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Nation branding for post-conflict countries

by on March 2, 2014

Many countries that share similar history, language, culture or just geography, tend to fall under one and the same, positive or negative, regional brand – or even a continental one, which can be seen especially in the case of Africa. This is a brand that is not always chosen, but a brand that is nevertheless applied due to stereotypes and various historical events.

Negative stereotypes
The Balkan countries have been some of the most conflict prone in Europe and tensions due to poverty (high unemployment) and inequality are still prevalent (e.g. Poverty, frustration keep Macedonia tensions alive). Irrespective of the fact that the major armed conflicts ended almost 20 years ago, the widespread perception of the entire region is based on generally negative connotations (with trending changes). But often are the stereotypes balanced, such as: beautiful architecture and nature – bad poverty, or delicious food and rich culture – but social tensions (see more stereotypes at National Stereotype). Thus a country would strive to erase these bad images in favour of the good ones, to better enhance the more strategically beneficial side (Laverty, 2012). Kosovo’s current and first prime minister after independence, Hashim Thaçi, who has been placing a large amount of emphasis on combating corruption and organised crime, said about his country, that it was now considered “democratic, peaceful and progressive” (Phillips, 2009, para:5).

Kosovo announced its independence in 2008 and struggled the first couple of years with achieving international recognition as a state sovereign from its neighbours, mainly Serbia. The struggle for international recognition is still prominent (there is even a map depicting the UN member states who have confirmed an official recognition: Kosovo thanks you).
The second most imperative struggle, more or less directly connected to the primary one, has been a deliberate march to change the negative perceptions that foreign audiences might possess of Kosovo. A newly independent country normally has a significant amount of rebuilding to do, both in terms of discovering distinct characteristics of themselves to begin with, but also in regards to changing the image abroad, in relation to the identity.

Kosovo’s official branding campaign

The post-conflict brand
Nation branding has been debated, contested, approved and appraised, since the dawning of the term. Many countries have already had a historically extensive public diplomacy agenda that have been in support of the brand – providing a sort of coherence. Whilst for especially war torn countries, it can be a difficult task to recreate an image of a flourishing, joyful, stable society with a happy citizenry, for various underlying reasons, such as a weak government, weak civil society and negative media coverage.

Apart from all the conventional measures countries need to accommodate in a post-conflict era, such as rebuilding civil society, infrastructure, political stability and a domestic and foreign market, there is also a need to establish (or re-establish) relations with the global community – not least to expand export, FDI and tourism (as all these link directly to the investment in the rebuilding).

Kosovo – the young Europeans
Kosovo is not only the youngest country in Europe, but also has the youngest population. By using ‘youth’ Saatchi & Saatchi hoped to promote not mere demographics but also what youth encompasses, such as hope and togetherness. A more close up depiction of the Kosovar brand’s journey was narrated in the documentary Branding Kosovo (watch it here), where there is further explanation as to what was to be embodied within the brand, but also the complexities of finding the national identity; the anthem, the flag and other national symbols.

In 2009 when the brand was originally launched, it was as a counter reaction to the many countries who had not recognised Kosovo’s sovereignty. The main objective was to hopefully gain more international acknowledgement, despite the then Serbian foreign policy consisting of fierce lobbying for the opposite (Phillips, 2009). Neil MacDonald (2009) of the Financial Times however  estimated the brand’s success in terms of adapting foreign audiences’ minds from the classical characteristics of drugs, corruption and crime, to the new and youthful Kosovo – and perhaps to even be an re-conditioning of the international community’s minds’ perception of the Kosovar society. Whether the Kosovar agenda has in fact worked or not is yet difficult to measure, as with the results of most nation brands. What is known is that a change on the ground is necessary, for a brand on its own provides very little substantial change – however, the brand can be serving as an incentive for change, through the will to live up to it.
If you have a negative, or neutral (or even positive), image of Kosovo, watch the official campaign video below, and see if it is successful in affecting your attitude of it.



Bytyci F, 2012, Poverty, frustration keep Macedonia tensions alive, Reuters, published March 30

Hurtado de Mendoza D, 2008, “Branding Kosovo” documentary, Babak Payami Fabrika 

Laverty A, 2012, Post-conflict branding & Cote d’Ivoire: The power of chocolate, The African file, published April 7

Macdonald N, 2009, Kosovo’s nation-branding campaign, Financial Times, published November 10

Pessoa M, 2013, West Balkans Stereotypes, National Stereotype, published October 10

Phillips B, 2009, Branding Kosovo: The young Europeans, Al Jazeera, published October 29

Who recognized Kosova as an independent state?, Kosovo thanks you


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