New ideas best way to promote a country

Slovakia’s new brand seeks to appeal to foreign, domestic audience.

Simona BubánováSimona Bubánová (Source: Štefan Laktiš )

A brand does not only help to distinguish the country from its neighbours, but also to help it economically, says Simona Bubánová, head of the Creative Department ad agency which introduced the new branding of Slovakia to the public in late April. Though the first feedback was good, it is necessary to wait whether people will accept and go along with it. The first signs of whether the concept titled “Good idea, Slovakia” is successful will appear after about three years, she opines.

The Slovak Spectator spoke to Bubánová about the creation of new brand and its potential to make Slovakia more visible abroad.

The Slovak Spectator (TSS): There have been several attempts to create brand of Slovakia. What is different in your project?
Simona Bubánová (SB):
The biggest difference is the assignment, which is based on collecting the data from Slovakia. It was carried out during several years and in several phases, while many respected marketing experts and sociologists worked on it. They surveyed the whole population and also specific target groups and based on the results they prepared studies, which served as a basis for the assignment. Unlike all previous brandings, this was a controlled process. The previous attempts were like a trial by fire as their creators had very little information to find what represents the country. Our branding is based on the study where four key principles were defined [variability, inventiveness, vitality and authenticity – ed. note]. The whole society talks about new ideas which pull the country forward – this is what should represent the country.

TSS: One of the bases of your project are Slovak inventions and innovations. Is there enough information about them abroad?
Not enough. But there is even less information among Slovaks. There are great successes of companies like Eset, Sygic, Pixel Federation, AeroMobil or Ecocapsule, but also festivals like Pohoda or Viva Musica. If people learn about them this way, it may be a source of good feeling in the country.

TSS: So this project gathers the information about successes in one place?
The assignment was set for external promotion of Slovakia. To tell people living abroad that Slovakia is a good idea. It can have many meanings, like travel to Slovakia is good idea, sport in Slovakia is good idea or investing in Slovakia is good idea. It should express goodwill of the country. And then, in the second place, are companies which contribute to good reputation of the country. So it is important that the slogan is perceived in various layers. As we compete with similar countries, we wanted to create a kind of mnemonic device for people. It will be a success if people who will hear about Slovakia will remember that it is good idea.

TSS: Did you get inspiration from how branding is made in other countries?
We prepared market scan of various brandings across the world, some of which are very inspirational and very interesting. Our benchmark was the United Kingdom, which has been running the “Britain is Great” campaign since 2011. Similarly to our brand, it can be used in various spheres: invest in Britain is great, culture in Britain is great. I can imagine that this project works both externally and internally. Because it is important for such projects that they are positively perceived by the society and can impact the mood in the country.

TSS: How did Slovaks accept this new brand? Does it have potential to succeed?
We received some negative response, but the initial response was extremely positive. The Foreign Affairs Ministry says they have hundreds of requests from Slovakia, and also from abroad, to use it. The brand has been shared also by the foreign embassies and cultural institutes, which is a big asset. There will also be a special postage stamp for the Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro where the logo will be used. Viva Musica wants to open this year’s festival using the design manual of the branding.

We are now talking about the way to systemise the process, so anybody can use the brand, though we need to avoid its abuse. But it will depend on the whole country, its people and leaders, how they will approach the brand. It is a long-term process.

TSS: Why did you choose the font system History developed by Slovak typographer Peter Biľak for the logo?
First we created the concept “Good Idea, Slovakia” which is very variable and diverse. Then we started looking for the font system. We wanted it to be developed by a Slovak. There are many of them, but Peter Biľak is the most interesting and the most famous. We chose History font system because it reflects the variability of the ideas. It can be used in several layers and it also creates separate pictures. It creates an impression that we are diverse, variable and interesting country. Moreover, Biľak said that when creating the font system, he was inspired by the Roman inscription in Trenčín.

TSS: The competition did not include only the creation of new brand, but also the unification of state administration’s promotion. How do you respond to some voices, saying that these two parts should have been separated?
If they were separate, we could not have branded the whole Slovakia and make all institutions use Peter Biľak’s font system. I do not consider it right to separate the two parts which fulfil the same task, to define the country towards foreign countries and towards Slovaks. The critics also claimed that the composition we chose is very conservative. But the assignment required using the state symbol, the tricolour and the font. There are not many options to change it. It was a very comprehensive task which has solid barriers, set by the law on state symbols.

Read also:Slovakia has a new slogan and logo as part of its “brand” Read more 

TSS: How do you perceive the critical voices, saying the graphics are only a lower-quality variation of a concept used in Germany?
In fact, it is a similar composition. Similar concepts are used in the Netherlands, United Kingdom and Germany. But it is a framework. Our biggest contribution was that we made an order and used the font system of world renowned artist as the basic image of the country.

TSS: What will be the role of your agency in the process of branding in the future?
Our job finishes with handing in the logo and printed version of user manuals, brand book and video which was explaining the process of creation and was used for PR. We have been working on materials to make it possible for a logo to be distributed to other participating subjects. This includes design manual and also a brand book. Though some people criticise how much the competition cost, they do not realise what it included. Our company has been working on it since last October.

TSS: How big was the team that worked on the new brand?
The most people worked on it during the brainstorming process when we were creating the basic concept. At the time there were 10 of us. Some were making surveys, while the others were preparing account support or bringing solutions. In further phases, like preparing the manual, the group of three to five people participated.

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