GEB 4361 UWF International & Cross Cultural Business Article Review Read the article and write a summary about it. It should be look like the example in th

GEB 4361 UWF International & Cross Cultural Business Article Review Read the article and write a summary about it. It should be look like the example in the attachment Original Article
Transforming and contesting
nation branding strategies:
Denmark at the Expo 2010
Received (in revised form): 30th November 2012
Carina Ren
is an Assistant Professor at the Department of Culture & Global Studies, Aalborg University. Her research interests are in place
branding, tourism encounters and the materiality of tourism. She has recently Co-Edited the book Actor-network theory and
Tourism. Ordering, Materiality and Multiplicity with R. van der Duim and G. Jóhannesson (2012), and has published her work
primarily in tourism and cultural studies journals.
Szilvia Gyimóthy
is an Associate Professor at the Department of Culture & Global Studies, Aalborg University. Her research focuses on
communication patterns and practices of tourism consumption, including brand mythologies, dramaturgical frameworks
and narrative reterritorialisation. In particular, she studies the commodification of servicescapes in a range of destination,
hospitality and retail contexts.
ABSTRACT The article presents and discusses the contemporary transformation
in nation branding practices, noting the shift from streamlined uniqueness narratives
to pluralist and performative events of endorsement. This shift highlights the need
for developing a culturally sensitive relation to the audience. Using the case of
Welfairytales, The Danish pavilion at the Shanghai World Expo 2010, we argue that
cultural sensitivity and a higher level of reflection are needed when nation branding
events seek to include the audience. The dilemma of including the audience versus
managing coherence is presented and the implications of performative branding
practices are elaborated upon.
Place Branding and Public Diplomacy (2013) 9, 17–29. doi:10.1057/pb.2012.25
Keywords: performative nation branding; Denmark; uniqueness; events of
endorsement; World Expo 2010
Carina Ren
Tourism Research Unit,
Department of Culture and
Global Studies, Aalborg
University, A.C. Meyers Vænge 15
2450 Kbh. SV, Denmark.
Recognising the political and economic
significance of distinguishing one place
from another on the global market place,
countries and regions are increasingly
engaged in crafting stories of differentiation
about themselves (Olins, 2002; Hankinson,
2007). Today, a number of different
institutions are undertaking the role of
cultural or commercial ambassadors for
the nation brand, sometimes completely
independently of each other; resulting in
a number of parallel and, to some extent,
incompatible narratives, told by trade
councils, governments and tourist
organisations simultaneously. This
polyphonic divergence was for long
considered to be the Achilles heel of
nation branding, making places much
less manageable than ‘ordinary’ brands
(Blichfeldt, 2005); and the difficulties of
coordinating branding efforts across various
© 2013 Macmillan Publishers Ltd. 1751-8040 Place Branding and Public Diplomacy Vol. 9, 1, 17–29
Ren and Gyimóthy
sectors have been demonstrated earlier (see for
instance Therkelsen and Halkier, 2008).
However, there is no proof that pluralistic
narratives or the absence of a central nation
branding organisation will necessarily – as
previously assumed – create unfavourable
rankings in image analyses. As a country’s
reputation is mainly shaped by impressions
beyond the control of brand managers, the
contemporary challenge is to find new ways
to influence news coverage, popular culture
or individual stories flourishing in the social
media (Hervik, 2006). The recognition of such
mechanisms has led to new practices in which
nation branding is performed, marked by the
gradual abandonment of surgical advertisement
campaigns promoting narcissistic and streamlined
country images. Today, nation branding is
more focused on engaging in long-lasting and
dynamic dialogues with a range of stakeholders,
also beyond domestic actors or near-market
investors. These contemporary changes call for
the development of new skills, such as increased
cross-cultural competences in order to translate
appealing messages for a wider global audience.
In this article, we identify the need for a more
developed sense of cultural sensitivity as a critical
challenge in nation branding practices. On the
basis of a case study of Denmark’s Welfairytales
pavilion at the Shanghai World Expo in 2010,
we discuss the practices and consequences
of nation branding against the backcloth of
globalisation. The case exemplifies how branding
the nation in alien cultural settings increases the
cultural challenges for the stakeholders involved
in the process. We argue that a higher level of
cultural sensitivity (entailing reflections on the
content and audience of brand communications)
is an acute necessity for the conceptualisation
and staging of so-called inclusive branding events.
