Replacing dragon will not fully symbolize a rebranded China

Countries, like any brand, need PR and a clear brand message to convey their national sentiment and their mission moving forward. How a country is viewed determines whether it is a good tourist destination, or whether a company will set up shop there.

Countries, like any brand, need PR and a clear brand message to convey their national sentiment and their mission moving forward. How a country is viewed determines whether it is a good tourist destination, or whether a company will set up shop there.

In that vein, China is looking to rebrand with a change of its national symbol, the dragon. While the country has not yet announced what the new symbol will be, it is hoping to send the message that its people wish for harmony and happiness, and it wants the symbol to represent the country's cultural and geographical diversity.

Working on the new symbol for the Planning Office of Philosophy and Social Sciences of Shanghai is Wu Youfu, deputy president of the Shanghai Public Relations Association.

Why does it matter?

While China may be changing its national symbol, attracting more tourists or industries takes more than an attractive new logo; it involves an extensive marketing plan with attention to the details that certain stakeholders want to highlight.

"A logo is often the most visible symbol or manifestation of the country brand," says Rina Plapler, executive director of brand experience at FutureBrand New York, in an e-mail. "It serves to inspire, endure, and intrigue audiences. It plays an important role in terms of giving representation to a country; however, in general, a logo alone does not make someone visit a destination."

To successfully change its national image, China must support the redesigned logo with proper marketing.

Five facts:

1 According to brandchannel.com, branding a place means dealing with different stakeholders with different interests, such as promoting tourism while also promoting industry.

2 Other countries that have rebranded are Spain, with a sun symbol designed by Joan MirĂ³ and the "Everything Under the Sun" slogan; and Poland, with a symbol of a kite.

3 Allan Steinmetz, CEO of Inward Strategic Consulting, told brandchannel.com that top-down brand building does not work for most countries because of image problems that can occur with government leaders.

4 Futurebrand Worldwide, an arm of Interpublic Group, ranks country brands by using relevant statistics, expert opinions, and global surveys in its Country Brand Index. This year, it ranked the US brand as number two behind Australia.

5 Aspects that are important to consumers and should thus be considered when branding a country are the weather, safety, natural beauty, art/culture, and value for money.

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