Carsten Claus (Research Associate, Chair of Strategic Management & Tourism Management; Leuphana University of Luneberg)

30.07.2010 - Interview conducted by Katharina Mueller

Q1. For successful branding campaigns, it is important to first define a consistent kernel or substance which is then expressed by the logo and the surface. Tbilisi is an ethically very diverse city with a long and variable history. How is it possible for a city to construct or to create such a substance or kernel?

First of all, the substance is already there. We are more looking for elements that we are going to amplify and basically there are two things we need to address: first of all is to find a strategy and to create a long term platform and also to develop the place concerning buildings, investments and institutions and in the end the campaign which is addressing certain aspects; secondly, is to ensure that we involve the people in question and are so facilitating things. One could say that the clients do not outsource to us, they in-source us for a certain period of time. We do not invent things for them or tell them how they should be but try to focus on interesting aspects and put those in a context together. By putting things in a context, one creates coherence and a common centre, which can later be the quintessence of a successful strategy. It is important that the group of representatives supports this, though there are of course always disagreements and discussions. The group is carefully chosen and consists of people that are representing Tbilisi as good as possible.

Q2. The terminology for Nation Branding seems to derive from the commercial and economic spheres. What is the difference between branding a product or a company and branding a place or a nation?

When an owner of a company wants to create a brand for his company, he can give directions to all his employees. He presents the new brand and the way how it is going to be implemented. Concerning places - this is of course more diverse. When it comes to Nation Branding itself, it is also a difference if you talk about Nation Branding for a state like Lithuania, a nation of 1.7 million people, or about Germany for instance. You can create a brand by communication and then encourage people to work with that or you can just make a new brand and a new design. There are always some groups that show resistance against certain things and in a free society, of course we are up to say that - just like clients in the commercial world that are not buying the products. This becomes an even bigger challenge nowadays with the media and internet. Certain things, like when Adidas for example is treating workers in Pakistan badly, do not stay secret for long and impair the image of a company. Id say place branding is the most complex form of branding since it depends upon many facts. Corporate and product branding is much easier. But even the products can not be seen so separately because more and more people are looking on what is around the product: What is the company? Is the company acting ethically? So the responsibility and the pressure for companies has also gone up.

Q3. In Nation Branding, it can be hard to find the balance between a presentation as traditional and culturally interesting while on the other hand there is the wish to make a country interesting for potential investors in presenting itself as incorrupt, reliable and modern. Is it possible to keep a balance between interests to attract investors and tourists?

There is of course a difference. Tourism is more about what you can experience in a certain country and investors think more of the visions and the opportunities of the place. But for both groups it is very important that the place is safe. Investors are more concerned about corruption; whereas, tourists consider if they could get harmed or have to get in touch with the police. In this sense Georgia is way ahead compared to its perception from outside. They have improved in matters of corruption and it is really safe there. Passport controls at the airport take one minute and you are treated in a nice way since hospitality is very important in Georgia. This appears of course also to investors because they travel there to look how the place is, who the potential clients are and how costumers are treated.