Poland's exports are expected to see an annual increase of 12% in 2011. Given the continued uncertainty in many economies globally, not to mention the fact that for years Poland was associated with providing the rest of the world with two products – vodka and kielbasa – this figure is something worth celebrating.

The Polish export market will see a further boost soon with the launch of the Polish Economy Brand concept, endorsed by the Polish Ministry of Economy.

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Polish and proud

“There are thousands of Polish products around the world, but not many people are aware that they come from Poland. That is why we want to create a strong image of Polish brands abroad and [in doing so] increase the investment attractiveness of our country,” says Agnieszka Bula-Kopanska, director at the support instruments department of the Polish Ministry of Economy.

The ministry – concerned about perceptions of Poland abroad – ordered a detailed research project looking the global image of both the country and its products, and followed this with the creation of the Polish Economy Brand.

“We based our research on meetings with 900 entrepreneurs and 9000 phone interviews in nine countries. This enabled us to understand what the image of Poland is and what the most important aspects are in communicating Polish assets,” says Michal Zielinski, managing director at consultancy Ageron Polska, which, along with branding firm Bloom Consulting, is coordinating the Polish Economy Brand.

“Research has shown that the most important asset of the Polish economy is the Poles themselves," says Mr Zielinski. "Our talents, professionalism and eagerness to co-operate are applauded by those who [have done business with Polish people].” Based on that notion, the 'Polska Power!' slogan was created along with a logo depicting a network of connections between people.

The next stage

Picking a catchphrase and logo is just the beginning, and the Ministry of Economy is broadening the scope of activities connected with the Polish Economy Brand concept. “We have selected 15 fields [of specialisation] important for the Polish export trade and for each one we are creating individual plans. In a few years, we would like to see that at least a few of them are perceived as Polish flagship sectors,“ says Ms Bula-Kopanska. She adds that selected fields vary from the traditional, such as amber mining and jewellery making, to the more high-tech, such as bio-tech and IT.

To further promote the idea of 'Polska Power!', the Ministry of Economy invited Polish companies that have already achieved recognition internationally to participate in creating a positive image of Polish products abroad. One of them is Solaris Bus & Coach, a company that was the first manufacturer in Europe to introduce buses with a hybrid engine, and was one of the first companies in the world to introduce electric-powered buses.

“We started our export activity in 2000. Back then Polish industry was seen as backwards and ill-managed. Now the image is completely different, but programmes such as the Polish Economy Brand will give an additional boost to improving our image abroad,” says Solange Olszewska, chairman of the board at Solaris Bus & Coach. She adds that there are a lot of products and companies that now proudly label themselves as 'Made in Poland'.

So while Poland may still mean little more than vodka, dumplings and herring to some, there are myriad companies poised to prove that the country's talents go beyond these old-fashioned stereotypes and into more modern, cutting-edge technologies.