With declining perceptions of brand Sri Lanka, a plan to chart a way forward

Thursday, 16 March 2023 00:30 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

From left: Brand Finance Place Branding Director Konrad Jagodzinski, Richlife Dairies COO Dinesh Nalliah, Advocata CEO Dhananath Fernando, SLIM former President Thilanka Abeywardena, Brand Finance Lanka Managing Director Ruchi Gunewardene - Pix by Lasantha Kumara

The global perception of Sri Lanka took a steep dive in the Brand Finance Soft Power Index falling from 73 to 115 place in the annual ranking. The detailed results of Sri Lanka’s performance were presented at a Brand Creation Symposium held by Sri Lanka Institute of Marketing (SLIM) attended by many stakeholders in business and government.

The Global Soft Power Index is the world’s most comprehensive research study on perceptions of a nation, carried out across over 120 countries. In the case of the Sri Lanka study, there were 11,000 respondents who answered questions on how they perceived the nation brand. Respondents representing the general public responded online during October - December 2022, from which an understanding on the influence that nations have around the world and how they can exercise that upon each other is obtained.

The Sri Lanka nation brand was scored across several metrics which measure external perceptions of the country on business and trade, governance, international relations, culture and heritage, media and communications, education and science, people and values, sustainability. 

Sri Lanka’s position dropped sharply from the previous year, falling as much as 42 places from 73 to 115, making it the country with the steepest decline in this year’s index. The individual soft power measures also showed a decline pushing Sri Lanka’s rank to among the bottom 10 countries on the index. The lowest perceptions were observed in governance and international relations, where Sri Lanka ranks 118th and 120th out of 121 countries measured.

According to Brand Finance Place Branding Director Konrad Jagodzinski, who presented the results at the symposium, this study is a reflection of the reality that the country went through when it announced bankruptcy and the resultant domestic turmoil and suffering of the people since April 2022. 

With the urgent need to rebalance the political, economic and social foundations, he said, the positive news is that the country can indeed change the way it is viewed and move it into positive territory. Sri Lankan politicians, state and business leaders need to take cognisance of the factors that are most critical for this turn around and jointly support SLIM in taking this initiative further through closer collaboration. This must lead to regaining the confidence to trade, do business and be attractive for investments among other global nations. 

In the way forward discussion, Imal Fonseka suggested the appointment of a National Brand Council which would be responsible for defining and setting up a framework for the brand, which would ensure consistency and ensure synergies in initiatives across key sectors from investment, exports, tourism and even international relations. 

As the national body of marketing, SLIM is ideally placed to drive this agenda, however, it was also pointed out that other chambers and business association’s contribution and support are required to build momentum and impact. The custodian of the nation brand resides with the highest governing authority of the country and therefore an appreciation of the value of a fact based and structured nation branding initiative should also be established through discussions with those key stakeholders. It was recognised that building a nation brand is a long term initiative that will take 20-25 years, therefore the need to align all policy makers to this long term vision is a key to success.

UK headquartered Brand Finance who presented the research findings is a specialist brand strategy and valuation consultancy, which has been operating in Colombo, Sri Lanka since 2004.