One year after a ground-shaking shift of the top five countries in the Anholt Nation Brands Index (NBI) study powered by Ipsos, some nations find some stability, while others continue to break new ground. Germany retains the top ranking, while Japan elevates to second place. The United Kingdom continues to hold third place, while France declines by two positions to fourth place. The United States retains the sixth rank, now tied with Italy.
Germany holds top spot in rankings
Germany again ranks #1 out of 50 nations, repeating its win as in 2008, 2014, and 2017. Germany’s leading advantage lies in its consistent strengths across multiple dimensions: this nation is ranked among the top four in four reputational categories, with its key strengths lying consistently in Exports (the global public view “Made in Germany” products as the best to buy) and Immigration-Investment, but also importantly in Culture & Heritage sub-categories. Chinese were most convinced of Germany’s Exports, Governance, People, and Immigration/Investments (all ranked 1st in China).
U.S. continues to lose ground
While the overall NBI rank of the United States in 2018 remained #6 (now tied with Italy), of the 50 countries measured in the study, the U.S. saw the greatest overall NBI score drop this year. The U.S. brand image has been further eroded in the Governance, Culture, and People categories, where the United States ranking dropped by three positions, driven by more negative perceptions in Canada and China. Mexicans continued to be critical of the U.S., although with a lesser degree of negativity than a year ago. Nevertheless, the U.S. still ranks among the top five nations for three of NBI’s six categories: Culture (where the U.S. is ranked fifth), Exports (second), and Immigration/Investment (fifth).
Japan gains in Governance and People
Japan’s National image continues to hinge mostly on two key categories: Exports (where it ranks first) and People (fifth, here Japan gained three positions, its greatest progress across sub-categories in 2018). Japan ranks in the top 10 nations for Culture (7th), Tourism (7th), and Immigration-Investment (9th). The only Index category where Japan does not rank in the top 10 is Governance (12th), where it is gaining ground, up by two spots. Japan’s overall rank advancements are driven mostly not by score improvements, but by the consistency of its brand image. Japan’s overall score is boosted by improved perceptions among South Africans (+2.84), Polish (+2.68), and the French (+2.45). However, these are not extraordinary score gains, and in a year where most nations experienced score declines, Japan experienced a minimal shift in the overall NBI score (-0.08).
UK: Stable performance despite change
The UK remained one of the most stable leaders in its NBI performance. The nation has ranked in the global top-three the past three years, despite uncertainties around Brexit. The UK was ranked among the top four on four reputational categories, including Tourism, a hotly contested dimension in which the UK was behind destination heavyweights Italy, France, and Spain, but ahead of Greece.
Olympic and World Cup hosts gained
Big sporting events have the potential to bolster the image of host nations on the global scene. South Korea, as host of 2018 Winter Olympics, gained solidly in the total NBI score and moved up in rank by three positions. FIFA World Cup host Russia gained more modestly in the total Index and did not move up in ranks, but improved significantly in sub-categories People and Tourism.