'Living the Brand': Nationality, Globality, and the Identity Strategies of Nation Branding Consultants

Melissa Aronczyk


“Nation branding” as a concept and practice has captured the political, cultural and economic resources of countries with established capitalist economies and emerging market economies alike. Drawing on in-depth interviews with nation branding consultants in London (UK), this essay examines the strategies employed in the creation and communication of a national brand identity. In its ability to assemble diverse motifs of heritage and modernization, domestic and foreign concerns, and economic and moral ideologies in the projection of national identity, nation branding appears to some as a “benign” way to communicate national interests, one that lacks the chauvinistic and antagonistic elements of more reactionary nationalisms. Yet the implications of the practice are far from benign.
The essay advances a twofold proposition. First, by enlisting the symbolic resources and resonance of nationalist discourse which perpetuate the nation-state as a necessary frame of identity, allegiance, and affiliation, nation branding maintains and extends the nation as a legitimate entity in the context of globalized modernity. Yet the practice alters the cultural context in which national identity is articulated and understood. By transposing authority from elected government officials to advertising and branding professionals, by replacing accountability with facilitation, and by fitting discussions of the nation into categories that privilege a particular kind of collective representation over diverse expression, nation branding affects the moral basis of national citizenship.

Full Text: