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