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Earlier today, I came across a post from the Institute of Welsh Affairs blog by Rhys David (as linked by Quixotic Quisling) that discussed Wales‘ image or ‘brand perception’ among world travelers.

The post outlines the 2007 survey conducted by Simon Anholt and others, as well as the findings of this year’s survey in which Wales did not participate. Perhaps it is just my inner brand geek (have you met my alter-ego Abranda, yet?) but articles and discussions of this nature absolutely get my tail wagging. It is an opportunity to better explore and articulate the possibility of brands as more than just marketing. A brand can be a powerful thing for better and for worse.. and at its best, a brand can affect positive change.

What struck me in reading the IWA post was the concern raised over the people in Wales being “off message” when traveling and portraying their nation to others. An interesting dilemma that makes me wonder about the problem from which it stems– is it the agent carrying the message who is getting it wrong, or was the message off-base to begin with? A brand message can not be successful without a basis in reality– want to kill your brand? Make a promise you can’t or won’t keep. It is one thing to weave aspirational tones or goals into brand messaging, but to build your castle upon a foundation of fictitious clouds is ill advised– make a brand promise that is unrelated to the audience’s experience and your brand will no doubt fail. But I don’t know that that is the problem at hand– it sounds as though the Welsh people just need a boost with regards to national pride or esteem.

David raises a good point about the difference in branding a single organization versus an entity as broad as a nation and the difficulties of such diversity or breadth. Not surprisingly, the post alludes to Wales’ lack of brand-conveying international corporations or business like Ireland‘s Guinness , and the resulting dependence on the arts or sports for international conveyance of the national identity. An interesting point, but not one worth lamenting too much– so Wales does not have a consumable touch point like Guinness, so what. While the Guinness brand serves Ireland well as a national brand ambassador there is more to the nation than stout. So the Welsh brand yet to be articulated accurately is rooted in an abstract or complex tapestry of things– I would hope someone charged with the task would embrace these ambiguities and subtleties and explore them in a final brand identity for the nation.

For those interested in branding, I would recommend reading the IWA post, but I also recommend it to those who cringe at the word ‘brand.’ Branding does not have to be a four letter word, people; branding does not have to be about marketing alone.


24/06/2009 — Leave a comment

While catching up on postings from the various blogs I read regularly, I came across an entry by Seth Godin about the cycles through which business and industry move. He used Singer Sewing Machines as an example reminding his readers of the success Singer Co. formerly enjoyed and the relative decline of the company’s significance in the national economy. The rise and fall of economic and corporate significance for the company effectively mapped its cycle. He ended his post with the following statement: “The best marketing strategy is to destroy your industry before your competition does.”

A fascinating point worth further reflection. One that reminded me of something one of my colleagues in grad school said when in a group critique session. There was often an air of discomfort during these crit sessions as forward assertions about another’s work appeared to be culturally controversial; students seemed to feel that we were all emotionally attached to our work so to critique a colleague’s work was to critique the colleague. The notion of constructive criticism to catalyze design development seemed beyond my peers so these sessions often seemed futile. But one spring afternoon, one of the more outspoken students said he felt it was important to learn to “kill your darlings.” He continued by explaining that one must become emotionally disengaged from their work, enough to carry it through an ever moving evolutionary process. He continued by reminding us that it was important not to become too attached to a single idea or iteration and to allow the design process to flow.

Both important points about a theme – do not get too attached to an idea, product, iteration or state of being. Leave room for growth, learning, change and evolution.