Tuesday, June 16, 2009


Just to emphasize once again, there will be no new posts by me on this blog, but I have left my previous postings here because people often request them.

BUT ... the good news is that I now have a brand new website at http://www.simonanholt.com/, which will be frequently updated.

And you've got to try out the interactive, online version of the Nation Brands Index, and find out what people in different countries really think about each other!

Monday, June 30, 2008

City Brands Index and Nation Brands Index Reports and Data

Since the City Brands Index and Nation Brands Index websites have gone offline (during their transfer to my new research partners, GFK Roper) I've had a number of requests for reports and data from both surveys.

So I've uploaded all the most recent reports from both surveys to my website (go to http://www.earthspeak.com/a_selection_of_published_article.htm), and for the first time I've also included some summary data from both studies.

I've also added more recent articles and interviews on related subjects, plus my most recent Editorial Prefaces from the Journal of Place Branding and Public Diplomacy. All of these resources can be found on the same page of my site.

Just a word of warning about the Nation Brands Index and City Brands Index data: these rankings and scores are averages of averages of averages. They simply show a summary of what EVERY respondent from EVERY country thinks of EVERY aspect of each nation or city in the list, so please don't read too much into these very topline scores.

These are huge surveys, generating hundreds of thousands of pieces of data from many respondents in many countries, asked about many aspects of many places. So these overall rankings are interesting but absolutely not sufficient for understanding how a country or city is really perceived around the world. To do that, you have to drill much deeper into the survey data. I'm always happy to talk to governments and bona fide academics who want to work seriously with the data.

Finally, please respect authorship. I put data, articles and papers on the website because I want people to have access to them, but if you do quote from anything on my site (or anybody else's, for that matter), please respect the convention that you always cite sources, even if you are only quoting a sentence or a couple of figures.

Properly referenced citation is welcomed, but paraphrasing and plagiarism are stealing.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Why no new postings?

A quick line to apologise to regular readers of the blog for the lack of postings during the last few months. (Pressure of work is the culprit.) So unless I suddenly decide to retire I probably won't be adding any more new stuff, but several people have asked me to leave the content that's already here online, which I will gladly do.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

This Year's Anholt City Brands Index

This year's City Brands Index has just been published, and there are some pretty interesting results in it.

Sydney comes top: the world's most admired city, with a 'near-perfect' brand image. To download the General Report, pleast visit my website where you can download a pdf of the report from the link on the front page.

Coming soon: some exciting new developments on the City Brands Index and Nation Brands Index.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Monopoly and Patriotism

A friend in Latvia has alerted me to the Monopoly World Edition website, where you can vote for the cities that will be featured in the new, 'global', edition of the game. Apparently Riga - which I mentioned in an earlier post as one of my favourite European cities - has risen from 46th to 9th position since a newspaper article mentioned the contest. Naturally, thousands of the good citizens of Riga got voting, and succeeded in pushing their city up the rankings.

I say 'naturally', because almost nothing is more natural - or more powerful - than people's love of their own city, region or country.

A similar phenomenon was observed last year when the Swiss film-maker and adventurer Bernard Weber had the brilliant idea of creating a ranking for the New Seven Wonders of the World. This event resulted in over one hundred million votes being cast around the world, as ordinary people voted frantically to get "their" national landmark recognised as one of the new seven wonders.

It's striking because such events are somewhat unfamiliar. But if you think about it, equally dramatic displays of widespread and energetic patriotism are regularly triggered for every football World Cup, every Olympic Games, and to a lesser extent for contests such as 'Miss World' and the Eurovision Song Contest. Whenever people have an opportunity to boost the profile of their home town or home country, they do it, and in huge numbers.

Clearly, powerful forces are being unleashed here, and in a way it's reassuring to find that in our age of globalisation such a simple and elemental instinct as patriotism is alive and well - and especially encouraging that it usually manages to find its outlet in harmless fun.

Such contests are undoubtedly 'good branding' for the places that do well in them: in one way or another, they will help to raise the profile of the place, increase tourism numbers, encourage other kinds of commercial interest such as foreign investment and trade, and boost the number of people who decide to study, work and relocate there.

But all those millions of ordinary citizens certainly aren't voting for their home town because the tourist board has asked them to - most people are blissfully unaware that their city or country even has a tourist authority, and many even complain about the number of foreign visitors cluttering up their streets - or even because they necessarily see a direct connection between their vote and their future prosperity. It appears to be something purely instinctive, an almost automatic outpouring of group pride, and the expression of our own identity through the place that made us.

As I reported in the 3rd Quarter Report of the 2005 Nation Brands Index, the way in which people rank the 'brand images' of their own countries follows a fascinating pattern. Every country in the overall Top 10 of the NBI ranks itself first, while every country in the bottom 30 rates one or more other countries higher than itself - with the exception of two of the fastest-growing economies in the world, India and Ireland. It's impossible to say whether this is cause or effect: do people rate their own country highly because they know how admired and admirable it is, or does the fact they they rate it so highly help it to become admired and admirable?

The reality is that it's probably both at the same time. Ask 100 Chief Executives the secret of their company's strong brand, and half of them will probably tell you that it's the belief of their own staff in that brand and its values. Loyalty builds success, and success builds loyalty, and no place on earth - city, town, country, village or region - can hope to make others respect and admire it unless it first respects and admires itself.

But of course there's a catch. As with anything else that involves getting large numbers of people to make the effort to do something they don't normally do - even if it's only a matter of visiting a website and clicking on a button - there is a limit to how many times this force can be successfully unleashed. Yes, people undoubtedly do feel a strong pride in their own country or city, but their energy to express it is, like anything else, limited. You can't keep stoking the fire of patriotism forever: unless provided with new fuel, it will eventually die down and burn out.

