[Bronze Prize] Nation branding key to drawing investors
University of British Columbia in Canada
The single most important requisite to Korea’s success in attracting foreign investors is nation branding, pure and simple. The planet serves as a global display case.
It displays complex products mixing structural, cultural, social, and political aspects that interfere with goods and services, marketing techniques, and visual communications. These products are the nations themselves; they are tried, tested, discussed, recommended or rejected, just like other marketed brands.
Despite its strong growth prospect, solid trading partners and diversified economy, Korea seems to be still relatively unknown among the average investor in the Western world, let alone among the average non-investor.
In fact, most of the time Korea makes headlines in the Western media it is generally due to its Northern counterpart’s latest political developments.
To capture a bigger slice of the pie, Korea needs to double its efforts toward an aggressive, long-term and worldwide national branding campaign, focusing on the common investor’s basic psychology, that is, its appetite for stability and growth, the modern and the trendy.
In particular, Korea needs to continue to foster a good trading relationship with China and brand itself as the supplier of choice of high technology goods and components to its mammoth neighbor, as well as to emerging, fast-developing Asian economies such as Indonesia and Vietnam.
By focusing on these assets, Korea will become synonym with “smart money,” and once the common investor understands where the smart money is flowing, the appeal is simply irresistible: he has to go with the trend.
While branding can be done through massive advertising campaigns, it is important to keep in mind that it all starts with the average Korean citizen; this latter has a duty to portray his/her country in a good light in everyday situations.
There is a difference between being proud and bragging. The former is what Koreans need a healthy dose of. Indeed, national image has more to do with Koreans than Korea. However, it seems that unfortunately, too many Koreans have a complex of inferiority toward their country vis-a-vis the Western world, an attitude which has to change in earnest.
Too many Koreans idealize the so-called “seonjinguk,” or the “developed world,” all the while forgetting they are at the very center of it. The hundreds of thousands of Koreans either living or studying abroad, for example, are a prime example of an inefficiently used advertising channel for their own country, if scarcely used at all. Korea is not just about soju and bibimbap.
One cannot overemphasize Korea’s many great attributes, chief among them an excellent and modern health care system, a fantastic and diversified culture, a cutting edge in high-technology products, a highly-educated and productive workforce, a continuously growing real-estate market, a strong democratic foothold, and most attractive of all, the lowest tax rate among OECD countries.
All these attributes, if branded properly, can easily attract a flock of investments taking various shapes: property, partnerships, tourism, foreign direct investment, construction contracts, and more.
Korea’s strongest attribute is its economy; its weakest is its image. No matter how well Korea is faring, the truth is that branding is all what matters when it comes to grasping the investor’s mindset and attracting public interest.
A success without branding is like a bird without feathers. “Made in Korea” needs to become synonymous with high quality, durable products.
The attraction of foreign investors and smart money is a self-fulfilling prophecy: once the money starts flowing, higher liquidity is brought to the markets and optimistic growth prospects only keep expanding, bringing in more and more money and acting as a self-propelled engine for growth and good advertisement.
Developing national branding requires a long-term effort. There must be a broad and universal consensus on the desired outcome that is not limited by political affiliation. Koreans need to start showing the world what Korea is all about.