Rebranding is big right now. It's keeping many consultants employed, and providing something new for Marketing Directors to pitch to their CEO's. There are a zillion books on the topic, and now we have one that proposes an image makeover for our home and native land (OHNL).
Right up front, I am declaring that I have not read Branding Canada --- Projecting Canada's Soft Power through Public Diplomacy, as McGill-Queen's University Press did not send me a review copy and I am too cheap to shell out $32.95 for the paperback edition. So this is based on the publisher's précis, and the author's comments on his own website.
The author, Carleton University assistant prof Evan H. Potter Ph.D, has written several other books on foreign policy.
In this one, Potter says "foreign public opinion is now as crucial to national success as negotiating with foreign governments."
Apparently foreign folks see us as nice, and decent, and tolerant, and .... did I mention nice?
Well nice is as nice does, and it's just not good enough, says Potter, allegedly.
We seem to be the Miss Congeniality of the international beauty pageant, and we need to step up our game a bit.
In reality, we are not really on anyone's mind most of the time, which may be a good or bad thing, depending upon your point of view. For example, many lament that Americans in general pay no attention to us, and have a poor understanding of our many fine qualities.
This is true, but not necessarily a bad thing. Countries that America pays attention to often look up to see incoming cruise missiles. Personally, I'm happy to just keep selling them oil while keeping our heads down.
Still, as Potter says, "protecting and nurturing a distinct national identity are essential to Canada's sovereignty and prosperity." That, presumably, is an identity not entirely centred on Tim Hortons double-doubles and Stompin' Tom's The Hockey Song.
"Brand stretching" is the way to go, he writes. That means talking up our oil sands technology, and playing down the mounties and mountains thing. Fewer red coats, more lab coats.
Stand on guard.