By exploring this pressing matter in current
branding, the article aims at inspiring nation
brand architects to continue the development of
dynamic branding events such as the Welfairytales
exhibition in Shanghai, but also to acknowledge
its cultural pitfalls. Also, we hope to spur further
conceptual and empirical research into the
performative approach to branding.
In the theoretical departures, the article recalls
how nation branding was first conceived as an
ideological and strategic instrument to position,
differentiate and ultimately strengthen a given
nation. We argue how early conceptual as well
as practical endeavours to create unique, fix and
coherent brands have been (at least partially)
replaced with concerns of how to describe and
work with ‘unmanageable’ and less coherent
place and nation brands. In a Danish context,
we describe the branding attempts carried out
in the last two decades, showing how a ‘Little
Mermaid brand’ has gradually been replaced
with a dynamic, but also more complex nation
brand. We probe the new understanding of
dynamic place brands further by introducing
nation branding as a performative practice and
describing the critical issue of cross-cultural
nation branding in a Danish context. The
cultural challenges of Danish nation branding
are explained through the ‘Mohammed’ and
‘Karen’ incidents and the consequences are
further illustrated by the detailed analysis of the
Welfairytales exhibition in Shanghai in 2010.
The emerging dilemma of including the
audience versus managing (claimed) coherence
is presented. Finally, the implications of a more
inclusive, performative and culturally sensitive
brand approach are elaborated upon.
According to Simon Anholt, coining the term
place branding back in 1996 (Anholt, 2007,
p. xi), the aim of this practice is to simplify
the legibility of a geographical area by creating
a holistic narrative with streamlined territorial
symbols and ideas. In the place branding process,
a narrative about the nation is constructed by
selecting a few locally embedded elements that,
on the basis of a number of parameters such
as credibility and uniqueness, are considered to
have a strong market value (for a critical reading
of place branding narratives, see Hansen, 2010).
The conscious construction of the image of a
place can be used as symbolic ammunition in the
strategic communication practice termed nation
© 2013 Macmillan Publishers Ltd. 1751-8040 Place Branding and Public Diplomacy Vol. 9, 1, 17–29
Transforming and contesting nation branding strategies: Denmark at the Expo 2010
branding. As nation branding strategically
deploy cultural values in their pursuit to attract
financial resources, national identity becomes
a commodification tool fixated in the brand
architecture of the campaigns (Aronczyk, 2009;
Ooi, 2011).
Nation branding emerged as an explicit
political discourse and agenda about 20 years
ago, when several European governments began
to use terminologies and practices from ‘brand
management’ to actively impact and enhance
their international reputation. The need to
appear as an attractive tourist destination or an
international trade partner emerged in the wake
of major political and financial changes in the
1990s (van Ham, 2001). Certain destinations
attempted to confirm or enhance their
leading positions in an increasingly globalised
competition (for example Great Britain’s Cool
Britannia campaign), while others enunciated
the birth of ‘a brand new city’ or a new
‘super-region’ (Pedersen, 2004; Hashim, 2012).
Nation branding has also been used by postconflict countries like Kosovo to eliminate
the negative effects of mediated political unrest
in international coverage. As the majority of
these campaigns were conceived by advertising
agencies, the nation brand was packaged
in narratives of uniqueness and distinction,
strongly inspired by product branding practices.
The product branding analogy comprises
several challenges when it comes to the
implementation of nation brand ideologies.
Contrasted with inanimate goods, the medium
of a nation brand is the citizen, who is seen
as a resource to be mobilised as an ambassador
or a front-line soldier in the branding process
(Schultz and Nielsen, 2007). Let alone the
problematic moral aspects of such bio-political
approaches, the practical coordination of a vast
number of private and public actors involved in
internally focused nation branding is practically
unmanageable (Anholt, 2004).
A performative approach to
nation branding
The majority of critical analyses of internal
(or inside-out) nation branding focuses on the
ideological issues and consequences of
streamlining the story of ‘the marvels of
a nation’ (for example Østergaard, 2010). As
such, little attention is paid to new, emerging
approaches to branding, which pursue a more
relational and performative (outside-in) strategy.
