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Towards a smart nation branding of Bangladesh

Mohammad Navid Safiullah | Published: October 04, 2019 20:55:42 | Updated: October 11, 2019 21:23:16


Photo: Monusco/Force

Nation branding (NB) as a concept has received considerable attention in today's competitive global marketing milieu. It aims to measure, build and manage the reputation of countries. A positive and strong NB attracts tourists, stimulates inward investment, boosts exports and provides countries to achieve unique competitive advantage.

The term was first coined by renowned British Nobel laureate and policy adviser Simon Anholt in 1996. Nation branding is the sum of how citizens perceive a country across six areas of national competence -- tourism, exports, governance, people, culture and heritage, investment and immigration .From a business point of view, a strong NB underpins a country to gain its competitive edge over its competitors, access new global financial markets, diversify products and grab investment opportunities offered by a foreign market through internationalisation. It has now been an essential aspect of public diplomacy.

Many countries including the United States, Canada, France, the United Kingdom, Spain, Italy, Japan, China, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa have developed NB strategies. To create a lasting, positive impression of a country's global standing, the slogan and logo should essentially be appealing and recognisable.

One of the best examples of successful NB is Spain, which formulated Marca España (Spain Brand) in 2012 as a long-term comprehensive state policy to promote positive image of the country. The Spanish government engaged public and private sector organisations, Spanish multinational companies (MNC), and the civil society in the process. The catchy tagline 'Everything under the Sun' and the captivating 'sun' logo designed by the renowned artist Joan Miró became the icon of Spain abroad. Spain has transformed major cities including Barcelona, Valencia, and Bilbao with modern architecture like the Guggenheim Museum. Barcelona had already hosted Olympics in 1992. However, contributions from different companies and internationally acclaimed Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, film director Pedro Almodóvar, fashion designer Adolfo Dominguez and popular actress Penelope Cruz had been instrumental in building a strong and competitive image of Spain.

Bangladesh launched a NB campaign in 2008. Since then, Bangladesh Tourism Board (BTB) as the national tourism organisation has been promoting the country's tourist attractions through nationwide campaign using the slogan "Beautiful Bangladesh "and logo visualising "Rising sun above the sea waves."

The Growth for Knowledge (GfK), Germany's largest market research institute together with Simon Anholt, measures power and quality of each country's 'brand image' by combining six dimensions popularly known as Nation Brand Hexagon. Though not yet included in Anholt's Nation Brand Index, Bangladesh's NB can be analysed in the light of a number of Nation Brand Hexagon.

The people of the country come first. Bangladesh is a unique example of communal harmony. People irrespective of religion, caste and creed show respect for peaceful co-existence of all. Friendly, generous and cordial, the Bangladeshis are also resilient, self-motivated and diligent.

The country is blessed with a period of demographic dividend since 2007 as working age population would stand at 70 per cent in 2041 and 65 per cent  in 2061.To harness economic power of the youth bulge, the government should put in place policies as regards health, education, labour market and job creation.

Bangladesh is a secular democracy. To maintain good governance, the government has adopted a prudent public policy regime reinforced through digitisation of the public administration to improve transparency and reduce bureaucratic red tape.

The National Human Rights Commission and the Information Commission have been established to address the citizens' grievances.

There is the National Integrity Strategy (NIS) to ensure accountability, efficiency, transparency and effectiveness of state and non-state institutions. A strategic development plan aims to modernise tax administration, foster taxpayers service and ensure uniform and equal treatment of businesses.

The 7th Five-Year Plan (7FYP) and Vision 2021 stress areas of good governance and reforms mandated for providing policy directions and targets. Bangladesh's commitment to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) has been well-received globally.

Bangladesh pursues export-oriented industrialisation to increase exports, expand markets, diversify products and improve trade balance with different countries. Encouraging foreign direct investment (FDI), accelerating export, exploring new potential markets, collecting and analysing information on international market to expand exportable are also within its purview.

Currently, Bangladesh is the 32nd economy of the world with a per capita GDP (gross domestic product) of $1909 and an economic growth of 8.13 per cent. It is the world's 2nd largest exporter of readymade garments (RMG) after China. "Made in Bangladesh" tags are now frequently showcased in the renowned high-end US and European retail stores.

McKinsey, a leading global consulting firm, has termed Bangladesh as the next China. Other promising sectors include frozen foods, leather, jute, ceramics, pharmaceuticals, electronics, information technology and light engineering.

Bangladesh is one of the most liberal and investment-friendly nations in South Asia. Strategic location near India, China and ASEAN markets, regional connectivity and global access through sea and air routes, offer tremendous potential to attract FDI. The size of a domestic market of 165 million people is increasing with rising purchasing power parity.

Bangladesh Investment Development Authority (BIDA) encourages and facilitates private investment. To provide infrastructure facilities, the government has established Industrial Park, High Tech Parks and Export Processing Zones (EPZ). The government's Bangladesh Economic Zones Authority (BEZA) is developing 100 special economic zones.

Special incentives have been provided to reduce power shortage to encourage use of biomass, solar and windmill-based power.

Bangladesh is gifted with unique natural landscapes, charming rivers and creeks, archaeological sites, wildlife sanctuaries, ethnic diversity and an overall rich cultural heritage to grab the tourists' attention. It has the world's longest unbroken sea beach Cox's Bazar (120 km), the world's single largest mangrove forest, the Sundarbans which is home to magnificent Royal Bengal Tigers and spotted deer, and a world heritage site. UNESCO has also declared Paharpur Buddhist Monastery as a world heritage site.

The country has earned global reputation in family planning, immunisation programme, women empowerment, agriculture, primary education, healthcare and information technology. Bangladesh's disaster preparedness has been highly appreciated worldwide. It has also proved resilience and knowhow in accomplishing comprehensive food security despite huge population.

Bangladesh is the world's 2nd largest contributor to the United Nations' Peace Keeping Operations. The country is also the 2nd largest producer of jute and jute products, the 3rd  in global production of fresh water fish and vegetable, the 4th in rice production, the 7th largest outsourcing industry, the 8th largest labour force and the 11th largest mobile phone users community.

After its success in attaining the Millennium Development Goals (MDG), the country is progressing fast towards successful implementation of the SDGs.

However, to create a strong and effective country branding in the global context, a multi-pronged approach should be adopted. That will create a smart, positive country image and reputation in keeping with global standards.

To this end, the country's success stories and landmark achievements may be aptly highlighted with adequate information based on reliable data to brand Bangladesh worldwide. Brand strategists should come up with aggressive but distinct promotional activities. The print and electronic media and the social working media have an effective role in accelerating the nation branding campaign.

Alongside the government, the private sector, non-profit and business organisations, educational institutions and also individuals from respective fields should work in an orchestrated manner to build a strong and unique NB platform for Bangladesh. That is required for promotion of investment, exports, tourism and the people of the country.

Mohammad Navid Safiullah, a former Commercial Counsellor at the Bangladesh Embassy in Madrid, Spain, is a Joint Secretary to the Government.

mohammadnavidsafiullah@gmail.com

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