March 22, 2024 #ChileDemocratic

Simon Anholt: "One of the smart things that Imagen de Chile has done is to create very strong links with the private sector".

Accessibility settings

The expert and creator of the concept of country brands, Simon Anholt, -visiting Chile as a speaker at the annual meeting of the Fundación Imagen de Chile- maintains that the objective behind a positive country image should be that people "think before going to bed: I am glad Chile exists because it is helping to make my planet better and safer".

It was in 1996 that the Englishman Simon Anholt coined the term "Country Brand", thus initiating decades of study and advice for heads of state and governments of more than 70 countries around the world. The objective: to explore strategies to improve the image of a nation, based specifically on the needs and strengths of each territory. 

Speech by Simon Anholt at the Image of Chile 2024 Conference

Fifteen years ago, Anholt was the main advisor behind the creation of the Fundación Imagen de Chile (FICH). Today, again visiting Chile, the expert argues that country image "is not about marketing. It is more about how the country behaves and how that behavior is relevant to people around the world and their needs and aspirations.

You witnessed the creation of Marca Chile 15 years ago. What is your opinion of what we have done and how we have fared during this time?
The first and most important thing to say is that you still exist. And in the world of place branding, it is extraordinary to have achieved such stability, because changing the world's opinion about your country takes a long time. So the fact that Fundación Imagen de Chile still exists after all these years and has survived several changes of government, and in the same form in which it was originally designed when I was here, is an incredible achievement and fills me with hope because if it can survive another 15 years, I think it could be one of the best in the world.

And why do you think this has been possible in Chile?
There are certain aspects of Chilean society that produce stability as an inherent quality. This is not a country that changes everything every time the president changes and that is very good. It is a very fortunate situation. One of the smart things that Imagen de Chile has done is to create very strong links with the private sector. And the private sector is very important in these initiatives for many reasons, but one of the main ones is that they have a longer time scale than the public sector. So they can keep the engine running as the government changes and maintain some stability over time.

Over the years, Chile has gained international recognition. Our geography, for example, is a tourist attraction and we have also developed the use of renewable energies. Taking this into account, what element do you consider allows a country to gain visibility and translate that into a good image?
Those aspects, environmental protection and what has more to do with the country's natural assets, its landscape, its culture, its history, its people, are the foundations to gain a good image. The whole argument of sustainability is of vital importance because today it is the only thing that concerns everybody, or almost everybody. People are looking for countries that help, that contribute something to solving these challenges. And anyone who can demonstrate that they are helping the environment will have a better image. In other words, people have to be glad that these countries exist. They have to think, before they go to sleep at night: I'm glad Chile exists because it's helping to make my planet better and safer.

When countries start thinking about their image, they tend to imagine, wrongly, that it is all about bragging, about telling the world about all their wonderful assets and achievements, their glorious history, their beautiful landscapes. All of that has a place in tourism promotion, for example. But when it comes to the actual image, people are not so interested in what you've done. They're more interested in who you are today and where you're going.

Most of the institutions that handle Place Branding, apply different communication strategies. We have social media, press, and PR agencies. What do you think of those three, or what do you think is the best thing to do?
The function of all these communications, in my opinion, is one very simple thing. It is to communicate in the most cost-effective way possible the incredible things that Chile is doing. If Chile is not doing amazing things, then any money spent on communications is, by definition, wasted money, because you have to tell people something, something that is relevant to their worldview, to their daily needs, something that seems positive and exciting, something that is unmissable and magical and different from what they see around them.

Countries opt for different promotion strategies, some focused on promoting their attributes for the development of tourism and product exports, and others that enhance public diplomacy. What are the opportunities that both models offer, and how can they complement each other?
The relationship between the success of different sectors and the country's global image is complex. They are linked, because obviously if a country has a good, powerful and positive image, people will want its products a little more than those made in a country they know nothing about. But it also works the other way around. If a country is very successful in promoting its tourism, it becomes better known. 

But I think it is a mistake to confuse the two. They are handled in completely different ways. Tourism promotion, investment promotion, attracting talent, organizing big events, they are all basically marketing activities. You find people who want to buy a vacation and you sell it to them. It's a marketing exercise and the more money you spend on good promotion, the more tourists you get. 

Improving the country's image is something totally different, because you are not selling anything. When you want to change people's opinion about the kind of country Chile is, you are not saying "buy this, it's good". You are saying "you will change your opinion about this country", which, if you are not careful, looks like government propaganda. So the main difference is that sector promotion is fundamentally about marketing, messaging, positioning and all those familiar concepts. Country image management is not about messaging. It's not about marketing. It's more about how the country behaves and how that behavior is relevant to people around the world and their needs and aspirations. 


Image of Chile