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Where Is Best? : A critical deconstruction of nation brand rankings, and the creation of a less theoretically flawed index of European country brand strength

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Title: Where Is Best? : A critical deconstruction of nation brand rankings, and the creation of a less theoretically flawed index of European country brand strength
Author(s): Davies, Caelum John
Contributor: University of Helsinki, Faculty of Social Sciences
Degree program: Master's Programme in European and Nordic Studies
Specialisation: Social Sciences Study Track
Language: English
Acceptance year: 2020
Where is best? Much like the pay-for-access services, profiteering, and mystery that in-part defines the nation brand ranks that form the subject of this work; cross my palm with enough money and it might just be you when the results of this work’s index are revealed! Provocation aside; the concepts of nation branding and nation brands have quickly entered the spotlight of the world’s stage since Anholt first coined the term in 1996. Quickly, it has become big business. From Cool Britainia to ESTonia, nations have been quick in ‘corporatising’ their image to gain attraction and favour around the world. This work is not interested in the brands created by countries per say, rather it is interested in a country’s brand strength, that is how effective countries are in achieving the goals they set out to accomplish through their branding efforts. This work is not the first to be interested in such a thing, for within a decade of Anholt coining the term, he had developed a rank to measure and compare the strength of nation’s brands himself. Jump forward to 2020 and the world has multiple such organisations - often consultancy firms - seeking to do the same through the development of their own ranks. This work seeks to cast a critical eye over these ranks, developing an index of European country brand strength itself. Specifically, this work does three things. Firstly, it provides an understanding of ‘nation brand’ from a country level perspective, generating its findings based on literature (and lack of literature) from thirty-five countries. Secondly, it critically assesses the success and failures of nine prominent nation brand ranks, and in doing so draws from outside literature on University ranking and ranking in general. Thirdly, the crux of the work. Based on the findings gleaned from the previous aim’s outcomes, it develops an original index of country brand strength that is less analytically flawed than its comparators. Through the building its own index of country brand strength, a more holistic understanding of the challenges of indexing and ranking is developed, whist also evidencing that at least some of the shortcomings of its comparators can be overcome. This undertaking is done following OECD guidance, and inspired by the 2010 work of Marc Fetscherin. To compliment its aims, the work provides a detailed discussion on key interlinked and underlying concepts including soft power, geoeconomics, and globalisation. The index is not without fault, failing one test of soundness, but it does yield that Denmark, the Netherlands, Austria, Sweden, Ireland and Estonia share the strongest country brands within the EU. The ranks it casts a critical eye over are not without fault either, with the biggest problems reviled to be those of black boxing, subjectivity in surveying, and enablement of misinterpretation through presenting only rank positions of countries, and not index scores.
Keyword(s): Country Brand Country Branding Nation Brand Nation Branding Indexing Ranking Black Boxing Soft Power Public Diplomacy Geoeconomics

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