Despite its economic woes of late, Japan is received well abroad; for the first time in the ranking’s history, it has earned first place in the annual Country Brand Index by global brand consultancy FutureBrand. The index measures perceptions of countries around the world according to guidelines similar to those used to evaluate the strength of various consumer brands. (In “other findings” section of the country brand report, FutureBrand said that New York, London and Beijing will be the most influential global cities.)
Seventy-five countries were reviewed in this year’s ranking process, with 22 meeting the criteria laid out for a “country brand.” The FutureBrand report said that, “to qualify as a ‘country brand, people need to want to consume your products and services and prefer you as a place to live and learn.”
A key finding in the research that led to the ranking reveals that when respondents rank a country highly as a brand, it increases the likelihood that they will “visit, recommend and do business with it” than other countries on the list. Other findings include the following:
- Awareness alone does not make a strong country brand.
- Country brand strength is connected to how many consumer brands you are known for.
- Strong country brands are seen to have expertise across multiple consumer categories.
- Country brands have most momentum in technology, innovation and sustainability.
- An influential city is not enough to make a strong country brand (but it helps).
Top 20 Country Brands
|1. Japan||11. New Zealand|
|2. Switzerland||12. UK|
|3. Germany||13. Finland|
|4. Sweden||14. Singapore|
|5. Canada||15. Iceland|
|6. Norway||16. Netherlands|
|7. USA||17. France|
|8. Australia||18. Italy|
|9. Denmark||19. UAE|
|10. Austria||20. South Korea|
Other findings from the FutureBrand Report include:
- Awareness does not make a country brand: For example, Italy enjoys higher awareness levels than Japan (89 percent compared to 84 percent) but is seventeen places lower in the rankings. \
- Country brands are associated with consumer brands: On average, respondents demonstrated awareness of a larger number of consumer brands across more categories for the 22 country brands. For example, Japan elicited associations with Toyota, Nintendo, Honda, Sony, Toshiba and Panasonic.
- Country brands are seen to have expertise across categories: France is most strongly associated with Fashion (65 percent), Germany with Automotive (77 percent) and Japan with Technology (78 percent – the highest score of a country in a category).
- Country brands have most momentum in technology, innovation and sustainability: Top country brands are seen to have more momentum in technology and innovation or environmental friendliness than political, economic or cultural significance.
- New York, London and Beijing will be the most influential global cities: There is often a correlation between perceptions of city influence and country brand strength, but not always. The ranking of the twenty most influential cities does not include any in Norway or Denmark – both top ten country brands. And seven of the most influential cities are not in the top twenty country brands.