When consumers think about brands, they often think about products. But people and nations are brands too. In fact, some of the world’s most successful business and political leaders have clear personal brands- think of Professor WangariMaathai, Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi. They had strong personal brands, which reflected their philosophies and beliefs and aligned strongly with their values. Their brands enhanced their leadership status in the society.
Nations are also referred to as brands. A nation’s brand generally refers to the common images, perceptions and associations people have with that nation. Policy changes, diplomatic relations, legislative policy, economic policy and political systems are some of the ways through which nation branding is seen and communicated.
Ying Fan defines nation branding as a process by which a nation’s images can be created, monitored, evaluated and proactively managed in order to improve or enhance the country’s reputation among a target international audience. Subsequently, successful presentation of a country as a brand and positioning its unique image on the global level can give significant leverage for a nation’s brand.
Most admired nation brand
At the end of last year, Brand Africa, a global African initiative whose vision is to inspire and unlock sustainable growth, reputation and competitive standing for Africa, named Kenya as the most admired nation brand in East and Central Africa. The ratings measured and ranked the brands that consumers admire and their corresponding value. They were based on a survey of a representative sample of eight countries, covering the major Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) regions to establish the base top 100 most admired brands. These countries are Ghana and Nigeria (West Africa); Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda (East Africa); DRC (Central Africa) and Mozambique and South Africa (Southern Africa).
Notably, every nation brand has a story. When this is not consciously told, any story will be told in its place. This often creates gaps between a nation brand’s perception and performance in the eyes of its audiences. One way to tell the story of a nation brand is through events. Leveraging nation branding opportunities through mega events has hence become a strategy for enhancing nation brands.
Sport mega events like the Olympic games and the World Cup have an impact on the host countries and their international image. Countries are willing to host such events because they attract large numbers of spectators, tourists, investors, mass media and television audiences. The implication for countries as brands is enormous, as the responsibility to host, stage and project the reputation and competence of the country’s brand is at stake. The association with the country’s citizens, companies and brands have an impact on direct investment, tourism and export economics.
According to the official Olympics’ website, the British government announced in July 2013 that the UK economy has already seen a British Pound to US Dollar (GBP) 9.9 billion trade and investment boost from hosting the games. Economists predicted that the economic benefits of hosting the games would continue, with an Oxford Economics study estimating that the games will have generated GBP 16.5 billion for the British economy by 2017, when factoring in pre-games construction and other early games-related economic activities. In addition, an independent report projected that hosting London 2012 would see the UK reap up to GBP 41 billion by 2020, underlining the positive impact the games have had on new business contracts, additional sales and foreign investment.
With so many economic benefits already reported, the impact of hosting the 2012 Olympic continues to be hailed to date. Global sport events are thus vital showcases of power, stature and influence and the impact of hosting global business summits is no different. The economic benefits of hosting business related events are huge for host nations.
In July 2015, Nairobi hosted the Global Entrepreneurship Summit (GES). It was the sixth annual summit to bring together entrepreneurs, leading business personalities, government officials and investors to strengthen ties and focus on the contribution of entrepreneurship to economic prosperity. The Summit saw the U.S President, Barrack Obama travel to Nairobi to hold bilateral meetings and participate in GES. This is the first time the Summit was held in sub-Saharan Africa, since its inception in 2009 in Cairo, Egypt. The summit is expected to generate massive benefits for businesses in Kenya.
GES’ benefit to Kenya
This global event will boost Kenya’s image in many ways.A positive impact on the tourism sector is expected. The visit by the US President shows the world that Kenya is a safe country to visit and invest. According to Embassy of the United States in Kenya, American trade delegations arrived in Nairobi ahead of Obama’s visit, mainly to look for investment opportunities and renew business deals. “Kenya will benefit from investments from America before and after President Obama’s visit. Americans have invested in Kenya and this will continue to increase as part of enhancing trade ties between the two countries,” said the US Ambassador to Kenya Robert Godec.
Secondly, the choice to hold the summit in Kenya enhances the nation’s position as the economic hub of the region. Kenya is seen as the ideal location to hold the Summit due to its leading role in East Africa’s economic growth, its dynamism and innovation in entrepreneurship. Kenya leades in mobile money transfer in the world. It has continued to contribute greatly to innovation through creative spaces like iHub.
A few months after the GES Summit, the international communication community will gather in Nairobi to debate on topics such as the role of emerging economies in the global economy, the role of public relations and technologies in emerging economies, how to achieve sustainable development, stability and wellbeing in emerging economies. Public relations and communication professionals from local and international corporations, as well as government and learning institutions are expected to attend.
What does this mean for Kenya’s Brand? Public Relations drives innovation, enhances economic growth and brings broad benefits: from sustainable development to increased security, improved public health, better quality life to stronger national and international community ties. The conference has a wider appeal to emerging economies in Africa, Asia and South America, and will be of interest to developed economies on how the world will change and how business will be different in the future. Public relations and Communication is key in nation branding as it shapes conversations amongst audiences.
For the first time in Africa, the 10th World Trade Organization (WTO) Ministerial Conference will also be held in Nairobi at the end of 2015. It is therefore not only Kenya’s pride but that of the entire continent too.
The successul bid to host the World Conference on Public Relations and the WTO is a vote of confidence in Kenya’s Brand.
By Mary Kimonye