Pride and prejudice

May: As King Charles III is crowned as Britain’s monarch, we ask ourselves, “what makes nations ‘attractive’?”

Ipsos | Almanac 2024 | Nations

For many looking on from outside the UK, the coronation of Charles III on 6 May 2023 was the epitome of what makes the UK a nation like no other – and particularly not like theirs: strong attachment to unique and long-standing traditions, and a taste for and genuine connoisseurship in “pomp and circumstance”. This is why we chose this month to address the concept of a nation’s “brand image”, a notion which underlies the Anholt-Ipsos Nation Brands Index (NBI).

Nations as brands

Ipsos | Almanac 2024 | NationsEtymologically, a brand is an indelible stamp which can be as much a badge of honour as a mark of infamy. When it comes to nations, this definition of course needs to be nuanced, as hardly any reasonable person would make such a generalisation and pronounce such a definitive judgement on as large and as diverse a group of humans as a nation can be. Yet, as neither people nor brands are completely exempt from being also judged by their nationality, it is worthwhile to explore what makes nations more or less attractive as ‘brands’.

The NBI brings together global perceptions of six dimensions of a nation’s identity, including exports, governance, culture, people, tourism, and immigration and investment. The 10 most attractive/best rated nations appear to be mostly rich countries which have long been part of the most economically advanced in the world. Japan is – for the first time – number one, ahead of Germany, Canada, the UK, Italy, the US, Switzerland, France, Australia, and Sweden. The G7 nations are thus all within the top 10.

The details show that when brands are treated as personalities, some deep-rooted stereotypes exist but some traits also appear grounded in more recent developments. One can for example see the rise of Japanese and Korean cultural influence (ranking first and second for creativity), which is a major fact of the last decades (the popularity of K-pop and of manga are obvious phenomena).

Possibly because it is the homeland of Greta Thunberg, Sweden is seen as the country most committed to taking action to combat climate change, at the very moment when the new government is pulling back on the country’s commitments.

Meanwhile, Japanese and German products’ reputation places them on ranks first and second for the quality of their products, while Italy and France are praised for their food.

All of the above suggests that, whether we see them as clichés, stereotypes, or eternal truths, there are traits which are extremely sticky and difficult to reverse.

Ipsos | Almanac 2024 | Nations

From perception to behaviour

How does this affect intentions to visit these countries or to invest our money there? What determines tourist attractivity is of course not exactly what drives investment, but perceived quality of life is almost equally important to both, and this significantly plays in favour of Canada and Switzerland, which are perceived as countries with a particularly good quality of life and good working conditions.

All in all, and everything considered, perceptions remain broadly consistent with actual behaviours: countries which attract more foreign students like the US or the UK rank first and second for education, while the millions of tourists who flock to New York, Paris or Rome each year are reflected by the three countries most associated with a vibrant city life: the US, France and Italy.

Many aspects of today’s polycrisis (e.g. climate change, cyber security risks, geopolitical instability) will require countries to work together, if they are to tackle them successfully. With a majority the general public now saying that decisions are most effective when made at a global level (52% agree), and expecting globalisation to increase over time, as most countries try to find collective solutions to global risks (57% agree), nations cannot afford to neglect their ‘brand image’.