Why we all need to invest in the Philippine country brand
At no other time in its history does the Philippines need a country brand more than today. Despite the country’s string of achievements (and occasional missteps), the need for a country brand is even more compelling at this time when disruption has become the norm.
A quick scan of the day’s headlines underscores the continuing need for a Philippine country brand—the Kuwait-Philippines row, Boracay’s six-month closure, the passage of the tax reform law. All these could have been opportunities to use the Philippine country brand to engage people and rally them toward a common goal.
An imperative in good times and in bad, a country brand ensures a nation does not remain anonymous, or even worse, irrelevant in today’s age of volatility, technological advances and rapid development. A country brand should be strong not only in the eyes of the world, but also in the minds of its own people, so that they would gain ownership and accountability for the things they say and do in representing their own country.
This is why countries are investing millions of dollars in communications research and campaigns to have a brand that stands out and beckons people to perceive the country beyond what tourist guides say or negative press coverage say.
The brand advantage
Countries with strong brands enjoy a vital competitive advantage in the global market. In contrast, those without a strong brand are often marginalized or ostracized. A country brand is so powerful that it could alter the outcome of investment and business decisions, and for a country like the Philippines, this can have a major impact on the economy and the lives of its people.
Definitely, nation branding is not the same as tourism promotion. It encompasses the country’s strengths—its people, culture, its uniqueness that differentiates it from other nations.
Given the multiple dimensions of a country brand, building it is an endeavor that cannot rest solely with one entity. Rather, it should be shared by both the government and the private sector. After all, it is the private sector and private individuals who are out there interfacing with other nationalities, whether in their work, business or other initiatives.
The private sector leads the way
There is much that the private sector can do to enhance the Filipino brand, especially by creating products and services that mirror the strengths of the Filipino.
One fine example is how a group of Filipinas, led by Jeannie Javelosa, worked with globally renowned fashion designer Christian Louboutin, who in turn produced the limited edition Manilacaba bags, inspired by the jeepneys and handicrafts of the Philippines. Part of its sales proceeds will also support the Gender Responsive Economic Action for the Transformation of Women (Great) Project, which will showcase Asean women’s artistry and be a source of pride for all Filipinos.
Equally noteworthy is how solar lighting solutions designed by Illac Diaz’s Liter of Light has captivated the rest of the world. Their simple, do-it-yourself two-step technology creates local jobs, teaches green skills and empowers energy-poor communities. Liter of Light has shown that the Philippines has the technological competence and innovative thinking to back its humanitarian spirit.
Research goes a long way in helping build a solid country brand.
When the very first Philippine Brand Audit was undertaken by the Eon Group in partnership with the IT-BPM Association of the Philippines (IBPAP), its goal was to understand perceptions of the IT-BPM industry in order to strengthen it. The study covered key players in the Philippines and its trading partners worldwide, and revealed areas of weakness and strengths that the Philippines can address. In so doing, the audit provided valuable insight that the government can use as it crafts its brand building strategy.
Nation branding has long been an advocacy of Eon. Over the years, we have hosted workshops with various stakeholders to gain greater insight on how to build the Philippine country brand. In all these, a common thread has emerged—how the Filipino people are at the heart of the country brand.
Study after study, the Filipino people have remained as the most compelling competitive advantage of the Philippines. Filipinos are the brand; it’s our greatest value proposition, and one that’s already known across the globe because of our millions of overseas workers and professionals acting as our brand ambassadors wherever they are.
Four qualities of the Filipino people prop up the Philippine country brand.
First, we are creative. The Philippines has a rich history of arts and creativity, exemplified by our Filipino artists and scientists and some of our greatest innovators in society.
We are also caring. Caring for others is innate in the Filipino culture, with malasakit (empathy) being a significant aspect of it. This is why Filipinos are often sought after in care-giving, nursing, and medical fields.
Third, we are collaborative. We are open and willing to work with others.
And finally, we are colorful. No day in the country is dull and boring because of our rich traditions, indigenous products, cuisines, folklore and our cultural disposition to always be happy.
Certainly, there is much that the private sector can do to cultivate these strengths and build the Philippine country brand into a stronger brand in the global arena.
One way to do this is by opening a platform for collaboration, such as the National Branding Council, which has been created by the Presidential Communications Operations Office. The National Branding Council will execute national branding policies directed at showcasing the country’s strengths in trade, investment, international policy, internal affairs and tourism. By moving it forward, the private sector can play a more active role in enhancing the Philippine country brand.
In this age where chaos and complexity are the new normal, it is but right that the private sector join the government in building a stronger Philippine country brand. This is, after all, our brand—representing our minds, hearts and souls.
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