In the intricate world of country and place branding, measuring success is a complex task riddled with unique challenges. Place brands are multifaceted, encompassing various aspects like culture, history, geography, economy, and more, which makes it difficult to capture all the dimensions in a single measurement or metric. Unlike product or corporate branding, there are no universally accepted metrics or benchmarks for measuring place brands. This lack of standardisation makes it difficult to compare the success of different place branding initiatives.
Traditional methodologies, such as surveys, while valuable, often fall short in capturing the fluid, complex narratives that continually define a country’s reputation. Herein lies the strength of media analytics. By harnessing advanced technologies, infused with AI and refined with multi-lingual human discernment, media analytics transcends the static nature of surveys, delving into the dynamic, evolving discourse that shapes a country’s image. This dual approach not only reveals current perceptions but also guides stakeholders in both measuring and strategically managing destination brands.
Drawing on Commetric’s vast expertise in measuring prominent country brands, we advocate the integration of three key strategies into every nation’s brand measurement programme:
1. Analyse the reputation pillars in your key markets
Identifying reputation or image pillars in media discourse is crucial for any country or destination brand because these pillars form the backbone of the location’s perceived identity among its target audience. Media analytics can help identify those pillars by analysing the key themes and narratives that emerge from media coverage and social media conversations about the country.
Let’s take the example of Croatia – a small country often cited as one of the biggest success stories in tourism as it recently managed to position itself as an attractive alternative to traditional summer destinations like Italy and Greece. For Croatia, a qualitative analysis of 1,900 German-language articles, published since the beginning of the year, reveals that Croatia is often associated with its stunning natural landscapes and rich cultural heritage.
These pillars are used to position the country as a destination that offers a unique blend of relaxation and exploration in line with its brand essence “Croatia, full of life.” This competitive identity differentiates Croatia from destinations that primarily offer either relaxation (like beach resorts) or exploration (like bustling cities and/or historical sites).
Beyond pinpointing reputation pillars, media analytics serves as a strategic compass by unveiling gaps and opportunities within a country’s brand image. For instance, in Croatia’s case, the lesser share of voice for pillars like ‘Adventure and Sports’ and ‘Nightlife and Entertainment’ suggests potential areas ripe for development or enhanced marketing. This disparity may signal untapped opportunities in Croatia’s offerings or perhaps a misalignment between visitor expectations and on-ground realities.
By identifying these areas, media analytics empowers brand strategists to delve deeper into these underrepresented experiences, possibly curating new initiatives or campaigns to bolster awareness and appeal. Essentially, it’s about bridging the gap between perception and reality, ensuring that every facet of Croatia aligns with the promise of being “full of life.” This insight is invaluable for tactically addressing discrepancies, optimising promotional efforts, and ultimately, fortifying the overall brand resonance on the global stage.
2. Identify and manage potential issues
Analysing negative press is critical in maintaining the integrity and appeal of a country or destination brand. Granular insights from media analytics can help anticipate potential issues, enabling a proactive approach—referred to as “issues management.” This involves identifying potential problems before they escalate, understanding their nature, and developing strategies to manage them effectively.
For Croatia, a deep dive into German media coverage reveals some pressing concerns: rising prices, overcrowding, impacts on nature/conservation, pollution, and infrastructure stress. These figures aren’t just numbers; they represent potential flashpoints that could tarnish Croatia’s image as a pristine, accessible, and relaxing destination.
For example, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, one of Germany’s most widely read outlets, ran a headline saying “Five euros for an ice cream ball in Croatia,” noting that the country is becoming a “luxury destination” in terms of prices since the introduction of the euro and the rise in inflation. And Kroati.de, one of Germany’s most popular travel websites, initiated a poll posing the question “Has Croatia become expensive?”, with 81% of German tourists answering “Yes”.
Furthermore, our media analysis indicated that smaller Croatian cities rich in cultural heritage tend to be somewhat overlooked in German Media:
Armed with such insights, Croatia can draw on Dubai’s branding approach by diversifying its offerings and prioritising sustainability. By expanding attractions beyond the popular tourist destinations, incorporating elements like cultural heritage and adventure sports, Croatia can distribute tourism benefits more evenly, alleviating overcrowding. Similarly, following Dubai’s strides towards sustainability, Croatia can intensify its efforts in sustainable tourism, safeguarding its natural landscapes while offering a responsible travel experience, thereby addressing both environmental concerns and the pressure on tourist hotspots.
3. Build differential advantage by studying competitor country brands
Advanced media analytics helps with another crucial PR and communications challenge: understanding not only how a particular country brand is being portrayed but also identifying the strengths and weaknesses of its competitors. For instance, a deep dive into competitors’ media ownership on specific topics can unveil media white spaces, which can be strategically utilised for building a competitive advantage.
In our case study of Croatia, we found that the country is in perpetual competition with Italy in German media:
Croatia can distinguish itself from rivals like Italy by capitalising on its unspoiled natural beauty, rich yet lesser-known cultural heritage, diverse adventure opportunities, unique culinary delights, vibrant festivals, and commitment to sustainability, presenting itself as not just an alternative, but a premier, distinctive destination.