Four Nation Brands to Watch

February 27, 2015

In product marketing, brand power is everything. Marketing a nation is the same. People have a powerful image of a place that can be influenced by many factors – sporting success, cultural icons, natural beauty, quality of its exports and many more. A well communicated, positive nation brand means more visitors and investors.

Over the last decade, more than a quarter of sub-Saharan African governments have launched nation branding campaigns to promote their countries. We look at four of the most successful examples in 2015.

Over the last decade, more than a quarter of sub-Saharan African governments have launched nation branding campaigns to promote their countries.


Nigeria’s brand has taken a beating, but the enormous social diversity, cultural output and economic potential of this country overshadow its perennial reputation for corruption and crime. The size of its population (the largest by far in Africa) means that even without an effective strategy for marketing its strengths, Nigeria is a natural leader. The economy was rebased last year, making it Africa’s largest by GDP. The entertainment industry is Nigeria’s second biggest employer (after agriculture), and the country’s music and movies are exported everywhere. Its consumer brands and banks are growing their reach across the continent. The national football team boosted Nigerian pride by winning the Africa Cup of Nations in 2013.

In 2014 Nigeria was named Africa’s most admired nation brand by African Business magazine in partnership with Brand Africa, Brand Finance and TNS. This year, the country will hold elections and must combat a growing Boko Haram insurgency in the north. Africa’s giant has a brand that is getting stronger, but it’s likely to take a few more knocks in 2015.


A nation once branded as a basket case, Ethiopia has asserted itself as a country with an ancient and rich heritage, and as a political center and transport hub for Africa. Ethiopian Airlines is Africa’s largest airline by passengers and cargo, carrying 6 million people through its Addis Ababa hub in 2014 and flying the nation’s flag at 83 destinations globally. While it has few high profile consumer brands, Ethiopia is well known for its coffee exports. The African Union was established in Addis Ababa and has its headquarters there, and the Ethiopian market has shown remarkably strong GDP growth of 10.6 percent per annum on average for a decade.

In 2012, Ethiopia made its debut on the top 10 most valuable African nation brands list, compiled by Brand Africa and Brand Finance. Ethiopia’s branding strategy is weak, with a lack of cross-sector collaboration and commitment to branding goals, but it is increasing in strength and visibility. In 2014, it was ranked among the top 10 best performing nation brands worldwide by Brand Finance.


Botswana ticks a lot of the right boxes for its nation branding strategy, reflecting long-term thinking and government commitment in promoting the country. This approach works across economic sectors and is based on common values. Economic stability, democratic governance, access to southern African markets, peaceful society and natural beauty create a foundation for the successful branding of Botswana. In 2012, Botswana Export Development and Investment Authority and Debswana diamond mining company launched a co-branded campaign with the tagline “Our diamonds, our pride,” which publicizes the contribution of the diamond mining sector to Botswana’s development. The authority plans to roll out similar partnerships where different companies and sectors are integrated with the Brand Botswana initiative. In September 2014, the Department of Immigration and Citizenship began using a new immigration stamp that integrates tourism and travel with the nation branding strategy.

The Brand Botswana Blueprint provides a toolkit for organizations to align themselves with the nation brand, and describes how the Pride Mark logo and colors and “Our pride, your destination” slogan can be used to identify projects and initiatives that promote Brand Botswana. In the 2014 Brand Finance global nation brands ranking, Botswana was among the top 10 movers for goods and services branding.


After hosting the FIFA World Cup in 2010, South Africa appeared to reach a peak in its brand popularity. In 2012 the custodian of the national brand, Brand South Africa, secured the approval of the cabinet to change South Africa’s slogan from “Alive with Possibility” to “Inspiring New Ways.” As a member of the G20 and BRICS groups, South Africa wanted to promote return on investment, reliability and business confidence rather than the growth potential for the country. Through a well-planned, consistent and multi-platform branding strategy, including Brand South Africa’s international lobbying efforts and citizen engagement campaigns, South Africa has communicated a positive image to the world in its post-apartheid era. Its strength has been reinforced by the success of the country’s commercial brands, such as MTN and Shoprite, which are ubiquitous in Africa.

South Africa has been slipping in the rankings. Brand Finance named it one of the worst performing nation brands globally in 2014; like Brazil, it lost 5 percent of its brand value from 2013 to 2014 in the survey. Inequality and increasing corruption serve to diminish enthusiasm in the nation brand. Even so, South Africa’s overall brand value, the coherence of its brand strategy and the power of its commercial brands put it far ahead of the competition.