Having lived in and worked in countries around the world, Keith Dinnie has gained unique insights into the different conceptions and approaches to place branding, some of which he shares in the interview. He also reflects on how the nation branding scene has changed and evolved since publication of the first edition of his book in Keith, as a researcher, what got you interested in place brand management and the branding of cities, regions and nations? That was the first time I had come across a country explicitly being treated as a brand. Initially I was highly skeptical, for the reasons that opponents of place branding still put forward, i.
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What do you think is needed to improve understanding amongst those cities and nations who are still not really getting it right? As with any progressive development in society, education is key. Policy makers need to become acquainted with the fundamentals of place brand management, namely, how are place brands formed and what interventions can you make to help the place brand evolve in a positive direction.
Unfortunately the prevailing norm still seems to be a default approach wherein an advertising agency or brand consultancy is hired and then allowed to create a cringeworthy campaign that alienates everyone, because no local buy-in was sought. In such cases, policy makers take an approach that is so hands-off it borders on negligence.
This dull, conservative design-by-committee approach leads to branding in which the slogans are so meaningless that they are completely interchangeable between places. So at the moment there is still a lot of poor practice going on. However, the increasing numbers of people engaged in place branding, either as practitioners or as students, is a promising sign that things could improve in the coming years.
Places that do successfully come through crises tend to be those places that have nurtured a strong brand over a period of several years so that when crisis strikes, the place has accumulated a sufficient reservoir of goodwill to overcome the negative effects of a crisis.
KD: Yes, all the cases in the second edition of the book are new. The case on New Zealand, contributed by Brian Sweeney, similarly demonstrates how nation branding can take place without any official governmental involvement. If you were writing the job description for a Country Brand Manager, what skills and character traits would you look for?
KD: Skills and character traits I would look for include good analytical ability, persuasive communication, tenacity which would be required in the face of so many stakeholders who are hostile to the notion of place branding , tact, and tolerance of different viewpoints. Cultural awareness and the ability to speak foreign languages would also be considerable assets. When I lived there, I was surprised to discover how many Scotch whisky bars there are in Tokyo!
Interview with Keith Dinnie
Dr Keith Dinnie