The Sri Lankan government needs to explore country branding through the utilization of relationships with local private enterprises, in order to boost exports and attract more investment to the country, according to Senior Advisor to the BursonMarsteller Global Strategy Team, Martin Roll.
“There’s a lot of interest in Sri Lanka at the moment but people are still forming their opinions about the country, so it’s a very opportune time to consider country branding very seriously.”
“For the moment, Sri Lanka has a cost advantage over its competitors but as the country develops, that advantage will reduce and those looking to make profits by using these margins and trading on volumes will see their profits decrease and that is why it is crucial that Sri Lanka enhances the value of its offerings; country branding using Sri Lanka’s leading industries to fly the flag and lead the way is one of the best ways to do this,” Roll stated.
Roll, who strongly advocates branding as a means to increase competitiveness in his book, ‘Asian Brand Strategy’, stated that a successful country branding initiative is capable of generating an increased ability to export, as well as attracting tourists and FDI all, whilst allowing for sustainably higher prices to consumers.
He added that in carrying out such initiatives, Sri Lanka could take lessons from the experiences of Japan, Korea with brands like Sony and Samsung. Singapore is another example of a very solid and successful country brand which Sri Lanka can learn from. Roll mentioned that Singapore Airlines is the strongest airline brand in the world, which has contributed to 20 percent of the overall brand equity of Singapore.
“More companies are starting to realize than branding is a strategic issue which can drive competitive advantage and shareholder value. The Japanese spent some 30 years to create strong brands like SONY and TOYOTA, the Koreans started during the 1990s and created brands like Samsung, LG and Hyundai and now other countries like fast-growing China are following suit.”
He noted that in promoting industries through country branding, a high level of stakeholder involvement will be required in order to expand the initiative beyond traditional industries to include more dynamic and innovative ones.
Roll, who was in the country to bid for an estimated US$ 9 million with the Sri Lanka Tea Board for the promotion of Ceylon Tea on behalf of Burson-Marsteller, stated that the tea industry, along with Sri Lanka’s hospitality and textile industry all presented strong platforms to base a country branding initiative on.