'Brand Ireland' should be rethought and replaced
ANALYSIS:An intriguing proposal for improving our national brand would position Ireland in a very different light
WE TAKE national pride in the belief that we punch above our weight on the global stage. There is indeed evidence that “brand Ireland” is known and loved the world over and that this favourable image has made a significant contribution to our economy.
Recent studies of nation brand image, however, suggest that changing geopolitical trends could weaken that image. Economic power is moving eastward and our diaspora history is of receding relevance, even in the US. There is also evidence that younger people around the world are less favourably disposed to us than older generations.
The most ambitious attempt to measure the thorny concept of a nation’s global brand image is the awkwardly named Anholt-Gfk Roper Nation Brand Index. Some 20,000 people are interviewed every year in 20 countries about their perceptions of 50 different nations, including Ireland.
Perceptions are polled concerning exports, governance, culture, people, tourism and immigration/investment. When all the scores are grouped together to form an overall nation brand index, Ireland is ranked in 18th position:
14 New Zealand
This should be cause for some celebration given our size. Our “brand” or international reputation doesn’t qualify for the top 10 but it puts us in the “second tier”. We are ahead of Belgium, Brazil and Russia although somewhat disappointingly we trail Scotland, which is in 15th position.
This result confirms what many have suggested in the past: that we are better known and more positively rated compared to other countries than our size would indicate.
Perceptions of countries change glacially and much of the talk of Ireland’s reputational damage overseas is simply misplaced. While the financial and political elites of the world may indulge in a bout of Schadenfreude over the demise of the Celtic Tiger, the opinion of the world’s population – the people who consume our goods and visit us as tourists – has not deteriorated one iota.
What Ireland has been known for and loved for in the eyes of the world over many decades remains true today, whether we like it or not. It is natural beauty that is most associated with Ireland, followed by a welcoming friendly people. The tourist image of Ireland is the one that dominates the perception of the country around the globe.