Countries and Branding

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The following is from Countries and Branding [RO/EN][1] that was written by MoonlightShadow in the newspaper Public Agenda.

Countries and Branding

Inspired by my last article, a Swedish and a Hungarian citizen decided to shrink a more general vision and talk about their countries, seen as through their own eyes, living there. Of course, that brings into discussion the amount of subjectivity, but we pass that. I think that I should be inspired too, by my own article, so i`ll try to explain some other things, as well as talk about Romania seen by me.

I could notice (sadly) several things in my last article: one of them is that many citizens are just incapable to detach from their own personal feeling regarding their homelands, and see a better, larger, more general image. An image of reality, not what an X-country-citizen would love the X country to be perceived. Another thing it`s about joining several countries and cultures into “slices”. I mean, let`s say somewhere in Pacific are 5 little islands, inhabited by 5 nations. We have two options: either those countries have no brand; either they share a common brand. And that`s despite a particular inhabitant of one island feeling insulted by this “joining”. For a country to have a personal brand we need either a strong, powerful, multi-millennia history, either large amounts of money invested in media campaigns to “improve” some given country`s brand.

Country`s brand building asks for hard work and money. Primary source is media, and everything related to media (newspapers, television, internet, movies, radio), as well as opinion formatters and personal experiences (or related, it`s enough for a friend of your to tell you how he was robbed in the X country). The simple conclusion is that a country`s brand don`t necessarily resembles the reality, but just how this reality is PERCEIVED outside. A country labeled of “thieves” it`s not full only with thieves. Actually it`s enough to have 1 % thieves, but really visible in media, and the label it`s on.

Now, i`ll try to be objective about my Romania. For us it`s simple to extract main characteristics, which are rather negative: thieves, gypsies, human traffic, prostitutes going in Occident, abandoned children sold or adopted, corrupt country, poor country, third world, lately murderers here. This brand comes from the fact that out of ten news regarding Romania, some 8 of them talks about such things. Moreover, even local media tends to talk and spread rather the dark side of the country. Just in the last 2-3 years Authorities realized the size of this negativistic brand and tried to react, by launching some media campaigns, but such things can provide concrete results at least 20 years later. That`s because those mental projections when you think the word “Spain” or “France”, or whatever, are very resistant to change.

As I said, just a small amount of country`s brand resembles reality. Had we chose any country, we`d find out that 30 % of the citizens resembles the country`s brand. Important is that if we chose another country, we`ll find out that only 20 % resembles the same characteristic.

I`ve lived in Romania all my life (and here I shall die), so I guess I know how things are with this country. Also, I’m different than many people, because I am able to detach myself hence lower the subjectivism. So I won`t start to speak highly of Romania. But living here I can say that I DON`T BELIEVE here are more murderers than in other countries. These things have to do with percents and media. It`s enough to have 2 thieves and 98 honest people, if those two thieves keeps showing on television they induce the feeling of a “thieves country”. That`s exactly what happens in Italy right now, where Italian media made Italians believe that Romanians are the lowest morals people in the world. It`s tragically how easy can people be manipulated. How many intense media cases were there? 10? 30? 50? Let`s say 50 bad stories, that fueled the hate of Italians for Romanians, including the more over 1.000.000 Romanians living in Italy and done nothing bad there. So to better understand those “country`s branding”, in particularly case of Italy, 0,005 of a population labeled and transferred its highly negative image to the other 99,995 %.

Romania seen and lived by me knows and reckons such bad things. But also for me it means a lot more. It means hospitality, simple people, kindness, modesty. It means a history that i`m proud of (except for 1700-1848 when fanariots took-over our country). For me it means a beautiful childhood and it means a grandmother which also didn`t have the “quality of life” of a German grandmother, or whatever, gave me the most important thing in the world: her love. Romania being part of the third world does not mean abdication from beauty things. Anyway, I stopped to consider us part of the third world for several years. And to be honest I prefer a poor and honest friend to a rich, arrogant and hypocrite one. And i`m not meaning me as a person, “friend” could be anything, even a neighbor country.

I, just like most of the YOUNG in Romania, live a fantastic drama: “sacrifice generation”. It`s rarely seen in countries history, but it happens once in a while. It happens when the current set of laws, traditions, beliefs, etc, are brutally extirpated from country`s culture, but there nothing else to fill the gap. For us, that brutal event was 1989 Revolution. Good, bad, the communist era had its sets of laws rules and traditions, born out of older ones and transformed such way to serve the interests of communism. You weren`t allowed to do that and that, it was good to hate Occident and love Russians, etc. But the generation i`m part of found itself completely alone, with no support, no direction, no rules, no nothing. Even without a national feeling. Slowly we started to “absorb” from the characteristics of other cultures (occidental ones mainly), so a massive import of “behavioral models” started and bloomed. And this import will continue, that`s for sure due to the fact that we`re still in search for an identity, of our own. We`re trapped between our past, our ancestors, and our future, our children.

Do I like my Romania, today`s one? Hard to say, of course there are things I hate, like the paradigm “successful life= cars, women, respect of your enemies”, as well I hate some “bugs” implanted by communism era. But still I adore the simple, modest, welcoming and warm Romania. It`s a matter of percents, how many are good and altruistic, and how many are bad and selfish.

The most important thing to remember is that no one can label a country “it`s like that”. Any country has citizens with any characteristic you want. In any country you`ll find as well killers and priest. It`s just enough to have more killers in one country comparative to others, to get the label on. As well in Romania i`ve met stupid people and extremely intelligent ones that can fit the universe in their brain. I`ve met liars and honest ones. I`ve met kind and hateful ones. I`ve met falsity and vanities as well as people that could be proud of themselves. Shortly, I`ve met people that disgusted me and people deserving 5 stars.

And this is something general. As I said, I prefer to be admonished by my own people because I don`t speak highly about our country, because I wanted to make it clear: all countries shares good as well bad things. The only differences are in percents, sometimes really small ones. Take the example of Mafia. When you say that word, instantly you think to Italy, Cosa Nostra, Robert de Niro, etc. But of course we have enough mafia in America, we have Japanese Yakuza, of course also the brutal Russian mafia. So there`s no country “like that”. All we have are images.