The Reputation Institute just released its latest study ranking the reputations of 50 different countries, and for the second year in a row Canada claimed the top spot with “robust scoring in all facets of the study.” Grouped into four major attributes—“ Trust, Admiration, Respect, and Affinity”—those facets range from a country’s business environment to its natural beauty. Canada scored even higher than last year due to its “ability to improve in the eyes of the world and exhibit global leadership in three key criteria, an effective government, an advanced economy and an appealing environment,” according to the study. The Reputation Institute’s Nicolas Georges Trad highlighted Canadian NBA star Steve Nash as an example of the country’s stellar image. “He is a perfect brand ambassador for Canada: down to earth, yet incredibly successful—just like the country,” Trad explains.
Continuing Strength in Northern Europe
The Nordic countries also scored well in the study, with Sweden, Norway, Finland and Denmark all sitting in the top ten. Those high rankings are owed much to the countries’ record of “stability, solid democracies, high GDP and strong social infrastructures,” according to the study. Sweden’s improving economy, for instance, has made it an attractive alternative to dire conditions in countries such as Greece. Nordic countries have also benefitted greatly from their considerable investments in and concerted efforts to bolster their reputations. The Danish government “spends $80 million a year through a national branding committee that tries to build a more favorable impression of the country,” according to a Forbes article on the study. Sweden recently launched “Curators of Sweden,” an innovative promotional campaign in which different Swedes take over the @Sweden Twitter account each week. Opening up that channel was a risky initiative and sparked controversy, but “9000 tweets and 31400 mentions later in over 120 countries the initiative is regarded as a global success and an innovative way to brand a nation,” according to VisitSweden. The Nordic connection also helps. “Sweden’s image is so good, that anything good or remarkable that anybody does in Denmark or Finland or Norway or Iceland automatically accrues to Sweden’s benefit,” says national identity and branding expert Simon Anholt. Australia’s second place finish in this year’s study is likely the result of a similar combination of factors, including its growing economy and successful branding program.
The Reputation Economy
Brand Australia’s Theresa Fairman emphasizes “the link between country reputations and economic outcomes,” and the plummeting scores of economically unstable countries such as Italy and Greece underscore that relationship connection. Other countries face negative associations that have diminished how the world perceives them and damaged their economies. Mexico’s resorts, for example, are trying to repair the damage that drug cartels have done to the country’s image. Russia was hurt by the much-publicized prosecution of an all-female activist punk band, and it sits near the bottom of the 50 nations featured in the study. A Pew Research Center poll found that the controversy caused a “significant change in the way that the rest of the world sees Russia—a change for the worse.” The Financial Times described another high-profile trial as a sign of “the miserable image of Russian justice” and a “damaging assault on its reputation.” Meanwhile, the United States is still recovering from the blows to its global reputation dealt by issues such as the Iraq War and partisan deadlock. It held steady in 23rd place, but the study observed that “the reputation of the USA is trending towards more positive perceptions.” Of course this year’s presidential election will likely be significant factor in future progress.
As with individuals and companies, changes in a country’s reputation produce tangible effects. According to the Reputation Institute’s study, a “5-point improvement for the USA on the RepTrak attribute ‘a country I would recommend visiting’ would equal a 14.6 billion USD increase in tourism receipts.” Statements such as that help to explain the big budgets governments put behind branding campaigns.