Saudi Arabia 2030: national branding
Opinion

Saudi Arabia vision 2030: converting its human wealth to brand advocates

Most governments in the Arab world today suffer from conveying their competitive key strengths beyond their national borders. 

Nation’s branding is a unique multi-dimensional combination of elements that provide the nation with culturally grounded distinction and significance for all of its stakeholders. This acknowledges the multi-faceted nature of the nation’s brand, together with the need to integrate the dimensions of the national identity. 

Also, countries can be considered a product like any other product that have key features to compete in national and international markets. By all means, it follows the same planning principles like identifying foreign markets as stakeholders, determining political and investment narratives including economic and investment key messaging, adding to it whatever the national resources have. 

It is well known in the global arena that governments promote their competitive advantages throughout their foreign policy or a specific political agenda, which is an official norm to boost our national economy and national industries such as manufacturing, agriculture and services. 

We are still highlighting here a foreign policy agenda that is run by the foreign affairs minister or another cabinet member.

Nation building and branding

Nation branding is a stimulating and contentious phenomenon. It creates a comprehensible sovereign and achievable image for a country, and to be more specific for a state. It is the founding stone that helps to position the nation in a competitive milieu and improve its global reputation. 

It will by all means contribute to the economic development by building up a touristic unique national brand, attract foreign investment, forging trust in the national corporate arena and local brands, it reassures exports, develops the public diplomacy and limits emigration. 

A virtuous national branding is gainful for all parties involved, for both the private and the public sector, as well as for citizens, and these play a vital role in building it. Furthermore, nation branding is progressively gaining eminence, with more and more countries around the world committing resources to the advancement of their national brand. 

Challenges today are progressively growing, especially among global competition that nations now face in both domestic and external arenas. Nations are increasingly making conscious efforts to attract tourists and to reassure inward investment. 

A further objective for industrial nations is increasing their products for exports, to support their banking system in increasing currency stability, help strengthen international credibility and investor self-confidence; and specifically boost international political influence; stimulate tougher transnational partnerships and augment nation building by nourishing confidence, pride, harmony, ambition, national resolve. 

Let’s take the perfect example today in the Arab world, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia

Seven years ago, the Kingdom boarded on a new footpath to diversify its national economy. Setting first a national goal, which is vision 2030, Saudi Arabia’s path for a post-oil era, which opened the country progressively to transform the country to a competitive global destination through integrated smart level objectives. 

As part of the Saudi nation-branding strategy, the vision aimed to foster the kingdom’s cultural resources to advance its image globally to attract investment and align interests. 

Witnessing and observing closely to what it is happening today, the advanced evolution of the entertainment and tourism sectors, heavy presence of women in public life at all levels, the diversified political, economic and business activities that are happening starting with G20 and The Future Investment Initiative conferences and ending up with heavy investment in cultural initiatives are enlightening the quality of life for Saudi citizens and expats at the same time. 

Diversifying economy and efforts

Moreover, the constant showcasing of cultural, entertainment, and sporting events and the boom of development projects to diversify the economy have not only increased foreign direct investment but have also provided opportunities to generate soft power.

When Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman raised the flag of Vision 2030 in 2016, he confidently set Saudi Arabia on a footpath to move beyond oil dependence. This pathway has incorporated extensive economic and social reforms. 

These reforms have advanced various characteristics of quality of life for national citizens, engendering support, among youth and women. The social relaxation has also explored new revenue from Saudis who are now spending nationally on various entertainment opportunities. 

On top of this, this social opening has also encompassed and permitted various initiatives for Saudi Arabia to enhance its soft power strategy and improve its image globally. According to the Saudi minister of culture, “While culture has traditionally been associated with soft power … it is increasingly driving global prosperity.”

This is a vision not a marketing council, which should be both mixed together. Saudi Arabia does not have a marketing council, but converted the whole Saudi society into a marketing council that supports and pushes forward the government to achieve vision 2030 objectives.

We don’t see this in the Arab world specifically.

In the end, what Saudi vision 2030 did create, is direct and indirect involvement — increase the role of non-state actors to contribute in the nation branding, to which the government is visible and recognizable as the sponsor and initiator. 

Mohamed Ghozeil has 25 years of leadership experience in marketing and communications. He began his career in advertising, working for Saatchi & Saatchi in 1996 where he managed the Saudi American Bank account and P&G. In 2000, he joined Ogilvy and Mather to launch American Express in Saudi Arabia. He successfully managed crisis issues that arose during the launch of AmEx Saudi Arabia in relation to the US involvement in the Iraq war.