To be successful in the business world, companies must create, maintain and develop positive brand and reputation. The same happens with nations. Just like corporate brands, strength or weakness of perception of a country can influence peoples’ decisions to choose them as places to visit, live, work or invest in. In a globally connected world, nations are in a race to become competitive at global scale and many governments have resource dedicated to ‘nation branding’. Their aim is to improve their country’s standing, as the image and reputation of a nation can dramatically influence its success in attracting tourism receipts and investment capital, in exports, in attracting a talented and creative workforce, and in its cultural and political influence in the world.
Countries invest huge money on their brand perception to attract tourism and foreign direct investments. For illustration, each dollar of Brand USA marketing generated $21.20 dollars of visitor spending. Including all operating overhead, Brand USA achieved an ROI of $19.30 and generated $3.0 billion in visitor spending (Oxford Economics, 2016).Developed countries like Sweden see nation branding as a part of public diplomacy with their strategic campaign ‘Brand Sweden’. Japan did. Nation branding was also used by emerging economies or underdeveloped countries like Tanzania, Colombia, Bolivia, Egypt, etc.
Think of Turkey and you will recall a video over endless beaches and luxury hotels with people sunbathing while drinking cold piña coladas. The same with our neighboring countries Albania, Greece and Montenegro: beautiful women in bikinis wandering around the virgin landscapes. Think of Germany and you’ll surely think about Mercedes, BMW and Audi. Voila, Switzerland! Highly efficient, transportation, business acumen, banking industry, gorgeous scenery, high standard of living, warm people. Japan? Robotic technologies and engineering (Futurebrands, 2014). Think of North Korea!? Oh no, don’t think about that!
Think of Kosovo! A few people and companies around the world are aware that Kosovo is emerging as a new heaven for IT&BPO outsourcing in the Southeastern Europe. 13th place globally for starting a business as per ‘Doing Business 2017’ (World Bank, 2017), a qualified stream of professionals, distinctive cultural heritage and multi-linguicism, the youngest population in Europe and an established outsourcing scene all make a very attractive country for investment. Kosovo needs to build a strong brand internationally for its IT&BPO outsourcing potential within its strategic group (Southeastern Europe) in order to leverage the benefits of this huge multi-billion market.
A sound marketing strategy (specifically branding strategy) would jumpstart this country at the next level of international recognition. The endeavor requires the cooperation and involvement of representatives of government (specifically the Ministry of Innovation), IT&BPO outsourcing companies and associations, educational institutions and most importantly the media. The second step is to analyze the real situation; it is finding out how your country is perceived internally and by people and companies abroad who we want to influence (research the market!). This research would identify national strengths and weaknesses, opportunities and threats. The third step is in creating a strategy which should include some kind of professional model for the brand and the way that the brand idea will be communicated abroad. The branding strategy can be a subject of international competition where renowned design and marketing studios with established experience in nation branding would create the new face of Kosovo.
Nation branding is not a new concept and there are many frameworks that can be used to build the national IT & BPO outsourcing brand of Kosovo. The Anholt ‘national brand hexagon’ of 2005 offers a solid platform for to build the national brand around these six core dimensions: Governance (Low taxes, 0% taxes on exports, low-priced public facilities and public services), People (Youngest population in Europe, friendliness, highly qualified professionals), Culture & Heritage (western culture, thousands of years of architectural heritage), Investment & Immigration (FDIs from the large diaspora and international companies, presence of MNCs), Tourism (Natural and man-made tourist attractions) and Exports (Established outsourcing industry, Success stories).
National branding just like any other corporate branding is not purely and simply a combination of some colors, some typefaces, a logo and a slogan. Branding Kosovo should be around a core idea that makes up the nation’s aspirations for becoming an IT & BPO outsourcing heaven, its uniqueness, showing what this country stands for, what it believes in and why it exists. In a word, branding should be about our promise to the potential investors and partners. Branding should start with the logo and the slogan reflecting the above mentioned values and aspirations and accompanied by marketing collaterals, products & packaging, web-site, social media ads, apparel design, TV advertisements, etc. Apart from traditional channels of brand communication this campaign should heavily rely on social media as a way to create influencers and followers and invoke emotional response.
Branding is about the perceived image as a whole for a nation. “Just as companies have learned to ‘live the brand,’ countries should consider their reputations carefully—because . . . in the interconnected world, that’s what statecraft is all about” (Risen, 2005). Our country is already exporting highly qualitative services in the IT & BPO outsourcing field to world renowned telcos like AT&T and Vodafone. Our duty is to step up and show it to the world. Our duty is to show “Outsource to Kosovo” being advertised in CNN or Bloomberg by Rita Ora, Dua Lipa and Action Bronson. Our duty is to empower Kosovo to have its spot in the world’s largest conferences, fairs and associations. Our duty it is to make all the buzz, to show all the beauty and harness all the potential!
Article by Armend Ukshini, KosBIT