International diplomacy without branding is worth nothing

Let me disclaim my background for introduction. For I am quite sure that my views on the future of EU is going to be quite apart from prevailing EU mainstream political jargon. So my introduction should be understood as apology of an untamed freshman in international diplomacy (though I am almost 60) but as well as expression of my personal conviction that politics and especially international politics should not be dealt by narrow diplomacy.

As a branding and marketing developer, but as well as philosopher, PR consultant and student of complexity, evolutionary theory and contemporary science I had a privilege to lead a group of experts that developed I feel Slovenia brand back in 2007/2008. The brand is still valid and is in fact flourishing not only as a guide for our tourism development but slowly also in other fields of Slovenian economy, culture, sports and I hope also in foreign policy. At least that was an intention and the brand was thus very extensively elaborated.

Since one can find many posts on this page explaining brands and branding from all possible perspectives, let me outline the most important one for this purpose only.

Brand is an engine that powers/runs business model of a product or service that is attached to. It can be attached to a product like phone, to a service like restaurant, to a public hospital, to a community like a City or to a State or to a single person. In each case particular brand is different, but all of them run on same principles. Main capitals and identities should be identified and key performance indicators that add a value to each of identity traits and to each capital.

In the case of Slovenia we have developed following identity formula:

 

This formula is a condensed representation of most important Slovenian identity traits meaning that those traits are most common and most widely represented among Slovenians, among Slovenian communities and other civil structures like commercial entities, non governmental entities and governmental institutions.

Some of the elements of Slovenia’s brand identity are similar to characteristics of other nations and countries, while others are unique to Slovenia. What makes Slovenia special is a combination of the above elements. This combination of elements creates innumerable harmonised stories and builds a Slovenian experience. A part of the Slovenian story can already be experienced, while the other part represents our common desires regarding the development of Slovenia.

In Slovenia green is more than just a colour; it is “Slovenian green,” expressing the balance between the calm of nature and the tenacity of Slovenians. It speaks of unspoilt nature and our focus on maintaining it that way. It symbolises a balance of lifestyle that joins the pleasant excitement with which we pursue personal desires with the common vision to move forward with nature. Slovenian green also describes our focus on the elemental, on what we feel under our hands. And finally, Slovenian green talks about the balance of all senses with which we experience Slovenia. We never remember Slovenia only through images. A memory of Slovenia combines the smell of a forest, a babbling brook, a surprising taste of water, and the softness of wood. We feel Slovenia.

Slovenians are tenacious about the things we enjoy doing. We focus all our energy on those activities and achieve what could not be achieved by individuals who perform their work routinely and without élan. We are active, always in motion, and always focused on things that are dear to us. This activity is often manifested as diligence and orientation towards productivity – we would like to return to the activities that are dear to us or achieve a set goal as soon as possible. Slovenians do not hide our desire for recognition and like to receive praise for our work. However, in our desire to receive praise we will not forget our principles. In addition to family and health, responsibility is one of our main values. Responsibility manifests itself in our attitude towards others, the environment, and us. We are attached to our local environment despite being individualists. We travel but we do not move away. We are like a fire: hot close to the flame, yet cold a short distance from it. Slovenians feel enthusiasm towards everything we enjoy. And we are the best in what excites us, in what we feel close to.

I hope that a reader understood a point why I devoted larger portion of this text for I Feel Slovenia story that unites brand formula elements in homogenous representation of what drives Slovenia and Slovenians in all respects. And there are quite some points.

  1. Each brand has identity that differentiates this brand from all other brands. Identities change over time, but if changes happen too fast, then such brand looses its value, disintegrates or even dies. This means that each brand should preserve its identity for the reason of keeping internal value(s) as high as possible. Only brands with strong internal value(s) can exchange values with other brands. Slovenia can exchange values with Croatia and other countries exactly because it is different. No brand is better than another, but at the same time no brand is similar to another. Thinking that better cooperation between brands / countries come from higher level of similarity is utterly wrong. Internal values have to be homogenized for the sake of better external relations with dis-similar identities.
  2. Borders are necessary conditions for any brand. Borders taken literary and metaphorically. Brands have to safeguard its borders. Wise brands though allow extrinsic elements to enter, but only to the amount that can be integrated. Excessive flow (border crossing) of identity elements that contradict internal brand story necessarily destroys a brand that allows such crossings.
  3. As separated, brands respect other brands and other identities. They have to respect other brands should they exchange values with them. Brands have to exchange values with other brands like cells in the body exchange values but stays separate at the same time. Brand has to respect identity of another brand in proportion to remoteness of that brand. More the brand is remote, higher respect it deserves and lower intake of that brand’s identity traits come in play.
  4. Brands do form higher-level brands. Individuals enter companies as brands. Company brand tries to manage larger number of individual identities, of personal brands. Cities and regions as brands do co-form national brand. And national brands, like brands of EU countries, could in principle unite under EU brand. But here we enter the domain of physics. Larger bodies do stick together if they are homogenous. Any body that is heterogeneous has to put a lot of effort to introduce forces that keep that body together. In the case of EU as business model for member states it would mean that EU should have employed well thought out and heavily supported internal (and external) branding mechanism in order to keep member states united under one flag.

I know that above presented conclusions from branding theory and practice contradict present EU policymaking mainstream. I know such conclusions support Slovenia in protecting borders from extensive inflow of immigrants and at the same time Donald Trump’s actions in protecting USA identity. I know that intellectuals aborted from reality and from branding theory condemn even a hint of someone supporting such statements. But as intellectual and as branding expert I simply have to explain and make this unpleasant truth rational

Andrej Drapal