The national brand of Australia is the 10th most valuable in the world, worth US$1.4 trillion according to the ‘Nation Brands 2015’ annual report produced by Brand Finance. In 2015 we dropped one spot to 10th and our value slid a staggering 10 percent due to a slump in commodity prices. The United States is in first place with a valuation of US$19.7 trillion. In this hyper-connected world, and global marketplace in which Australian companies now compete, the importance of a strong ‘national brand’ goes beyond being an interesting idea. Not only are consumers and investors bombarded with choice, making the importance of building and maintaining a brand that resonates more important now than ever, but the pace of change is such that today’s economy is vastly different from one of even five years ago.
Importantly, the results of the report suggest a correlation between the value of nation’s brand and its inflow of foreign direct investment.
Of course, there is a detailed business case behind every significant corporate investment into a new market or country, however the perception and associations that are attached to a nation’s brand when it comes to making decisions about importing from that nation or whether it is a desirable place to invest should not be dismissed.
A nation’s brand is the sum of many different parts and of course in 2015 most nations have a Twitter account. Australia’s most likely official Twitter account, operated by Tourism Australia has a following of 273,000, not to mention various Embassies, Ambassadors and government officials who use social media as a means of soft power and messaging. According to co-author of the report, consulting firm fDiIntelligence, “the best country brands are those that convey dynamism, energy, industriousness and respectability while also showing personality and a human touch”. The methodology of the report looks at three key pillars of goods and services, investment and society. These are divided into sub-pillars including tourism, market, governance, people and skills.
KPMG’s 2015 Global CEO Outlook surveyed over 1,200 chief executives from around the world, including Australia. Eighty nine percent of respondents cited ‘aggressive growth strategies including geographic expansion’ as their organisational priority over the next three years.
The still uncertain global economy provides an opportunity for ‘Brand Australia’ to promote itself as a perfect destination for investment as a stable, innovative and industrious economy in transition.
Promisingly, the Federal Government acknowledges that as we transition from our reliance on the mining boom, a more diversified economy is essential. Central to that diversified economy will be selling our high-value professional services and hopefully the traditional avenues of diplomacy, trade missions and strong policy combined with contemporary, cost-effective digital channels like social media, will continue promoting ‘brand Australia’ as a desirable place for investment.
The ‘Nation Brands’ report also highlighted the perils and incidents that can materially damage a nation’s brand. For Germany, the Volkswagen incident threatens to undo decades of goodwill and cast the Siemens bribery scandal as more than a one off, contradicting the typical perception of ‘brand Germany’ as honest and efficient. Likewise, Turkey who had invested heavily in their nation brand strategy ‘Turquality’ has experienced an 11 percent drop in its nation’s brand value due to its escalating role in the Syria conflict.
Over the past 18 months the States and Federal Government have embraced the innovation agenda with great enthusiasm. There are many stakeholders ranging from powerful industry groups to start-up accelerators driving this discussion and innovation has certainly arrived in the mind of the broader public. The innovation agenda provides government with a perfect launch-pad to reframe our national brand and hopefully increase our value and desirability as a country for sustainable investment and plenty of growth opportunities with smart Australian companies.