23 Jun 2024 05:23

Advertising & Marketing

Middle East PR chief urges stronger ‘nation brand’ to take Egypt forward on the world stage

A leading Middle East PR strategist says Egypt needs a comprehensive and clearly defined nation branding strategy to fulfil its true potential as an investment destination, regional economic and political powerhouse, and tourism hotspot.

Sunil John, the founder & CEO of ASDA’A Burson-Marsteller, part of the global Burson-Marsteller network and a WPP company, lauded the country’s existing destination brand, “Egypt, Where it All Begins” but said it was only one part of the overall nation brand.

Delivering his keynote presentation, ‘Nation Branding in Times of Adversity,’ John told delegates to the 2017 Narrative PR Summit, held at Four Seasons Hotel Cairo at Nile Plaza on October 17, that ‘Where It All Begins’ was a superb bit of branding. “It’s clever, sophisticated and, crucial for a destination brand, based on truth.”

“But there is much more to do if Egypt is to capitalise on its many strengths,” John said. “According to Brand Finance, Egypt’s brand value and ranking has actually slipped over the past year, from 55th to 57th, even as the economy and tourism recover.”

John said that Egypt has cultural, political and diplomatic heft that is not being fully realised, adding that the nation could raise its profile through hosting major events such as the Olympic Games or the FIFA World Cup. “There’s absolutely no reason that Egypt can’t host an Olympics or a World Cup, or a major Expo like Dubai is doing in 2020,” he said.

A successful brand would capitalise on Egypt’s ‘brand truths’, one of which is scale, said John. “This is the most populous Arab country. And it boasts the third biggest economy in MENA, and the second biggest in Africa. When it comes to branding this nation, Egypt has to think big – really big.”

John warned that Egypt’s story is currently being told by others, and that the country needed to take back control of its narrative. The best way to do this would be through a comprehensive nation branding exercise that goes far beyond tourism potential.

He cited work by the nation branding expert, Simon Anholt, which breaks down an effective brand into six pillars: investment, exports, governance, investment & immigration, culture & heritage, people, and tourism.  While tourism is being successfully tackled, John said, a unified strategy including the other pillars would reap dividends for the country.

“In 2008, Egypt enjoyed one of the highest GDP growth rates in the world, at 7 per cent,” John told delegates. “Immediately after the Arab Spring, however, in 2011, this plunged to 2 per cent, where it stayed for years. The past couple of years has seen something of a rebound, to 4.3 and 4.4 per cent in 2015 and 2016, and that corresponds with a return of confidence in Egypt’s economy, and, this year, a recovery in tourism figures.”

He added that other factors to underpin Egypt’s global brand would be its position at the heart of Arab culture, through literature, cinema, music and art; and, as home to Al Azhar, the country was in a leading position to dominate the global conversation on moderate Islam, he said.

John said that with 65 per cent of the population being under 35, it was essential that Egypt used its brand positioning to harness investment, internally and externally, that can unlock its youth dividend. He said investing in education and technology-based industries would prepare youth for, and provide, the jobs of the future.

He concluded: “The public and private sectors must come together to forge the Egypt brand, which has the potential to be one of the strongest in the world.”

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