“Germany is a miracle”
Simon Anholt, founder of the Nation Brands Index, talks about Germany’s image – and the responsibility that it creates.
Simon Anholt coined the term “nation branding”. However, the British anthropologist and former policy advisor is annoyed about how it is often used today – as if you could change the image of a country in the same way as a product using appropriate marketing measures. The Anholt-GfK Nation Brands Index that he developed shows that this is not the case.
Germany was ranked number 1 in the most recent Nation Brands Index. What were the reasons for that?
Simon Anholt: There is only one reason: the USA is down to number 7. And Germany is always the standby most admired nation whenever America makes itself temporarily unpopular.
The NBI takes into account many more aspects though, doesn’t it?
Simon Anholt: Yes, but this is the only factor that ever changes. People’s perception of a country’s culture, products, landscape and its people doesn’t change from year to year. In fact, even the perception of politics doesn’t change much. The only country that is volatile is the USA, because it is really the only foreign country that people around the world ever think about. That volatility is not shared by any other nation in the index..
“This is a very interesting moment in history for Germany and for Europe.”
Which is surprising, because from the inside there is indeed a feeling of volatility in Germany. The country is fundamentally reshaping its identity, especially in terms of international relations.
Simon Anholt: I think this is a very interesting moment in history for Germany and for Europe, because of the enormous leadership vacuum that has opened up as a result of the USA no longer providing the kind of multilateral moral guidance it has provided for centuries. So some country or region has to step up and say: “We will guide the international community in a spirit of multilateralism and cooperation, because nobody else is doing it.”
Do you think Germany could be this country?
Simon Anholt: Germany must be this country, because it’s top of the NBI. It’s the only country that has popular permission to do that. Germany has global responsibilities right now.
“Germany has gone from probably the most despised nation to the most admired nation.”
What is your personal view of Germany?
Simon Anholt: I think that Germany is a miracle. Since 1945, it has gone from probably the most despised nation to the most admired nation – Japan being the only country that has done something similar. Seventy years is a very short time to effectively change the global culture. Because the way we regard other countries is not a media phenomenon, it’s a cultural phenomenon. Germany has forced the world to reassess its cultural landscape.