As global brands transcend borders by inspiring and engaging consumers through innovation and investors with the promise of higher turnover, sometimes rivalling that of some developing countries, it is no longer a question of how to compete with another nation. Now brands compete against nations for investment with higher ROI (return on investment) and top-of-mind for the consumers.
Comparing Apple's 215 billion GDP to a country's GDP, the International Monetary Fund's World Economic Outlook said that Apple would be equal to the country of Vietnam in terms of turnover.
Apple today is considered the world's most valuable brand, and has retained this position for seven straight years—worth USD 170 billion by Forbes' estimate, and 67 percent more than the second-ranked Google. Apple is heralded for its ability to produce massive profits through innovation, premium pricing and insatiable demand for its products around the globe.
What if Bangladesh could learn from Apple? What would be the benefits? What would be the challenges?
Apple is arguably one of the most transformative companies today. From the first Apple computer in 1976 to the 2016 iPhone 7, the company has been consistently moving forward. And it has founder and former CEO Steve Jobs, who died in 2011, to thank. The No 1 reason Apple has seen such extraordinary successes is its innovation and leadership.
Innovation is the process of translating an idea or invention into a good, or service, which creates value, or for which the consumers will pay. In the business world, often innovation occurs when ideas are applied by a company in order to further satisfy the needs and expectations of its customers. Leadership, on the other hand, sets the direction and elevates the leader and others to develop a business, service, or good. To succeed, leaders create an inspiring vision, motivating and inspiring internal teams to reach that vision which impacts external customers to purchase the goods.
The art of branding, marketing and sharing the vision through introduction of the brand, or product portfolio, is equally important for sale. Storytelling and branding around emotions deliver faster ROI than a cheap product can. Apple does not just sell a computer or phone. It sells design and innovation and the promise that you can change the world, and it can equip you for that with its products.
In the same way, a nation can also create innovation and leadership. The USA has branded and sold the American values like “Freedom” and “Innovation” globally, paving the road for its gigantic export worth USD 1.454 trillion in 2016. Germany exported goods and services worth 1.300 trillion euros in 2016 predominantly on the core value of “Technique and Quality,” embodied by innovations by BMW, Mercedes, and other national flagship automobile products. Think about France, and you will most likely think of innovation in wine, food and fashion. “Best global lifestyle products to indulge in” as its core value has earned France an export of 500 billion euros, and the essence of France—wine, food, fragrance and fashion—alone delivered 30 billion euros to the overall export and keeps branding its agriculture and luxury industry.
Once “Made in Taiwan” meant that the country made copies of other brands' products. Today, “Made in Taiwan” is the face of an export worth USD 300 billion, and has over the last decade meant that the nation is innovating around tech and machinery.
Taiwan has come a long way since its copying days, and is now driving innovation in technology. Conversely, the export of Bangladesh, with a much higher population, is merely USD 39 billion, and the apparel industry is the biggest contributor to its export. The values of Bangladesh are not as defined as that of some other countries. The branding of Bangladesh leaves a lot to be desired—it does not promote investment or pride in wearing products that are “Made in Bangladesh” as opposed to, for example, those “Made in France.”
Consequently, the added value of production in Bangladesh does not command a higher price point as no extra emotional benefits are associated with products made in Bangladesh. However, Bangladesh's export has come a long way since the 1970s. The question is whether a branding campaign with new positive core values can help GDP growth, take value creation in production in Bangladesh to the next level, and thereby attract investment and help the economy grow faster. Yes, this will indeed benefit the GDP, upgrade living conditions, help build relationships and ultimately create growth for entrepreneurial business that will take Bangladesh to the next growth curve.
A nation branding campaign aimed at western brands and consumers, rooted in the positive values Bangladesh would be known for globally, will deliver the promise for decades to come. Yes, innovation and leadership will have to be strategised, created and delivered. You need to deliver the promise. But the gains are not limited only to competing on price.
The practice of Nation Branding aims to measure, build and manage the reputation of countries. Nation Branding means the creation of the applications of corporate marketing concepts and techniques in the interest of enhancing the countries' reputation on the global stage, and thereby raising the awareness of the country amongst potential future business partners globally. This is also referred to as country-of-origin effect.
Many countries uplift their positioning since the branding and reputation of a nation can dramatically fuel its economic growth. Think of the “Wirtschaftswunder” (economic miracle) which catapulted Germany into one of the richest nations only 10 years after World War II, and boosted morale in the country as a result of which Germany is still in the league of the richest nations on earth.
Countries seek to attract investment capital, increase exports, and attract a talented and creative workforce via branding of a nation, thereby increasing capital intelligence which drives innovation. Business reputation is worth more than gold. With review and feedback sites on Internet spreading the news about your brand faster than ever before, the question is, how to value your reputation? A bad review could make your value decrease while a good review enables you to charge a premium price.
In order to create value assets that brand Bangladesh with pride and support the 2021 vision for Bangladesh, and to grow to be a middle-income nation, we really need to work on how we want to be viewed by other nations. This will require a smart, comprehensive branding policy involving the positive aspects of our nation. Here is an opportunity for Bangladesh to communicate positive branding values in a global competition against other countries and global corporations.
Mostafiz Uddin is the Managing Director of Denim Expert Limited, and Founder & CEO of Bangladesh Apparel Exchange (BAE).