Branding should be as important for a country as it is for a product, though many overlook it. Now Hungary is finally taking its own brand seriously. The task facing Gergely Böszörményi Nagy and his colleagues is daunting; develop a single, unifying brand for Hungary, channel all government communications to reflect it, and as part of the process, help Hungarians rediscover their love for Europe. Böszörményi Nagy rejoices in the very long title of Deputy Head of the Department for Strategic Communication at the State Secretariat for Government Communications.
Fortunately, the idea around which all Hungarian branding communication will coalesce is somewhat shorter: Potential.
Having established an umbrella brand word, the next step was to break it down. “We decided on separate focus areas: Creative Potential; Green Potential; Healing Potential; and Market Potential,” explains Böszörményi Nagy. The concentration on focus areas is interesting.
The deputy head’s background is as a marketing professional, not a politician. Targeted messaging, he says, is vital. “I don’t believe in general branding for a country like those CNN spots. They are all very colourful, very similar, not very credible, and they all look alike; you could be talking about Malaysia or Croatia.
You have to look very seriously about where to buy media and advertising spots.” Instead, the idea is to focus on niche areas, smart branding, if you like, rather than blanket generalizations. Thus marketing for the Healing Potential will target people interested in health tourism, for example. Communications around Market Potential will address the business world; intellectuals will, in part, be the focus for Creative Potential. The drive has come too late for the EU Presidency – a fully thought through strategy is expected to be in place by this fall, to take effect from the beginning of 2012.
But that doesn’t mean the principals can’t be applied; targeted communication, building on Hungary’s heritage and potential, and emphasizing what Böszörményi Nagy calls “European Hungarian values.” There is one caveat, however. Hungary cannot be seen to be using the presidency for its own means. “The EU presidency is not for country branding. The most important thing is for Hungary to be useful for the EU. If everything works well at the operational and logistical level, then we will have been useful.”
One thing that will be emphasized, though, is culture, especially where it ties in with the political priorities of the presidency. Such synchronization will become a feature of the future country branding. (See separate box for details of some of the planned events.) It is also hoped that Hungarians themselves will come to view Europe differently. “We have this strange situation where the EU as an institution is popular in Hungary, but our membership of it is not. We should rebalance that. We will highlight that our membership of the Union represents an opportunity, not a boundary or a danger.”
Work on establishing the umbrella idea and the focus areas for the country branding were undertaken over the summer of 2010. That was the easy part. Drawing up the strategy to make it work is where the hard graft comes in. “Branding a country is much harder than the classical marketing model because there are so many stakeholders involved.”
Refreshingly, the government decided to build on, rather than ignore, the work of the previous administration, which had established a country branding council back in 2008. Equally refreshing, politicians were removed from it, and replaced with professionals, so that its membership of 20 includes major figures from the creative sector, as well as representatives of economic, artistic, educational and civil organizations. “It is probably one of the most representative boards in the country,” reckons Böszörményi Nagy.
A working group that includes representatives from the foreign affairs, national economy, and national resources ministries, along with the Hungarian National Tourist Office, Agricultural Marketing Center, ITD Hungary, and the Balassi Institution supports the council. The working group prepared the draft strategy. That was delivered in December to the council so it can review, question, test and challenge it. The final strategy should be ready by the fall of this year for implementation from 2012. And it could, potentially reach almost anywhere.
“There are 14 different stamps for Hungarian made products in the FMCG sector. How much easier will it be for everyone if there was just one?” But Böszörményi Nagy doesn’t expect this to happen overnight, one reason why his departments aren’t pressing to get the strategy out sooner. “We are realistic, and we don’t want to repeat the mistakes of the last 20 years.this is not a campaign for six months only. One real major boundary we are facing is how to socialize different institutions to think of branding as a common goal.”
Key cultural events
The cultural context of the Hungarian presidency will take in some 100 events across Europe. Where possible, they will tie in with policy priorities. Take inclusion, for example: a Hungarian-organized exhibition in Madrid will compare the life of Roma in the two countries.
The Danube strategy is another example of a policy priority with cultural potential. “All the countries through which the Danube flows have very much in common in cultural heritage, from Germany to Serbia,” says Böszörményi Nagy. Thus student from Budapest, Zagreb, Graz, Vienna and Ljubljana who make up the Central European Youth Symphony Orchestra will play a series of concerts in Danube-side cities to complement the Danube Cultural Cluster and Cities on the River programs.
Next year is the European Year of Volunteering; so expect plenty of activity to tie in with that. It is also the 200th anniversary of the birth of Franz Liszt. Says Böszörményi Nagy, “Liszt is well known; it is less well known that he was a Hungarian. We should communicate that we have a world star in classical music who is still relevant today.” Concerts in Madrid, before the Spanish Royal Family, in London’s Royal Festival Hall, the Stephans dom in Vienna and in Brussels, Paris and Rome will stand alongside a performance for Pope Benedict XVI in the Vatican on the anniversary of the day Saint Elizabeth of Hungary was canonized on May 27 1235.
Renewed and closer ties with long-time partner and ally Poland is another priority for the government and, with just a touch of serendipity, Poland follows Hungary in holding the presidency. That has given the chance for a series of Polish-Hungarian opera concerts, as well as a cultural closing ceremony in Poznan, featuring Hungarian PM Viktor Orbán and his Polish counterpart Donald Tusk, for the ceremonial handing over of “Europe’s keys”.
By Robin Marshall, published on XpatLoop.com with the permission of AmCham's Voice Magazin