Such approaches do not seek to fixate and
bombastically communicate ‘one clear image’,
but rather see the construction of place brand
stories and images as an ongoing activity, which
engage a broad range of stakeholders and is
able to take in and address complexity and
incoherence (Ren and Blichfeldt, 2010). Despite
the proliferation of conceptual considerations
pertaining to the tenets of nation branding,
few studies address in detail how nation brands
are actually performed into being. The idea
of performances as ontologically constitutive
through branding practices can be retrieved in
the idea of ‘living the brand’ (Aronczyk, 2008)
by performing ‘attitudes and behaviors that are
compatible with the brand strategy’ (p. 54).
Also the concept of performing organisations
through text (Ashcraft et al, 2009) and the idea
of co-performing brands (for an example on
Starbucks see Manning, 2008) draw on the
idea of ongoing, relational and co-constitutive
brand performances.
Driven by these insights, this article
conceptualises the nation brand as a collective
performance, emerging through the
configuration of situated practices, discourses
and material artefacts. This process will be
illustrated along a cultural analysis of the Danish
pavilion Welfairytales at the World Expo 2010
in Shanghai. Welfairytales can be seen as a
performative event of endorsement, which
invites its audience not only to watch but to
take part in performing the nation brand. Our
analysis will reveal that this process is far from
smooth, but contested from many fronts. The
difficulty of culturally translating specific – and
often normative – nation brand performances
points at a need for a higher degree of cultural
sensitivity, currently absent in branding practice.
Before proceeding to the case presentation and
in order to highlight the role and importance
of cultural reflexivity in nation branding, we
© 2013 Macmillan Publishers Ltd. 1751-8040 Place Branding and Public Diplomacy Vol. 9, 1, 17–29
Ren and Gyimóthy
will review dramatic highlights in the Danish
nation branding context.
Until 2007, nation branding activities in
Denmark had not been coordinated to a great
extent (Gyimóthy and Ren, 2011). Previously,
a number of ‘brand ambassadors’ took care of
the interests of specific sectors, such as tourism
(VisitDenmark), trade (the Trade Council),
international investments (Invest In Denmark)
and cultural life (the Danish Cultural Institute).
The diverse activities and interests of these actors
were displayed in their narrative choices,
characterised by diverging understandings of ‘the
national’. Campaign objectives and target groups
(appealing to tourists or global investors) led to
essentially disparate depictions, framing it either as
a technologically advanced quality manufacturer
or as a place destination imbued with rich
historical heritage and cultural traditions.
At the end of the 1990s, the tourism industry
expressed a growing need to modernise the
Danish destination brand by downplaying the
country’s traditional Hans Christian Anderseninspired fairy tale images and replacing these
with an image of a more modern society.
Through dialogue with the tourist industry, six
branding values were identified and selected
to describe and position Denmark on the
global scene: Conviviality (hygge), Informality,
Design, Talent, Oasis and Freedom. This
value configuration was claimed to endow
Denmark with a unique brand essence, evoking
associations to ‘a haven with room for happiness,
inspiration and reflection’ (VisitDenmark, 2011).
In order to align the brand ambassadors and
implement the new touristic nation brand,
VisitDenmark launched the project Our Journey in
2008. The purpose was to position the tourism
brand identity internally before new embarking
on new, external marketing initiatives and thus to
make an effort to create a common, shared value
platform. By involving more than 600 Danish
tourism actors in workshops and other collective
activities, VisitDenmark’s new brand promise was
created. The (VisitDenmark, 2012) became the
key element in subsequent branding campaigns,
promoting Denmark as a free, informal,
welcoming and open-minded country.
In 2005, a dramatic incident, namely the
Mohammed cartoons controversy, abruptly
exposed and challenged Denmark’s fairy-tale
like disconnectedness from global socio-cultural,
political issues (Hervik, 2006). Owing to
overwhelming protests and negative responses
to the portrayal of the prophet Mohammed in
Danish newspapers especially in the Middle East
(an important Danish export market), nation
branding became suddenly prominent in the
Danish political agenda. In order to mitigate
and control the damage of the national image,
the government initiated an Action Plan for the
Global Marketing of Denmark (GMD), which
was adopted as a broad settlement between
political parties. With the aim of focusing
resolutely on spreading knowledge about
Denmark worldwide, and promote and
consolidate a positive national image, the action
plan contained a number of initiatives within
education, culture, tourism, export and
investments, the purpose of which is to
communicate Danish positions of strength and
values with a clear business policy goal in view.
