The Branded Nation: a comparative analysis with reference to Syria and the United Arab Emirates

Rula Abdulrazak

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis


Tourists, business people, professionals and politicians often base their choice of which country to visit or which nation to trade or work with on retrospective evaluation of complex series of past events and accumulated knowledge and stereotype that shape how a nation is perceived, that is a nation image. However, a nation image may not closely reflect the nation’s culture, resources and capabilities which form the nation identity. This research explores the possibilities of narrowing the gap between nation image and identity in order to improve countries’ chances in obtaining a fairer share of the world’s wealth and power. The research investigates the processes nations may approach to turn their image within a target market to become more positive and appealing. Through an examination of the concept of brand and the process of branding with reference to nations, a multidisciplinary study has been conducted to develop a better understanding of the concept and a more effective model of the process to balance a nation image. The data collected were captured from a collection of state documents, press materials, non-systematic observations and in-depth, semi-structured interviews with elites. The research interview protocol explored the international image of Syria and the UAE in the UK market at a specific historical period of time. This thesis investigated interviewees’ vision of a desired image and their perceptions of nations’ identities. An interpretive, inductive approach was applied to analyse the data and an abductive approach applied in developing the branding model benefiting from examination of the concepts: experience and perception, in philosophy and psychology in addition to the knowledge theory and the learning cycle in conjunction with the findings of this research and nation and cultural brands theories. The research shows that a negative nation image can be as a result of an unfavourable representation of state political or economic policies. The results of this study suggest that benefiting from a favourable cultural representation of a nation can increase awareness and create a more positive perception. This in turn can help in providing a more balanced reflection of a nation’s identity, rather than the state, which can be more attractive to consumers and in turn enrich the nation economy and development and increase its power. The study helps to establish a better understanding of nation brand and image and gives a more comprehensive picture of the branding process. Research rarely examined through empirical studies the impact of a nation-state brand on a nation image. Politically or commercially oriented nation brand developed around a state policy limits a nation image and does not reflect closely a nation identity. Taking a cultural approach to nation branding can help reflects the complexity of nation identity and contribute to forming a more comprehensive nation image that represents a nation identity more closely. This understanding enhances the branding model which was constructed from studying relevant, multidisciplinary literature reflecting the complex and changing nature of nation identity and image. Practitioners can benefit from the four dimensions inducted from the data: awareness, knowledge, trust and loyalty in assessing nations’ images; and the identified factors that influence that image: friendliness, trustworthiness and management, can help practitioners manage a nation brand more effectively and eventually reduce the gap between the image and identity of that nation. The study helps to close a gap in the literature, provides empirical evidence from an understudied region towards a more effective branding process, and offers a basis for further research. The study concludes with a call for a critical approach in studying the impact of nation branding and its effectiveness in the long term.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Chaney, Isabella, Supervisor
Award date1 Jan 2016
Publication statusUnpublished - 2016

Cite this