completed by that firm! In 2003, he founded Bloom Consulting, specializing in country branding, city branding and regional branding. Bloom Consulting’s Country Brand Ranking that he developed in 2011 quickly became a popular research tool, used by practitioners from around the world. Over the last decade Bloom Consulting helped develop or manage the brands of Latvia, Poland, Bulgaria, Spain, and Madrid among others. Thanks to its new proprietary tool “Digital Demand”, Bloom Consulting can measure every country’s desirability in terms of attracting tourists and investment.

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Symbolic Meaning of Numbers

Are you considering to use numbers as a part of your brand? Then, you may want to learn about the symbolic meaning of numbers!

For instance, why do you think 7 is the world’s most popular number? Or does 5 have a gender? Which of the following is better to convey a sense of uniqueness? 10 or 11?

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Should the LA Clippers Change its Name?

Donald Sterling, the disgraced owner of the Los Angeles Clippers has decided to sell his team, and Steve Ballmer, the former CEO of Microsoft placed a bid of $2 billion to purchase it. Since the NBA approved his proposal, now many people are wondering the same thing: Should Balmer rename the LA Clippers? Do they need a clean slate? That’s an interesting discussion. Let’s look at it from branding perspective!

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How to create a buyer persona?

“Our target audience is 18-48, female and male, C1, B and A.”

You might have heard a similar nonsense statement before… The above sentence is a feeble -and rather soulless- attempt to describe a “target” “audience”. I am categorically against using such lingo as it’s a completely outdated way of thinking. I also believe that in this day and age (#socialera), for a company to be successful, it is mandatory to change its vocabulary. What does this mean for your brand?

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Are you trying to define what keeps your organization together? Do you want to discover your organizational values? Would you like to write down “the way things get done around here?” Then, read on!

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Creating a Brand Architecture for Private Label Products

Private label (PL) has always been profitable for retailers: Around the world, the retailers’ profit margin of PL is roughly 40%, which is twice as much as the profit they make from other brands. Not surprisingly, so far PL has been treated as a “cash cow.” Money was invested in PL the product, not PL the brand. Well, not anymore. Why do you think more and more retailers treat PL as a strategic asset, adding value to their main brand?

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Being in command out of control

Do you feel like the world is spinning faster these days? Are there too many things happening simultaneously? Is the pace of your life too fast? Are you looking for a way to keep things under control? How can you control people and events around you when deep down you know you can’t even fully control your own life?

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A Short Essay on Destination Branding

Working with a destination is arguably the toughest brand assignment. Experts, such as Simon Anholt think that you cannot “brand” a place in the traditional sense of the word. As someone who got involved in a couple of place branding projects, I tend to agree. Here is why…

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