Recently I was kindly invited to a 40 year celebration for the UAE held at the Millennium hotel in West London.
The event for me and my eldest daughter seemed at an outsiders view point, abstract and maybe a little strange, but only really because we didn’t get sub titles with the speeches, and as it was a celebration for the nations 40 years since creation and uniting of the Emirates, it may have been a little strange to even have Westerners there.
However, I have to say that both myself and my daughter really rather enjoyed the experience, unfortunately cut short due to other commitments. Its hard to say why or what made it so unique, but I suspect that it was that we was actually getting a rare glimpse at the genuine way people feel about their country, and in simple terms – passion.
I have spoken on the issue of nation branding a few times, and it is always a fairly complex subject, but this actually made me think about what it is that the UAE has done to create such a great difference to nation branding compared to so many other GCC countries (not all, but many). So what HAVE the UAE done so differently? and why are their people so proud and content?
I cant really say exactly, neither am I (or is anyone really) qualified to, but I am going to offer my opinion:) – They are a nation that has grown out of wealth, one that has in a sense a form of democracy, or rather a constitutional federation as opposed to a dictatorship, and as a nation it has mostly seemed to look after and listened to its people. It’s oil wealth has been invested back into the country and thus shared among its people, plus having low income tax has been a big advantage to its people. I think though what is also at the heart of this is not only the wealth that they have achieved and shared, but also that they have managed on the one hand to embrace Western design influence, but on the other encourage and evolve its own rich history and culture, keeping hold of its roots.
Nation branding, like any other kind of brand, comes down to a few key areas, the most important is that it needs to start from ‘inside’, it needs to start with what the nation stands for, what’s important to hold onto, and how the country is actually run and the decisions it makes, therefore how a country treats its people, how it deals with its growth, what events it sponsors and celebrates, all have an impact on how a nation feels about its own brand.
I think a way of summarising what I am saying here is that hearing people speak proudly about what their country does for them is the biggest and most powerful way to build a nations brand, and the only way to get people to do that is to invest into that country, either via education, support networks, a health system, events like F1, football etc and essentially leading by example, showing people that the way a country is run is an example of how people should act.
Well thats my thoughts on it anyway, happy to hear people’s views.