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Reyes Calderón, School of Economics, University of Navarra, Spain

Weaknesses and strengths of the Spain Brand

Fri, 17 Feb 2012 11:37:00 +0000 Published in La Razón

As Herbert Simon said: we suffer from limited rationality. Our ability to process information and, even more so, to form our preferences is limited. As consumers or investors, we often do not know what we want; we allow ourselves to be influenced by rumors and feelings and allow advertising messages to take positions in our utility function. It is a fact: decisions to invest, visit a place, study at a university, or consume a certain product depend both on the characteristics of the good per se and on that intangible set of perceptions we know as brand.

It is not enough to have a top quality product, adjusted in cost and price. It must be packaged in such a way that it is preferable to a similar product.

As a comparative positioning, made in can make a difference, and nations are therefore taking care to provide an image and reputation that makes them more desirable and trustworthy than their neighbors.

Taking care involves defining a strategy and equipping it with the means to influence positively rather than being a liability. In this, we have not been very fortunate lately. (To anyone who doubts this, I suggest comparing how and what the German and Spanish embassy websites "sell". Germany sample Education , innovation, work... and tourism; Spain, the Ambassador's name).

Brands are built with effort and a plan. We can pray that Nadal and the Spanish national soccer team continue to raise our flag around the world, but that is not enough, especially when ICTs accelerate life so much that news expires at birth. Without strategy, observation and innovation there is no solution because if in the past "country brand" meant beach and Serrano ham, today it is necessary to generate other types of value.

Spain ranks 14th in the 2011 Country Brand Index worldwide (9th in Europe). Insufficient? Sure, but it is worth reflecting on what contributes positively or negatively to this position. We are 3rd in tourism, 4th in gastronomy and nightlife, and 8th in beaches. That's pretty good. We rank 14th in Shopping and 20th in Quality of Life, measured, among others, in terms of Education, health, safety and job opportunities. But we are 20th in Value System and 25th in aptitude for doing business: framework regulatory, investment climate, technology, innovation...

The system of values appeals to the foundations of a mature rule of law, with a guarantee of individual rights and freedoms and the good work of public servants and is the natural basis of a good investment climate, and of that aptitude. I review the World Bank's Doing Business data . In 2011, we ranked 148th (you read that right) in the ease of opening a business; 76th in tax payments.

As a Spaniard, I rejoice at the triumphs of La Roja. But it saddens me that, possessing business caste, magnificent SMEs and great entrepreneurs, we are below Ireland, Iceland or Korea, because there is something that hinders us. I read that someone is going to get down to work. I hope Lamo de Espinosa has a good plan. And it will be branded and not just political.