A brand waiting to happen

Brand Finance CEO David Haigh (left) and COO Bryn Anderson (right). Photo: Brand Finance
How is ‘Brand Poland’ perceived around the world? Poland Today editor in chief Richard Stephens asks two top executives at global brand valuation consultancy Brand Finance
What is Poland’s reputation abroad at the moment?
Brynn Anderson, Brand Finance COO: According to our study, the Polish brand comes in at about the middle of the scale. The reputation of Poland in overseas markets is very much a mixed bag. The gulf between perception and reality is enormous. There are some key segments which are relatively negative, which are wrapped up with other Eastern European nations – that it was under Soviet control, that it’s grey and bleak, when in fact it’s completely different.
David Haigh, Brand Finance Founder & CEO: The keys are tourism, FDI, products and services, and people. When it comes to tourism, it’s either negative or niche – Poland’s treasures are not well known. Concerning companies from Poland, a number of Polish brands have given themselves names which sound German, English or Japanese. From a products and services point of view it’s not great. Aldi and Lidl source a lot of products from Poland but they don’t want to admit it. Concerning people, foreigners know Poles are Catholic, hard-working and honest. People are probably Poland’s most positive asset. Finally, concerning FDI, there’s the residual fear of what’s happening in Ukraine, which may be unfair, but it’s the case. So it’s a bit of a mixed picture.
BA: But it’s also positive in comparison with Ukraine. Poland has good fiscal and political management and the economy is growing reasonably well. It’s on a stable footing. In our nation brand study, Poland did best in people and skills, as well as in goods and products. Polish products are of good quality – Poland’s biggest exports are in heavy machinery and electrical equipment.
DH: Business to business it’s doing OK, but name recognition is not there.
What advice would you give Poland in terms of improving its brand?
DH: The country has to list the things it’s good at and rank them. Concerning Polish brands and products, they have to think about where they are likely to be positively received – and in my opinion it’s where Poles have emigrated. So prioritise where Poland has a comparative advantage, and then target the right products to these places. The world is so big and crowded that you can’t do everything – you have to use your resources carefully.
‘I think it would be a big mistake for businesses not to emphasize their Polishness’
Poles find it hard to agree on what face to show.
BA: That’s the hard part. Every organization faces this. You have to come up with something and then bring people along with you – people have to get behind it or it won’t gain traction. Poles are fun, tolerant and artistic – that would fit with a series of festivals.
DH: It has to be believable. For example the alcohol industry is where Poland could have a comparative advantage. My understanding is that lots of filmmakers have come from Poland. If there’s a major film festival in Poland, I’ve never heard of it.
BA: It’s all about communication. In my experience Poles don’t shout about what they’re good at.
Is there a country or countries whose example Poland should follow?
DH: Peru has done a great job, as has Britain, with its ‘great’ campaign. Spain has done a good job with its ‘Marka España’, which is coordinated by the government. Spain is similar to Poland in some ways – they’re both Catholic countries, agriculture is big for them both, but unfortunately Poland doesn’t have the beaches.
But Poland has great beaches, actually.
DH: That illustrates the point. I didn’t know that. When you talk about Poland, people’s faces are often a bit blank.
BA: Poland is a perfect candidate to host the World Cup or Olympics.
DH: Countries which want to change perceptions of their country have to develop their tourism industries, so the government needs to put resources there. I understand Poland has lots of natural wild beauty – people can go there for horse riding or outdoor holidays.
BA: It has to be managed very well so people leave with a positive opinion.
When Polish companies operate abroad, should they emphasise that they are Polish, or rather only that they are from the European Union?
DH: I think it would be a big mistake not to emphasise their Polishness. Poland could be a very powerful nation brand. It’s not a dump, it’s just not well known. It would be an admission of defeat and it would be wrong to go under the EU brand. Most people would look at the product and would say: “What do you mean it comes from the EU? Where in the EU?”
BA: You’ve got to have confidence. Poland is a brand waiting to happen. What should Polish companies do to improve their chances of success in foreign markets?
DH: If the Poland brand is not very strong, they will have to do their own marketing. The government has a responsibility to help their companies. You can’t wait 50 years for it to happen organically. The government has to act now – it’s imperative.
Brand Finance is a brand valuation consultancy. The company advises organisations on how to maximise their value through the effective management of their brands and intangible assets. Founded in 1996, Brand Finance has performed thousands of branded business, brand and intangible asset valuations worth trillions of dollars, according to the company’s website. Brand Finance is headquartered in London and has a network of international offices.
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Written by: Richard Stephens

Richard Stephens founded Poland Today in 2012 to help bring Poland to the world and the world to Poland. Before this he was editor of Eurobuild CEE magazine in his first stint with the company, and then returned to conceive and establish The Eurobuild Awards, organizing the first two editions. He has a degree in Theology & Religious Studies from Bristol University in the UK.