NATION BRANDING AND SUCCESS OF JAPAN
Nation branding is a new discipline and a very complex phenomenon. Its practice is based on several well-established disciplines, such as marketing, public policy, international relations, trade and tourism promotion, psychology, public diplomacy and many others. Today, states have to compete for their positions on a global stage and to create suitable environment for their citizens. It is believed that nation branding is a powerful tool which can help to improve image of a country and create competitive advantage in global markets. Therefore, more and more countries are trying to use nation-branding techniques with a vision of improved image and reputation. And Japan is one of them (Anholt, 2007).
Japan decided to improve its image and to start its branding initiatives in 2002. Its main goal is ´to improve the image and reputation of Japan and turn it into a nation that is loved and respected by people throughout the world, with the focus on the lifestyle and the overall power of Japan´s cultural assets´. The most important objectives of Japan´s branding strategy are to promote diverse and reliable local businesses, attractive lifestyle reflected in a food culture, brands and fashion, and to establish Japanese fashion as a global brand (Akutsu, 2008).
It is argued that countries have various options and ways how to promote itself and implement its nation-branding strategy. Three most common areas for promotion are tourism – as it is a powerful element of the nation branding because it can brand a country directly through holiday adverts, cultural and public diplomacy – as they are inevitable in communication with foreign public, and brands – as they are important vectors of the image and reputation and channels for communicating national identity. Japan places biggest efforts to its tourism promotion and cultural diplomacy (Anholt, 2007).
Japan´s cultural diplomacy uses its diverse culture to attract the interest of foreign population in the country and make them to trust the country. For cultivation of mutual understanding and trust between Japan and other countries Japan has been practising cultural exchanges, which have been playing an important role in the process of Japan´s modernization and enhancement of peaceful relations with other countries. Because of growing interdependence between countries, according to Japan´s Prime Minister, it is important to create common values and principles among different countries, while still protecting their cultural diversity (Prime Minister of Japan and his Cabinet).
Japan has been running a wide-range of initiatives and activities to fulfil its objectives. Since 2002, it has established various bodies and councils for promotion, it has revised many laws and made many reforms in order to provide more support and protection for local businesses, it also opened new film production and cooking courses at many universities, and in 2005 and 2006 Japanese Fashion Week was held in Tokyo (Akutsu, 2008).
Despite Japan has been widely criticized for being too insular and closed, in recent years Japan made huge investments and efforts in its branding and presenting its attractive qualities to the outside world. It is argued that from being an economic power in 1980s, Japan became a cultural superpower of the 21st Century (Dinnie, 2009).
It is evident that Japan´s reputation among foreign audience has been on the rise recently. According to the FutureBrand´s annual Country Brand Index 2014-2015, Japan became the best country brand, when it overtook Switzerland to earn the first place. Index says that respondents associate Japan mostly with advanced technology, health and education, art, culture, and good infrastructure. Respondents also said that the country is unique and that it is always improving and not standing still. The most associated brands with japan are Nintendo, Sony, Toshiba, Toyota, Panasonic, Honda and Hitachi (Country Brand Index, 2014-2015).
So, as we can see, Japan has been running its branding activities very successfully – from its early initiatives and establishments of different bodies, through the setting of its main objectives and promoting its various cultural aspects, to the reaching its goals and becoming the best country brand in 2014. The case of japan shows that nation branding is a powerful tool which can create a real difference and improve reputation of a country, if it is applied rationally and effectively.
Akutsu S., (2008), The Directions and the Key Elements of Branding Japan, in Nation Branding: Concepts, Issues, Practice, Dinnie K., (2008), Elsevier Butterworth-Heinemann, UK
Anholt S., (2007), Competitive Identity: The New Brand Management for Nations, Cities and Regions, Palgrave MacMillan, NY
Dinnie K., (2009), Japan´s Nation Branding: Recent Evolution and Potential Future Paths, Temple University, Japan
Country Brand Index, 2014-2015, FutureBrand
www.futurebrand.com, accessed May 2015
Prime Minister of Japan and His Cabinet, Establishing Japan as a ´Peaceful Nation of Cultural Exchange´, Urban Renaissance Headquarters http://japan.kantei.go.jp/policy/bunka/050711bunka_e.html, accessed May 2015