Jack Yan reviews Simon Anholts Brand New Justice: the Upside of Global Branding1 and finds theres plenty of hope yet for the professionall smaller nations need to do is to out-brand and Simon Anholts book has more than enough ways
Jack Yan is founder and CEO of Jack Yan & Associates and president of JY&A Consulting.
BRANDING has taken its share of knocks over the last three years,
since the publication of Naomi Klein's No Logo.3 But a few of us have
retained faith in the profession as a tool that can aid humankind, rather than
create bigger gaps between rich and poor nations. We see globalization as a
means toward an ideal, united world, ending regional conflicts, rather than
a tool abused by corporations and the unacceptable faces of capitalism. We believe
in individual freedoms that branding can actually champion.
A pipe dream? There are some examples out there that indicate that it is possible to do great good, but Simon Anholt's Brand New Justice: the Upside of Global Branding is the most comprehensive work to date in uniting the theory and the practice. Already known for his expertise in nation brandingAnholt advises numerous governmental bodieshe shares his ideas on fast-tracking capitalist development for third-world countries using branding principles. Happily, his ideas are founded in reality and his research, as far as this reviewer can tell, is second to none.
Equally impressive is Anholt's knowledge of third world countries' existing brands and how they have impacted on western society, leaving the question: if they can do it, why can't others? Why can't the balance be redressed, such as the case of Ethiopia's Cybersoft, a software company that has contracts in the US and Sweden, or the Tata Group of India?
Anholt opens with a clear explanation on how branding adds value and distributes wealth, stripped of the economic rhetoric that divorces reality and understanding. The way the economy works is much simpler than economists often suggest in their quest for self-importance and Brand New Justice sees past this. Anholt writes with a welcome clarity, just as one should expect in branding (and often does not find with some of its pseudo-academics).
Some of the explanations have been found in other texts, such as the basic idea of developed countries adding intellectual inputs, leaving lesser developed ones in the position of supplier nations, but they have been articulated in such a clear fashion that they are worth the revisit. In addition, it makes Brand New Justice that much more complete and those seeking an introduction to branding and its effects will not need to read outside as much.
What is unique here are the cases that Anholt describes: Wal-mart, for example, has the potential to bankrupt the Ugandan coffee industry through vertical integration. This startling example, plus his explanation of the "brand leap", where companies can become more powerful through establishing branding practices, sets the tone for his humanitarian aim. Using the mechanisms of capitalism, Brand New Justice seeks global social justice without impinging on individual freedoms.
He is realistic enough to examine the issue of finance, taking the example of Indian perfume brand Urvâshi, but understands that there are limitations here. Central government has a role to play in encouraging such support, but this is not explored in much greater depth. This is not the author's fault: the book is clearly not directed at government first and business-people and those seeking social change second. Rather, Anholt leaves the question open and allows readers to draw their own inspirations and solutions on that one front.
Having said that, Brand New Justice is hardly a general gloss. Included in the same chapter are 11 ways new brands may outsmart established, richer competitors. A later chapter is one of the most detailed on nation branding ever written short of a dedicated book on the topic, exploring culture, control, changing existing images, the support for country-of-origin effect, and the benefits of a strong nation brand.
More novel ideas abound: the marketing volunteer service organization, which, through providing advice and creating brands for third-world nations, can generate brand equity for themselves. This is not unlike the reviewer's own idea of having Nike fund schooling for its employees' children (and can even pay for it through a small premium), reversing any negative equity from the past, and the "moral globalist" ideas floated earlier. Anholt's approach is similarly sensible and comes at the right time, while traditional corporate behaviour is being questioned.
Meanwhile, the Shared Equity model explains how commodity farmers and producers can own equity in the brands that market their commodities, contrasted to the Fair Trade model. In this single exercise, referencing Shared Equity creator Paul Weatherly, Anholt demonstrates how the free market works better than Free Trade, which is effectively a taxation programme that can shield small farmers from market forces.
Anholt believes there to be opportunities as a result. Brand America is being questioned and in some cases it can be detrimental to a brand. Consumers seek exotic goods. Ethics, meanwhile, are a strong entry point for any competitor. Importantly, corporate social responsibility gets an airing in Brand New Justice's final chapter, along with the issue of sustainability. As with his finance point, it is not heavily laboured, but again the topic is explained elsewhere in greater depth. There are areas which Anholt has wisely not touched upon more deeply because they would literally take additional books to coverand pursuing these lines of inquiry would weaken the overall message of his title.
For those who understand branding and believe it to be a useful tool for justice, Brand New Justice is the best summary of its powerful techniques to this end written to date. For those cynical after reading No Logo and similar titles, believing that marketing is about 'adding worthless gloss to worthless products', Brand New Justice provokes thought. Anholt believes his work to be realpolitik, but there are still ideals behind it, with which almost all right-thinking people would agree. It is this combinationidealism mixed with reality, all delivered with lucid, intelligible Englishthat makes it one of the most powerful branding books written.