Complex Made Simple

From no name to brand fame; is Egypt ready to make the leap?

The world agrees that the Middle East, particularly the Levant, is the cradle of civilization, but Egypt carries its own weight as the country of origin of many of today’s technologies and literature, and has left for us miracles of engineering, among others, pyramids that defy and surprise scientists.

The country is sporting a new brand “Egypt, Where it All Begins,” but what defies logic is the country’s inability to promote itself as other heritage-rich countries did, in order to become a destination icon.

Why is Egypt behind in that category?

Read: Egypt best place to invest in Africa

In need of a strategy 

Egypt needs a comprehensive and clearly defined nation branding strategy to reach its potential as a country that attracts investments, boasts a robust plan to achieve a global economic footprint and promotes itself as a unique tourism hotspot.

This is according to Sunil John, the Founder & CEO of ASDA’A Burson-Marsteller, who described Egypt as needing more than a slogan to build an overall nation brand.

Delivering his keynote presentation, “Nation Branding in Times of Adversity,” John told delegates to the 2017 Narrative PR Summit on October 17, 2017 that ‘Where It All Begins’ was a superb bit of branding.

“It’s clever, sophisticated and crucial for a destination brand, based on truth, but there is much more to do if Egypt is to capitalise on its many strengths,” John said.

“According to Brand Finance, Egypt’s brand value and ranking has actually slipped over the past year, from 55th to 57th, even as the economy and tourism recover.”

The most valuable Nation Brands 1-50-2017, an annual report by Brand Finance on the world’s most valuable nation brands, sees Egypt standing at the 57th position globally, compared to the UAE in 21st and the US in first place.

John said that Egypt could raise its profile through hosting major events, such as the Olympic Games, the FIFA World Cup or even an Expo like Dubai’s 2020.

Inflation peaked as Egypt grows at 4.9 per cent

Egypt’s strengths

John reiterates that Egypt, with almost 100 million citizens, is the most populated Arab country, but 65 per cent of its population is under 35, a powerful asset. The World Bank said that Egypt’s GDP, worth $336bn in 2016, was expected to grow by 3.9 per cent in FY17, with private investment expected to pick up only in the second half of FY17, supported by enhanced competitiveness following the depreciation of the currency and the gradual implementation of business climate reforms.

“When it comes to branding this nation, Egypt has to think big – really big,” stressed John.

“Egypt’s story is currently being told by others, and that the country needed to take back control of its narrative. The best way to do this would be through a comprehensive nation branding exercise that goes far beyond tourism potential.”

He cited work by the nation branding expert, Simon Anholt, which breaks down an effective brand into pillars including investment, exports, governance, investment and immigration, culture and heritage, people, and tourism.

“Factors to underpin Egypt’s global brand would be its position at the heart of Arab culture, through literature, cinema, music and art,” he said.

He concluded: “The public and private sectors must come together to forge the Egypt brand, which has the potential to be one of the strongest in the world.”

Watch: Egypt to issue Dollar bonds at low yield

4 key variables that brand a country

The Place Brand Observer, a library of research and a collection of case studies for brands, reported in 2017 that in the 25th-50th range of the tourism edition, the UAE had the weakest performance.

“The latest edition of our tourism ranking sees the UAE on 44th place. If they do not take caution, they will bid farewell to the Top 50 altogether soon,” the report said.

Shocking, but its report looks at four weighted variables to come up with the results.

Variable 1: The Economic performance of a country’s tourism and trade sector.

Variable 2: The appeal, the demand for a country.

Variable 3: The Country Brand Strategy Rating.

Variable 4: The online performance of a country.

Laurence Newell, Managing Director for Brand Finance in Mexico, was quoted in Brand Finance as saying that nation branding applied widely-used marketing concepts to countries in the interest of enhancing their reputation – principally among institutional investors.

“Much like consumers, investors are predictable, and nation brand managers need to study their needs and central to positioning a nation brand is a clear understanding of what drives investor decision-making,” he said.

Andrew Campbell, Managing Director for Brand Finance in the Middle East, also told Brand Finance: “In the Middle East, the UAE is the absolute champion of nation brand management. It is the world’s third most powerful, coming behind only Singapore and Switzerland, and the most valuable as well as fastest growing nation brand in the region.”