Governments should reflect on this. Poking the embers of a population's love of their country will, nine times out of ten, produce a blaze, and this is a trick that any child can perform. But keeping the fire going for generations is a steeper challenge altogether.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Switzerland and the Language of Sport

In Zurich last week, speaking at an event organised by Swiss Top Sport, which focused on the use of sporting events to raise the profile of Swiss towns and cities, and consequently of Switzerland itself.

It's odd, for a country that hosts so many important international sporting events and sporting bodies, that Switzerland's weakest area (in terms of its national image) should be sport.

Switzerland has come top of the list for governance ever since I started running the Nation Brands Index: if the world had to pick one government to rule the planet, Switzerland is the nearly unanimous choice. It also scores very high for tourism, products, technology, ecology, and a host of other attributes, but comes in at 22nd place for sporting prowess.

Of course you could argue that it hardly matters: for a country with such a positive image, how serious can it really be that people don't think of the Swiss as top-rank sportsmen and women?

The problem is that sport isn't the only part of the culture dimension on the Nation Brand Hexagon where Switzerland scores poorly: there is a perception that the country has very little culture, either traditional or contemporary. And this is undoubtedly linked to the fact that Swiss people are admired and respected more than they are loved: like the Germans and the British, they appear to be the sort of people you'd willingly hire, but don't especially covet as friends. People want to be friends with the Italians, the Brazilians, the Canadians and especially the Australians, but not the Swiss. Perhaps it's that reputation for discretion and humourlessness, or perhaps it's simply that there is no convenient cliché to hand about what Swiss people are like, and so they remain largely anonymous in the world's imagination.

In other words, Switzerland is a tremendously powerful country brand, but a rather weak nation brand.

Given what I've said in the past about how nations - such as Italy and the United States - can "go out of fashion" as public opinion and general moral views and values evolve around them, this fact might put Switzerland and its enviably pristine image at risk. In fact, a quick look at Switzerland's NBI scores shows that it is declining almost as fast as Italy and the USA: nearly 2% during the last two and a half years. That may not sound much, but given that most country images are more like a fixed asset than a liquid currency, any steady decline, no matter how shallow, is a matter for concern.

Five or ten years ago, the qualities which many people seemed to admire in other countries were simple things like prosperity, modernity, attractive landscapes, economic growth, cool products. Today, what makes a positive 'nation brand' has become more nuanced, and questions of integrity, generosity, environmental friendliness, transparency and democracy come into the equation more and more strongly.

In the absence of any clear idea of what the Swiss people have to offer in terms of their values, their personality or their philosophy of life, it is easy to see how the old clichés of cuckoo-clock Switzerland could turn against Switzerland's image. That famous Swiss-banker integrity and secrecy could start to look like corruption; that famous wealth could look like selfishness; that famous precision could look like smugness; that famous competence could look like arrogance; that famous taste for producing and consuming the best of everything could look like smugness and élitism.

Faced with the huge challenge of introducing the Swiss to the world, sport is a singularly appropriate, powerful and eloquent "language". As Germany discovered when it hosted the football World Cup last year, the way a country hosts big sporting events and competes in them can be a highly effective way of communicating warmth and depth of national character; and the Sydney Olympics were no less important in helping to create the strong affection which people around the world feel for the Australians today.

If Switzerland learns to speak sport alongside its other "languages" of culture, tourism, politics, foreign aid and exported products and services, it could do far more than merely fend off the danger of losing relevance in the coming decades.

Consider that if Switzerland's NBI ranking for culture were in the top 5 along with its other scores, Switzerland would now be challenging the UK and Germany for 'most admired nation' status.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Which Presidential Candidate is better for "Brand America"?

First, my apologies to all regular readers for the shamefully long gap since my last posting. My only excuse is constant travel, and that I've been very busy organising some important new developments for my three surveys, the Nation Brands Index, City Brands Index and State Brands Index - more news on this front during the next few weeks.

In the meantime, a lot of my correspondence has been around the gripping US primaries, and the question of which candidates are likely to have the greatest impact on America's currently somewhat depressed international image.

So which candidate will be better for ‘Brand America’?

Nothing very scientific here, I'm afraid: but in my opinion it's Brand Barack, without a doubt. This this has relatively little to do with whether he and Senator Clinton are black or white, male or female, little to do with their politics, and quite a bit to do with how masculine or feminine each is. Barack Obama has – I hope he will excuse me saying so – some interestingly feminine qualities (he gives the impression of being caring, culturally sensitive, gentle and considerate), while Senator Clinton displays some strikingly masculine personality traits (despite the odd tear, she appears driven, forceful, aggressive). Since the woes of ‘Brand America’ are associated with an excess of political testosterone, you could well argue that what it needs more than anything else right now is a good dose of estrogen.

Challengers need masculine traits in order to succeed and to appeal; those in positions of great power will be better loved if they display a more feminine side, and as I argued in my book Brand America, most of the difficulties currently faced by the United States in terms of its international reputation can be ascribed to the fact that it has achieved so many of its goals, and has moved from challenger to dominator.

The lack of a global democracy is never plainer than when the U.S. presidential elections come around: the man or woman who gets the job has more influence over people's lives in other countries than many a local leader, and yet the rest of the world can only sit and hope, and trust to the American electorate - whose tastes, ambitions, politics, concerns and interests are usually somewhat different from those of overseas populations - to make the right choice on their behalf.

If ever there was a need for effective public diplomacy, it would be a huge, collaborative effort on the part of certain European, Asian and African governments to attempt to influence the voting behaviour of American citizens.

Dream on, as they say in America!