What comes to mind when you think of Switzerland? Precision, wealth? What about Italy? Artisanship, food? Even countries have images to maintain, and when well maintained, those images, or brands, can support economic success.
Since 2005, design consultants FutureBrand have published the Country Brand Index (CBI) which ranks countries based on how key audiences (e.g. public policy, globalization, and media experts) see countries' brands. Predictably, wealthy western countries top the list. This year, to recognize those countries "on course to transform the global landscape economically, politically and culturally in coming years," FutureBrand added a list titled the Future Fifteen.
The Future Fifteen features countries who are seriously improving their brands, measured by the six areas of governance, investment, human capital, growth, sustainability, and influence. In other words, how the country treats their people, how healthy its economy is, how happy and productive the citizens are, how much potential for growth the country has, and how much other nations look to the country for ideas.
What separates the established country brands from the rising stars? Ariel Schwartz for Co.Exist points out that:
while countries like India and China certainly deserve to be in the Future 15, they’ll have trouble ascending to the top without addressing perceptions (and realities) of human rights, political corruption, and quality of life issues.
Branding might seem too corporate or commercial to be applied to countries, but it can influence economic activities like investments and tourism. Like any successful business, countries can improve their brands by effectively managing resources, human and natural, so that citizens are happy, the environment is pleasant, and people everywhere know it.
The 2012-2013 Country Brand Index can be downloaded at the FutureBrand website.