In Search of Our National Brand

National branding requires deep reflection and an honest assessment of our national values and attitudes.

Pres. Duterte wants a national brand to promote the country globally. Communications Secretary Martin Andanar said that this is the first time that the country will be officially branded, and that the branding will involve all sectors. The brand aims to promote the country’s image abroad especially in trade, investments, tourism, labor, and public diplomacy.

Other countries have done branding initiatives. In the 1980s, the land of the rising sun was known as Japan Ink. for its ability to work like one corporation and produce innovative products. The U.S. has always been known as “the land of the free and the home of the brave.” In its founding, Taiwan deemed itself as the country where Democracy, Science, and Ethics (its motto) reigns. More recently, the land down under has branded itself “Australia Unlimited” and the sub-Saharan countries are now shouting, “It’s time for Africa!”

Simon Anholt coined the term ‘national branding’ in 1996 and claimed that states can be branded like products. In a branding campaign, a nation chooses a brand identity based on its strength to deliver quality products and services over time. This may involve its current comparative advantage or what it strategically positions to achieve and to tell its international public or audience. National branding recognizes that the fate of nations increasingly depends not only on what citizens think of their country but on what the country’s international publics think of it.

I hope that the branding activity is taken seriously by everyone to determine our national comparative advantage (what we are best at relative to other countries); what we want to be; and what we can do to the best of our collective ability. This is not easy to do; it requires deep reflection and an honest assessment of our national values and attitudes.

We have been known as the “sick man of Asia” for so long. I hope the national branding effort will finally say, We Mean Business. We Are Ready. Pres. Duterte singlehandedly has put the Philippines on the map, and the world – especially the powerful - have taken notice. That’s a very good start for national branding.

About the Author
Mr. Oscar F. Picazo is a retired specialist in health systems, health economics, and social policy. He has worked in 24 countries for the World Bank, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and as an independent consultant. He returned to the Philippines in 2009 and became a senior research consultant for the Philippine Institute of Development Studies.
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