According to the recently published 2014/15 Bloom Consulting Country Brand Ranking Report, the United States is.
“For the fourth consecutive year, the United States of America tops Bloom Consulting’s Country Brand Ranking © 2014-2015 Trade Edition. The country’s dominance in terms of FDI, along with the effectiveness of its IPA strategy (as measured by its very strong CBS Rating ©) and a high level of Digital Demand- D2 ©, have kept the United States of America in the first position yet again.”
For perspective, Germany, Canada and France all declined in global competitiveness over the measured time period.
The Report reviews each of the major regions across the globe. It is well worth downloading.
Bloom Consulting Brand Wheel
Rather than focus on the rankings, I want to draw your attention to the branding model used by Bloom Consulting. The Report describes it in some detail. Admittedly the model is conceptual and the devil is in the details of execution. But, I think the Bloom Consulting model is definitely instructional.
Here are a few things I especially like about it:
- The target audiences and the KPI category for each are defined. The model identifies five strategic targets – Investors, Tourists, Workforce, General Public, and Companies. I like the fact that targets are explicitly a part of the model. Every place brand effort needs to start with aligning on a clear definition of the WHO target in order to be successful.
- An area of differentiation is called out for each target group. This is a good step because it forces a focus to the communication efforts. For example, the model dictates you need to find and promote some meaningful “advantage” for your location when communicating with investors. Of course, the “advantage” is unique to the location and has to be determined in advance. But, it argues that promoting a parity position is not going to be effective. Presumably, if you cannot identify an advantage you should not spend on promotion to investors until you create an advantage.
I also like the following two paragraphs in their model description:
“It is possible to have one umbrella strategy for all dimensions, which makes more sense in theory. However, when putting this strategy into practice, most of the time it faces serious challenges, since each targeted audience is different and each stakeholder managing the brand domestically has a different agenda.”
“It is important to remember that the brand is not the logo; a Country, Region or City Brand can have the same logo for all five dimensions, or no logo at all.”
My own branding model (4 W model) is a bit different than the Bloom Consulting model. But, similarly I believe a single promise is required for a place brand. I also believe the benefit of that promise will look different depending on the strategic target you are looking to communicate with. Defining the promise and benefit translation in advance is hard work. However, when it is done well the work drives all communication and dramatically increases the probability of a positive ROI for your promotional investment.
Like Bloom Consulting, I also believe strongly that a brand is a promise, not a logo or tagline. Too many place branding efforts devolve into a logo and tagline development exercise rather than figuring out what the place brand promise is. The logo and tagline are actually aids to communicating the place brand promise. If you don’t know what you are promising it is impossible to create an effective logo or tagline. Net, absent an aligned promise creating a logo or tagline is a complete waste of time and money.
In the Bloom Consulting approach, they focus on “isolating each objective or dimension in order to develop unique and tailored strategies for all five dimensions.” In principle, I agree the place brand promise needs to be translated for each target audience. In my experience, this looks like identifying the relevant benefit of the promise and reasons to believe for each. But, the promise remains constant.
Let’s take the state of Ohio brand work as an example. The promise was the ability to balance work and life. For talent attraction/retention the benefit was defined as not having to choose between professional and personal success. For company capital attraction/retention the benefit was defined as being able to have a positive P&L impact from a more productive workforce.
I do agree with the folks at Bloom Consulting that this is hard work. But, just because it is hard does not make it impossible. It simply means you may need some expert guidance along the way in order to be successful.
I hope you download the 2014/15 Bloom Consulting Country Brand Ranking Report. It is a quality piece of research.
If you are a resident of the United States, I also hope you download my 2015 American Dream States Report to better understand how where you live impacts your ability to achieve your American Dream. In my mind, for the U.S., progress against achieving the American Dream is the mission critical KPI to measure.