Country branding communication.

(Excerpt from the doctoral thesis “Visual identity sources for Romania’s country brand,” author Bogdan Brînzaș)

The communication messages about Romania initiated by the successive administrators since 1990 were punctual, incoherent, and without a connection between the different campaigns. I emphasize here the notion of a campaign, this being in theory but also in practice, an action carried out according to a specific plan in a certain determined period of time, usually seasonal or annual, so a segment of communication. The advertising campaigns carried out by successive administrations were therefore segmented, punctual, unrelated, and continuous in pursuit of a precise objective. These are a good reflection of the punctual, adopted, imitated, sequential and incongruous syncopations and methods of the Romanian society in transition, which struggled undecided since 1990 between “western” models and the local specifics and that undefined one. Constancy and continuity of messages were not the strengths of these campaigns. Behind these campaigns carried out so far by administrations were short-term strategies, having the typical characteristics of advertising campaigns for products and services. Or, a country image is built over time, being a continuous, fluid effort based on objectives that can be achieved through a homogeneous, uniform, and constant projection of values, attributes, and messages through an ongoing sales process. And this way of thinking and acting is typical of branding that constantly, coherently, and homogeneously proposes a set of values and attributes ready to be experienced by the consumer.

Next, we can note the following as the main characteristics of these tactical communication actions:
1. All of these were advertising campaigns, that is, short-term communication tactics, usually lasting a year, but they were not part of a continuous plan;
2. The message of each campaign was different, unrelated to the previous or the next, so without any kind of continuity;
3. The classic methods of advertising communication were used, especially prints, video spots, and presence at tourism fairs;
4. Each campaign tried to convey a message as comprehensive as possible for as wide a beach of potential tourists as possible, without differentiated messages on other potential target groups (other than tourists, with few exceptions);
5. The campaigns were not supported and doubled by investments and tangible achievements (in tourism, infrastructure, etc.) being focused only on the image;
6. The limited partnerships have changed each time.

Given that the country’s image is built on six main pillars – exports, governance, tourism, investment, culture, and people – these campaigns covered, at best, tourism and (possibly) subsidiarily investment attraction. Outside of classic diplomacy, most of Romania’s communication efforts so far have been concentrated in the area of tourism and elitist culture, with narrow addressability (for example, the Romanian Cultural Institute), with very limited actions aimed at investments, people, brands export, innovation or good governance domestic policies. Other factors with the potential to contribute to Romania’s positive reputation and image were not taken into account at all, such as education or legislative stability. The obsession with the image has always taken precedence, Romania being more focused on talking and saying than doing and demonstrating it. Romania’s communication ended up being responsive or passive concerning external environmental factors (political, social, cultural, economic), the opposite of a proactive attitude, oriented towards doing, building, achieving, and communicating in this sense. At the same time, sports, science, and the arts, which until 1990 were effective ambassadors of Romania abroad, began to cease to function due to underfunding, with an entire world getting to know Romania thanks to its performances in gymnastics or football. The result was the fall of these supporting pillars of our cultural diplomacy, further blocking Romania’s access to the table of exchanges, dialogues, mutual understanding, and trust with other cultures. Despite numerous communication efforts and tens of spent millions of euros, Romania’s reputation remains weak, undefined, and not at all convincing. Those advertising campaigns, some of them unusual, have shown us that they are not a practical solution. It should be noted that the country’s image is much more than tourism and elitist culture. A necessary condition for a country’s image of existing is for that country to be known, or the main feature of Romania’s reputation is that in the United States, it is unknown and needs to be introduced, and in Europe, the perception must be changed, is known for a multitude of negative aspects.