LONDON, UK – Today, FutureBrand announced that Canada takes the No. 1 spot in the FutureBrand 2010 Country Brand Index (CBI), presented in partnership with BBC World News. Canada’s rise was largely due to the positive effects of hosting the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. The United States dropped from No. 1 to No. 4 as a result of several factors, including widespread disappointment in President Obama, scrutiny over U.S. foreign policy choices, the economic recession, and other challenges.
The sixth annual FutureBrand Country Brand Index surveys 3,400 international business and leisure travelers from 13 countries on all five continents and is augmented by in-depth expert focus groups in 14 major metropolitan areas around the world.
The strength of a country brand is determined in the same way as any other brand: it is measured on levels of awareness, familiarity, preference, consideration, advocacy and active decisions to visit. However, the most important factors that truly differentiate a nation’s brand are its associations and attributes, as measured in five dimensions: Tourism, Heritage and Culture, Value System, Quality of Life and Good for Business.
The Top 10 Country Brands
*The complete listing is available in the FutureBrand’s Country Brand Index Executive Summary, available for download at futurebrand.com
Country Brand Trends
Canada’s Olympic Year: Canada’s rise was largely due to the positive effects of hosting the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. In fact, as host of the Games, Canada not only secured a record number of gold medals, but delivered a successful event overall; its brand emerged as a safe, friendly, fun, world-class country.
The Obama Effect: The United States dropped from No. 1 to No. 4 as a result of several factors, including widespread disappointment in President Obama, scrutiny over U.S. foreign policy choices, the economic recession, the Gulf of Mexico disaster, as well as other challenges. This could indicate that brand United States was artificially stimulated by the charisma of an individual, masking some of the U.S.’s challenges in the wake of the global economic crisis.
The U.S. has fallen three places this year, showing that the ‘Obama effect’ can work both ways. Just as its rise to the top spot in 2009 reflected global attention, hope and anticipation of change promised by the new administration, the U.S. has suffered in parallel with the waning approval ratings of its new President.
Weathering the Economic Crisis: The economic crisis is also a powerful factor in country brand strength this year, but mainly for those that avoided it. The top three brands managed to escape the worst of the banking collapse and maintain relatively strong economies throughout 2010. Other countries that have fallen down the rankings – notably the U.S. and the U.K. – have both suffered conspicuously as a result of high-risk ventures and the banking collapse.
The Rise of Brand Scandinavia: Perhaps most interestingly this year, the performance of Sweden, Finland, Norway and Denmark reveals a strong emerging preference for ‘brand Scandinavia’ across the world. From Denmark’s role as the host of the Copenhagen Summit, to Sweden’s internationally-renowned welfare state, brand Scandinavia represents a commitment to freedom, well-being, global citizenship and quality of life that unites these Northern European countries in people’s perceptions.
The Lowest Performing Country Brands
This year’s weakest country brands include Zimbabwe, Iran, Pakistan, Congo and Nigeria. These countries struggle with political instability, security concerns, corruption, economic turmoil, natural disasters and high levels of state control, all of which confirm an unavoidable correlation between perceived brand strength and political, social and economic realities in the world’s most challenged countries.
2010 Rising Stars
Chile (#40 +19) has improved across every measure this year with huge leaps in Awareness and Advocacy, as well as in perceptions of Political Freedom. The San Jose miners’ rescue became a global news event generating extraordinary goodwill for President Pinera and brand Chile. This, coupled with growing economic stability, makes Chile a brand to watch in the region.
Israel (#30 +11) received significant marketing investment for tourist destinations. Israel moves in the right direction in 2010 – particularly in Tourism metrics like Authenticity and History, which align very well with campaigns promoting heritage and culture.
Argentina (#33 +10) has received high marks this year, particularly for Advocacy. After a quarter-finals position in the World Cup and significant GDP growth in the first half of the year, Argentina became the first Latin American country to legalize same-sex marriage in a move signaling a triumph of liberal values in the region.
Iceland ( #24 +1 ) experienced a rise is a counter-intuitive development for a beleaguered country that suffered negative global attention during the banking crisis and the Eyjafjallajokull ash cloud flight ban affecting millions of travelers. Perhaps a signal that the world’s oldest democracy still carries some goodwill with international audiences, as well as highlighting the impact of efforts to market Iceland as an attractive transatlantic stopover at a time of unprecedented global brand awareness, scores for Familiarity have leapt up this year.
2010 Falling Stars
Greece (#22, – 8) presents the most conspicuous shift set against a high-profile financial crisis and subsequent industrial relations problems following government spending cuts and tax increases.
India (#23, – 5) is another falling brand, dropping five places to 23 this year, straight off the back of negative global media coverage of health and safety concerns.
Spain (#10, -4) and Ireland move down the table, showing that even traditionally strong tourist destinations are not immune to shifting brand strength in straightened economic times.
China (#56, -8) The Olympic effect seems not to have lasted long for China, with 2010 bringing public relations challenges around post-Copenhagen environmental impact and high-profile censorship battles with Google. Significant decline in perceptions of Political Freedom contribute most to this year’s drop in the rankings. A fall for China despite its promotion to the second-largest economy shows that financial growth is no guarantee of brand strength.
UAE (#28, -5) While Tourism metrics overall remain relatively strong, falls in Preference and Consideration contribute to brand UAE’s decline in 2010. Despite significant investment in brand building over recent years, high-profile economic troubles affecting Dubai and the other Emirates impact a country brand keenly associated with wealth and prosperity, but traditionally scoring less well on the dimension for Value System.
Russia (#81, –9) Anti-government protests surrounding March elections, ongoing corruption scandals and economic uncertainty provide the backdrop to a steep fall for Russia this year. Specifically, a steep drop in the score for Political Freedom has hit this emerging market in the 2010 rankings.