Wally Olins talk on Nation Branding

my Wally Olins drawing from the day

How could I not draw this face?

The “Creative Industries Styria” society had its annual convention on Thursday night. Wally Olins, a well-known brand manager, was invited to talk about Nation Branding, a topic that is of national interest to Austria at the moment.

Mr Olins delivered an interesting message on how nations are these immaterial, but very strong concepts that people set up to belong to something (defined by language, geography, culture, etc), how throughout the last century more and new nations have appeared on the world stage and how they compete with each other for everything from resources to culture as a result of globalisation.

He talked about the Western Legacy nations that have a rich history and firmly established ideas about them that they can draw on. One striking examples of this was his comparison of the price of a dishwasher (or washing machine, can’t remember) from a German brand and of a Turkish product. Almost the same thing, maybe even made to a great extent by the same people, but the German product was about 4 times more expensive. Another example he gave was perfume from France versus perfume from Poland, with a similar price difference.
Mr Olins abstained from drawing any conclusions and making prophecies about the future. A few things he said were: The need for cities and countries to advertise themselves is growing. People all over the world look for authenticity (example: local, organic foods). Big companies from India, China and Brazil now produce goods in their own style, drawing on their own heritage, and successfully sell them Europe. Copying historically successful Western products is definitely a thing of the past.

E. Schrempf, current head of CIS

E. Schrempf, current head of CIS

These are just a few of the points from his talk that stuck in my mind. After the talk a busy discussion ensued where Mr Olins wisely refrained from making a suggestions on how to put the city of Graz on the world map. I think he said something like “I would have to charge you for that and my rates are not cheap.” 🙂

I wish I had a picture of his last Powerpoint slide were he showed a gas pump with fictitious labels such as “Alaskan Sweet” and “Nigerian Blend”.

All in all a talk well worth the attention of the 500 or so “Creatives” and students who had come together for this evening.