Brands are everywhere – they are visual and physical as well as mental and reflexive. They play a role in FDI just as much as they do in consumer industries. Quantifying the exact impact on investment decisions is difficult but comparing the results of a study on national brands with fDi’s data on inward investment shows a great deal of crossover. In general, those countries with valuable or strong national brands are also the most successful at attracting FDI. 

But what makes for a positive country brand? It’s a subjective question, but in my view the best brands create a strong, permanent and positive association in people’s minds. As this relates to nation branding and how to leverage that to attract FDI, the best country brands are those that convey dynamism, energy, industriousness and respectability while also showing personality and a human touch. 

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One challenge that those charged with crafting marketing campaigns to promote their countries face is how to balance the interests of different audience groups, from students to tourists to investors. Many investment agencies are grappling with whether to join forces with tourism bodies to sell a united message, or to market tourism and investment offerings separately. Appealing to both a 20-year-old backpacker and a 60-year-old CEO at the same time certainly requires creativity. And increasingly, there is a desire to attract start-up companies as well as the traditional multinational enterprises. Entrepreneurs have yet again a different way of looking at things and therefore require messaging that appeals to them. 

I believe the answer lies in focusing on energy and dynamism – these are place-qualities that are attractive to most people. A broad, simple campaign that highlights why a certain location is a magnetic and exciting place is therefore the best approach. An over-arching slogan or campaign could be used across the board, as an umbrella brand, with more targeted and detailed campaigns appealing to the different audiences. 

For the sub-campaigns targeting investors – as opposed to tourists – it is worth bearing in mind that investors tend to be market-seeking and in particular they chase growth. Not enough countries promote their growth fundamentals or crow about impressive growth statistics in a lively, interesting way. The search for talent is also universal and so talking about people is also a winner; some countries do this but not enough. 

Every location has its own story, and its own image, and being all things to everyone is impossible, but if a country’s name manages to conjure thoughts of trustworthy yet energetic people doing interesting things in a fast-growing place, that’s surely a brand you can take to the bank.

Courtney Fingar is the editor-in-chief of fDi Magazine. Email: courtney.fingar@ft.com