A long time ago, when I was still in the UK and working on the British Airways account, they set up a fascinating piece of international 'Britishness' research which looked at impressions of Great Britain in a number of countries around the world. This was qualitative research, and people in each country were asked to imagine a typical British town and what the characters were like there: policeman, doctor, teenager, manual worker and so on. It was rather like that 'Heaven and Hell' joke, one version of which you can see above. And - surprise, surprise - there was little consistency in the way Britain was seen around the world - sweet and quaint in the US, compared to pushy and arrogant in Australia.
I've just read a long article in The Guardian about the rise of nation and place branding, which appears to be a booming business. Not just from the point of view of attracting tourists, but for governments to attract investors, workers, students, or to allocate resources and increase esteem generally internally and externally, much as you would use a Brand Purpose or Position.
It's not an easy job. Apart from an uneven playing field to start with (as in the differing impressions of US and Australia in the example above), just think how quickly the overall impression of a country can change due to a change in its leadership. Obama's USA and Trump's USA - worlds apart. Or how a personality associated with a country or place can make or break impressions. Or how a natural disaster can overshadow everything. The article quotes Naomi Klein: Diversity and debate are the enemies of branding. Is it folly to try and reduce something as complex and multi-faceted as a place to a mere brand?
As mentioned in the article, Institute for Identityare having a good try. Their work sounds like a dream job - travelling around, getting the feel of the place, talking with the people, everyone from historians to lace-makers to film-makers.
And even if it seems a step too far to attempt to distill an entire country with all its dynamism, history and diversity down to a slogan and a logo, in these days of globalisation it's increasingly important for brands to be unique and authentic. And part of that has to come from the provenance. How has where the brand came from, where it was founded, informed its purpose and values? Instid have some useful tools and techniques on their website for getting a clearer understanding of a place - through the intellect, emotions and senses.
For brands, as for people, it's important to never forget where you came from.
Films and songs are constantly being remade or re-recorded, so why not commercials? The now defunct Yellow Pagesdid it a few years ago, and I've recently seen an excellent new example from Xerox.
Now, I must admit that, growing up on this side of the Atlantic, I've never seen the original film from 1976, in which Brother Dominic has a little help from Xerox to achieve 'a miracle.'
More than 40 years later, so not to go the way of Kodak, the brand Xerox has to re-invent itself as going way beyond photocopiers, in order to stay relevant in the 21st century. So the new campaign - sorry, platform - 'Set the Page Free' has been created. The 500 copies must now be translated, personalised, shared around the world and so on.
By taking on where the old commercial left off, Xerox stresses its pedigree, trustworthiness and reliability as well as its innovative new side.
Sometimes the best - and most effective - creativity isn't about creating something completely new:
It's been a bit of a week for monks. Here in Germany (Hessen) we had a public holiday to celebrate 500 years of the Reformation. One of Playmobil's best-selling lines has been the Martin Luther figure.
But probably the strangest Martin Luther-related packaging that I've seen is this. I may be wrong, but surely tomatoes had not yet been brought to Europe in Martin Luther's time? Or does this celebrate the 500th anniversary of that event, too?
When I was little, I wanted to be a spy. I got off to a good start, studying Psychology at Trinity College, Cambridge but somehow got side-tracked into the wonderful world of advertising and marketing.
My children's books: