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    Volume3Issue 02| January 16, 2011 |


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Popping Ideas

Branding Bangladesh:
a convergence of business acumen and patriotism

Adnaan Jamilee

Cox's Bazar Photo: Nabil Khan

Few years back, while I was browsing some unforgettable speeches by marketing pundits, I was left stunned, staring at a tomato red logo flaunting the tagline “everything under the sun”. It was the brand sign of Columbia. I was wow-ed! I wondered how a nation, convulsed by violence of leftist guerrillas, could re-position itself in the world market with new hope to promote their export, tourism and investments.

Later I browsed further to sniff out more about nation branding and I found myself frowning when I found Nigeria in the top 50 nation brand index. Nigeria, a country associated with corruption, religious fanaticism, tribalism and lack of the basics necessities of life, still manages to make its way to the top list by cleverly creating a unique and competitive identity in the world market. So, if violence-inflicted Columbia and poverty-stricken Nigeria can qualify in the brand-building race, why not our Bangladesh?

Whenever I brought in this topic of branding Bangladesh, I faced the question - whether there is a need for branding a country, which is already known as a country of corruption, poverty, notorious traffic congestions, political turmoil and natural disasters. So, is there any necessity to brand or re-brand our country where the importance of branding is not properly understood?

Unlike product branding, nation branding is not just a set of promises and quality of delivery. Rather, it is more than that. Nation branding calls for creating a competitive identity reflecting the collective dreams of a nation to promote tourism, exports, culture and to boost foreign direct investments, international relations and the economy. The difference between nation and product branding also lies on the matter communication and marketing channels.

Sundarban, Photo: Nabil Khan

You would never see any advertisements or promotional leaflets highlighting a nation's competitive sides and advantages. In case of nation branding, every person and organisation involved in government, business communities, aviation, Diasporas, media, universities and civil society can take on the role as brand ambassadors of the country. These parties need to work with an identical sense of purpose by discovering the collective dreams and values of Bangladeshis to increase the national self-confidence and re-build the image in the world market. The brand messages can be conveyed mainly through campaigns and TV ads.

What can a nation actually achieve by branding itself? Well, it is like asking a CEO of a market-leading organisation, “What is the need for advertising your products?” The importance of branding a nation is far-reaching and vast. Today, countries are competing daily with their neighbours. Those countries that start with an unknown or poor reputation will be limited or marginalised. To achieve a competitive edge over the neighbors and rival nations, promoting a nation's image through showcasing and highlighting its people, trade, tourism, infrastructure, government system, heritage and culture i.e. nation branding is a must.

In case of Bangladesh, a proper set of brand features is yet to be discovered. Moreover, there is a need to establish a separate board to bring the government, business communities, media, PR professionals, NRBs and others under the same umbrella. Over 4 million Bangladeshis reside abroad and the number is increasing by around 250,000 every year. These NRBs can play a pivotal role by uplifting the positive images of the country among non-Bangladeshi communities. Likewise, RMG can be an integral brand feature as Bangladesh is known as a RMG-exporting country. Also the tremendous potentials of Bangladesh should be taken into consideration as it is one of the Next Eleven (N-11) economies identified by Goldman Sachs. Personally, I would like to add shatkora of Sylhet to feature in the list. After finalising the brand features, the collaboration can develop a paradigm for campaigning the brand messages of Bangladesh at home and abroad. Let us take the examples of South Korea, Columbia and Nigeria. South Korea introduced “Global Korea Scholarship” to improve its image among foreign students and scholars. About 250 product-manufacturing-cum-exporting companies of Columbia have licensed the logo and tagline of the Columbia brand to be printed in the packages of their products. Nigeria was able to promote its people and character fear of god, belief in truth, justice and fairness.

At last, we need to get rid of the belief that, “branding is just a logo or symbol.” A brand not only gives birth to promises, but also to some commitments, experiences and responsibilities. For Bangladesh, it has become a necessity, not a mere option.


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