Nation branding is a rather holistic approach to the identity of a country,” stated Dhanushika Shanmuganathan – Associate at Brand Finance – explaining that “Brand Finance evaluates a nation’s performance across three key pillars.”

Firstly, the investment required to develop a great nation is examined; then the impressions of the nation brand among domestic and international audiences is evaluated; and finally, the country’s performance is compared with other countries using indicators such as GDP, business and commerce, foreign direct investment and talent.

She added that key metrics such as commerce and trade, a country’s governance system, international relations, and culture and heritage are evaluated across the three pillars, while also considering media and communication, education and science, and people and va­lues.

“A very forward-looking macroeconomic focus and the positive outlook on recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic have been key to driving this year’s increases in brand value across the world,” she revealed, implying that many nations have rebounded post pandemic.

However, she noted that “Sri Lanka has experienced a decline in its rankings with a drop in the nation’s brand strength and value. And this largely stems from the fluid political situation, and heightened fiscal trade and financial sector imbalances, which have also resulted in high uncertainty for Sri Lanka’s economic outlook.”

Shanmuganathan emphasised that the significance of the rankings is that “it’s a study that provides a comprehensive review of the perceptions and value of a nation’s brand.”

“In a global marketplace, a nation brand is one of the most important aspects of any country because it encourages inward investment… It adds value to a country’s exports, and attracts tourists and skilled migrants,” she explained.

Furthermore, she went on to say that “it encourages domestic tourism in the country, and boosts the consumption of domestic goods and services rather than imports. In general, it makes people feel better about their country and where they live.”

Finland, she said, is fully aware of its reputation for environmental responsibility and sustainability around the world, and it places a premium on climate communications as part of its overall branding strategy.

“Sri Lanka however, is yet to adopt such a common nation branding effort,” she said, adding that the island is known for its knowledge-based industries of innovation and hospitality in the tourism industry. However, she stressed that “understanding or using these perceptions to develop strategic and long-term brand building efforts will be imperative for the country’s branding going forward.”

Shanmuganathan explained that interestingly, Brand Finance’s Nation Brand Rankings studies show that Sri Lanka has fared well in business and trade. However, “foreign investment globally is looking at a conducive and enabling business environment, with consistent policies – and where bureaucratic red tape is reduced, and there are efficient and transparent processes in place.”

She emphasised that establishing such policies would greatly benefit Sri Lanka’s efforts to portray itself as an attractive location for investment: “Ensuring that the process investors would go through when looking to invest in Sri Lanka is transparent and dependable is key to attracting investment.”

“By focussing on creating business environments and systems, Sri Lanka may regain its credibility and reputation on the international stage, which could also positively impact these rankings in the future,” she added.

Shanmuganathan concluded her interview by emphasising the need for meaningful dialogue on rebuilding Sri Lanka’s brand identity as a nation: “Creating a resonating identity is becoming increasingly important for a country like ours that’s developing and attempting to carve out a strategic position in the global landscape.”