Maris Nicolas Christiansen (Author of “Der Deutschland-Faktor. Nationale Herkunft als Chance für die Markenstrategie deutscher Automobilhersteller auf internationalen Märkten”)

01.08.2010 - Interview conducted by Jessica Dick

Q1. How do you feel that the world's car market affects the German reputation of car manufacturing and Nation Branding in

When you look at car brands like Lexus or Toyota, you can see that the features of cars are getting more and more equal. When features are getting more and more similar, the brand is the only thing that makes the difference in the competition. In Germany, especially in the economic crisis, there is a focus now on stability and quality, features that are associated with Germany (not only within Germany, but worldwide!).  Germany should be eager to promote and maintain this image. Simon Anholt brought the example of Volvo for instance, which was seen as the safest car in the world because at some point they were but now Volvos are just escorts as any other cars because they did not do much to maintain that image. So Renault established itself as being the safest car in the world. We learn by this that you should really stick to what you have in order to maintain a high-leveled reputation.

Q2. Referring to your work at a public relations agency, what do think how important it is for a country to sell itself? Do you think that branding and public relations can be used also related to nations?

Public relations in general are responsible of getting a large part of the message across and I think it is possible for a nation to use that. But I think that PR agencies alone are not capable of doing this. Marketing is such a diverse and large field: first, you have the strategists; secondly, you have agencies such as advertising and PR agencies and all they do is using what they get from the strategy to deliver a message, but they are not able to create that message in the first place. So yes and no – PR agencies do not have to be of use when it comes to nation branding unless there is a strong strategy behind PR activity. It is important to send a certain message and not just any message. The parties must stick together to promote a certain identity.

Q3. You spent two months in Namibia, how do you feel German and European nation branding methods differ from the methods used for branding in Africa?

As far as I know in that region there are only South Africa and Botswana who do nation branding. I do not see many differences in the methods and techniques they apply, but they do it under different circumstances and with a different focus.

Q4. What role does cultural diplomacy play for nation branding and vice-versa?

There is sector of the foreign office that is only concerned with Germany's reputation abroad. A considerable amount of their budget funds cultural diplomacy projects. So cultural diplomacy then could be a tool to alter the perception of the identity to a large extent and therefore it would have the positive effect on the national identity on a long run.