The winners of the categories for the best tourism brand and the best economic brand have already been announced, and the Country Brand Awards organisation are proud to now make the general results public. On a global level, New Zealand was the country with the best ‘Country Brand’, with a score of 8.09 out of 10. The international jury recognised the management of the Country Brand reputation in New Zealand. Thus, the country has strengthened its reputation and overall image, and is applauded for it by both the international media and key opinion leaders.
The final score also weighs up the perception of the management of the health crisis caused by COVID-19 (50%) during the first wave by the international media and opinion leaders, its capacity to create a tourism brand (25%), and an economic brand (25%). New Zealand is followed by Singapore (7.68) and South Korea (7.5) in second and third position respectively.
These global results coincide because of the awards’ division by continent, including Asia, the Middle East and Oceania. As far as Europe is concerned, Germany, with an average score of 7.41, was the winner. Once again, the jury praised the country’s rapid response. Portugal (6.78) and Finland (6.45) were awarded second and third place. In the Americas, Canada (7.06) was the clear winner, followed by Colombia (5.61) and Chile (5.6). In Africa, only Morocco, which occupies first position, has achieved the pass (5.7), whilst South Africa (4.96) and Egypt (4.84) complete the top 3.
The tail end of Europe
Out of the 13 European countries analysed, all those countries that failed to successfully manage the COVID-19 crisis fell far behind the rest of the European countries that were shortlisted. Spain, with an average rating of 4.79 was just ahead of the United Kingdom (4.4), Hungary (4.17) and Russia (4.08). All of these governments’ performance were harshly criticised in the international media, which highlighted the poor management of the situation and the shortcomings of a public health system that have been weakened in recent years.
Pandemic management, a new component in building Country Brand
Although the capacity of countries to generate economic and tourist brands are basic components in the construction of the Country Brand, the management of the pandemic has been established as a key new axis for the international image cultivated by states. Thus, key elements such as health safety and the capacity to respond to this new paradigm have come into play.
It is evident that the countries that publicly responded better to the pandemic, such as New Zealand, Germany and Canada, will be the first to recover from a global crisis: not only have they demonstrated a strong internal system, they have also been capable of generating confidence in the international sphere.
Thus, the expert jury was able to assess such management, in addition to their capacity for tourism promotion and their economic brand, through an independent study of brand perception and reputation in 40 pre-selected countries. The jury is chaired by Didier Lagae, author of the book Marca País, Un País como Marca (whose English and French editions have recently been published), as well as leading communication professionals and diplomats.
John Harrington, Editor-in-Chief of PRWeek, says: “COVID-19 is leading to a re-establishment of global consensus in many nations. Several powerful states have had their reputations shattered by the inability of populist governments to manage the crisis. The opposite is true in Asian countries, democratic or otherwise, which have managed the crisis much more effectively. The same could be said of social democratic states with a decent infrastructure and centre-left governments, such as New Zealand or Germany. Once the most immediate crisis is over, the reputation of those who mismanaged their brand is likely to be seriously damaged.”
Didier Lagae, recently named European PR and Global PR Professional of the Year, as well as CEO and Founder of MARCO, comments: “New Zealand has been put on the map. The country has provided a perfect example of superb crisis management to obtain an impeccable Country Brand Reputation and thus, has been awarded the first Country Brand Award winner. The political leadership led by Prime Minister, Jacinda Arden, was paramount and translated into a huge boost for New Zealand´s overall country brand reputation.
Contrastingly, other countries with a more traditional country brand reputation, such as the US or the UK, were severely damaged by their mismanagement of the pandemic crisis.
Clearly, COVID-19 did not only affect millions of people at the local level, but at the same time it also shook up the country brand rankings depending on how each national government managed the issue.
In this way, how Governments coped and reacted to the coronavirus crisis has been much more decisive in terms of country brand reputation than any of their tourist or business promotional campaigns in order to promote their countries.”