As is stated in the background description:
Even today, Denmark is one of the countries
in the world which is best prepared for
encountering the challenges of globalisation.
The concrete gains will not be fully harvested,
however, until both we and the relevant target
groups abroad realise what the Danes can do,
and until we become aware of the strengths of
other countries. International surveys of the
knowledge of a number of countries, including
Denmark, show that Denmark’s image is in the
medium range, and that the surrounding world
does not have a very clear picture of Denmark’s
strengths and competences. (GMD, 2010:
Baggrund [Background])
The Ministry of Economic and Business Affairs
was appointed the overall coordinator for the
© 2013 Macmillan Publishers Ltd. 1751-8040 Place Branding and Public Diplomacy Vol. 9, 1, 17–29
Transforming and contesting nation branding strategies: Denmark at the Expo 2010
cross-cutting initiatives of the Action Plan, and
was thus responsible for the management of the
DKK 424 million grant (app. 57 million euros)
from the Globalisation Pool set aside during
the period 2007–2012. To coordinate the
branding process on several platforms, a crossministerial task force has been established with
representatives from three ministries and
VisitDenmark. In the short term, the aim of
the GMD collaboration was to fend off the
negative consequences of the Mohammed
controversy on Danish exports, but in the long
term the initiative was also expected to
contribute to increased export growth rates and
an improved ranking of the national brand.
A public foundation, Marketing Denmark (or
M-foundation, was among
these initiatives. Its aim was to subsidise projects
that communicated messages about Denmark
under a few, pre-defined categories, such as Life
in Balance, Innovation and Green Nation.
Compared to the initiatives taken by
VisitDenmark at the beginning of the 2000s,
the nature of attempts at communicating brand
narratives has changed. Although focus remains
on central and pragmatic political communication
events, GMD’s funding application model
created a cascade process (Karmark, 2005),
which allowed a number of different actors
interpret and stage the M-foundation’s
ideological messages in their own ways, in
a more performative way so to speak. By
supporting manifest projects, such as the
Road Cycling World Championship 2011, the
M-foundation creates new social constellations
and practices, which seek to challenge and
renew (rather than fix) the image of Denmark
as a nation. Events like these become acts
of endorsement. The World Championship
spreads stardust on Copenhagen and confirms
the city’s position as ‘a liveable city’, but at
the same time it also consolidates Denmark’s
environmentally conscious image. The brand
creation related to events is distributed to
several actors as it mobilises both public/private
consortia and grass root projects.
This is by no means an unproblematic
process. The creation of new stories and images
of the nation is not necessarily in line with the
self-image of the majority of Danish citizens.
This is exemplified by the notorious ‘Mother
Karen incident’ derived from a campaign
sponsored by the M-foundation in 2009. The
campaign featured a viral video posted on
YouTube, portraying Karen, a young single
mother, looking for the father of her baby. In
the video, she describes how she became
pregnant after a summer party with excessive
drinking, which made it impossible for her to
recall who the father to the resulting child could
be. The story was intended to express the
emancipation and independence of Danish
women, but the campaign misfired. The Mother
Karen video resulted in a media storm and
strong critique of how public marketing budgets
are spent and subsequently both the CEO and
the Marketing Director of VisitDenmark were
made redundant. Although the campaign had
devastating consequences for the national tourism
board, it did, however, become a massive
success on social media platforms in terms of
cross-mediated shares and comments.
The Mother Karen incident poses a number
of difficult questions when it comes to branding,
such as what characterises a successful branding
campaign. Is it the number of hits, shares and
likes on YouTube, is it how positively it is
received by its receivers – and if so, who are in
fact the receivers and how do we measure the
level of positivism of this reception. Second, it
also raises attention to the fact that branding
campaigns involve a number of cross-cultural
issues, which need to be aptly addressed. This
is especially true in a globalised context, where
the Danish touris…
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