April 1, 2011

What a difference a decade makes

In the late 1990s, the US was still the dominant superpower, before the dot-bombs, before wars, before uncertainty and before Y2K. 10 years before that, the Soviet Union was still standing, albeit barely, and bi-polarity was still the norm of the Cold War. Now we have financial uncertainty, job insecurity, international instability and globalizing interactions. Accordingly, theory has move from soft power in public diplomacy towards "engagement," or long-term communication strategies with other nation-states. Anholt’s branding strategy theory has changed a little as well over the last decade.

As esteemed Guest Lecturer Efe Sevin pointed out, Anholt has chosen to update and asterisk his own* theory of nation branding from 10 years ago, from nation branding to "competitive identity." But the world has changed too, in his defense, and I’ve never been a fan of theories that can’t be put into practice.

The discussions of nation branding, public diplomacy, place management, engagement, all come to their value as a means to an end, if they affect policy and perceptions positively or negatively. People, or countries, will only fall for words so many times when actions don’t back them up. If relationships are based on credibility, it won’t necessarily make countries like one another any better, but at least there is some trust that actions, good or bad, will match their words.

That’s something that hasn’t changed at all.

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