At Garden we have had the benefit of working on many cross culture branding projects: from telecoms in the Middle East, to Sri Lankan teas, to UK supermarket brands. We have faced challenges understanding all the complexities with Arabic and Cyrillic typography and also understanding cultural differences, political issues and much more.
There is one thing though that I have found intriguing over the years. It is how some societies are consistently proud of their country or their culture, and as such seem to portray a great nation. It would be interesting to see how does this happen? Is it because the government represents its people in a particular way? Or because of the condition of the economy? Does history has to do with it? And does any of this come down to brand or branding?
There is a time in the UK when the Made in Britain symbol stood for something. It meant quality production values, high value engineering etc – and therefore the brand mark of the Union Jack was hugely influential. At the same time, the symbol for Made in China, or Made in Taiwan was frowned upon, a brand of cheaply made products that people where very cynical about. Is that the case today? I’m not so sure it has the same meaning anymore.
There are some powerful and well-respected brands in China these days. There are also brands that are known for value, quality engineering and innovation. Over the past twenty years, innovation, grow, and improvement are within reach of many other nations. Now the famous and esteemed Union Jack has started to fade in the light of some very good newcomers. So where does this leave the UK? Is there a risk? Can we repair the damage? And can we approach this issue in the same way as a branding project?
If you agree with the fact that branding isn’t just a logo, like I do, you will then see that perhaps there is a connection. Good brands should always adhere to values. Do countries do as well? Well I think so. Good brands have always branding engagement programs. Do countries do as well? Probably, if you consider some politics that promote getting people back to work… Good brands have a clear level of differentiation. What about countries? I think they should.
It would be an interesting experiment to see how a branding agency would tackle branding a nation – not just the logo, but how that nation thinks and feels about itself – completely from the bottom up. Let’s start with immigration, not necessarily with a view of control: we will ask what is its policy? Does this align with the nation? What is its employment program? How flexible is it culturally, and does this align with its past and its future? What are its values? And what is its mission and vision?
Then there is control of implementation, how can we maintain a single focus, how can we express the same messages, without people feeling uncomfortable about the confines of this approach.
Of course it is all rather silly, but I can’t help wonder if there is a way that we can bring back some of the pride back to Britain, some of the quality control, some of the focus – is this something a branding agency could do? I would love to at least think about it some more.