I recently trawled through a (disappointingly partial – to the Left) so-called ‘long read’ on what should have been a fascinating (and more balanced) insight into the nascent Nation Branding industry.
I did though, manage to rescue a trio of pertinent solution selling pointers from trailblazers’ efforts.
a) Why Projects Fail
Number one has to be the shared pain of seeing a sell that everyone then loved dwindle into nothingness. As one practitioner mourns, “Most nation-branding strategies fail, and they fail miserably”. I daresay there’s a particular sale many of us could knowingly substitute into that sentence for ‘nation-branding strategies’.
Their list of reasons why ought act as a checklist for us when qualifying a bid;
- the client lacks the capabilities to manage the strategies required
- those later new in-post soon erode any predecessor plans
- superficial, mandated adherence discourages engagement
- the far-removed sharp-end don’t feel any connection
b) Psychoanalytical Questions
I warmly applauded the depths one team immersed themselves within a community. Another mini-tip there alone. Specifically here, I liked the questions posed to understand perceptions;
Tell me the first thing that comes into your mind when I say _______
If your _______ were a car, what kind of car would it be?
If _______ were a man, what kind of job would he have?
What’s your favourite _______ joke?
Sketch your _______
For the blanks, you could insert any number of nouns; project name, goal, department, company, product, industry, task, process.
On the face of it, the kinds of word association game so beloved of Hollywood scriptwriters. Simple, yet complex. Unobtrusive yet revealing.
So long as your prospect doesn’t feel like you’re putting them on the doctor’s couch, these – carefully crafted – can be a real winner.
I feel compelled though to offer a warning. I regularly use these for quickfire workshop sessions with salespeople. At best, I must report that results are usually “mixed”.
The most frequent one I deploy is what their new product could be. ‘If it were a car’, like above, I have asked in the real world. Pizza topping, drink, movie, animal and even colour I’ve also used. All I can say when dealing with salespeople is, they must tend to be more right-brained than I imagined.
c) Misleading Fixation
Possibly the most intriguing topic revolves around the visuals. “Inevitably, countries demand a bespoke logo”. The place-selling paradox appears that clients seem to put all their stock into the new fancy logo and clever accompanying strapline. Whereas those paid to design such emblems view them as a largely unwelcome, irrelevant distraction. “I always want to tell them: ‘It’s not about the logo!’”
This reminds me a touch of my early days of people complaining about the colour of a server. Or more broadly, the erroneous focus on Day One Cost, rather than On-costs.
In addition, I actually consider you being able to ‘brand’ up your bid as a differentiator. Your distinctive visuals and slogans undeniably help in this regard.
The thrust of this though remains valid. It has to run more than skin deep. If it only scratches the surface and has little to do with the ongoing success of an install, then it is indeed meaningless.
A graphical bonus. Despite the wish to shift clients away from paying undue attention to the glossy imagery, I did like the work surrounding the visuals for the new logo shown for Paraguay. If you are into this kind of design, then it’s worth delving into a little further. It feels like a decent case study into how such icons and the like get developed.