How Do You Market a Country? (Malaysia vs El Salvador vs America)

If you want to market your country, you have come to the right place!

You market a country by integrating multiple strategies towards building how you want your country to be perceived. This means you market your culture, the people, the food, the colors, the language, and the experiences you want to communicate. 

But first, let’s review some examples:

  • What country comes to mind when you think of beer and bratwurst? … Probably Germany.
  • What country comes to mind when you think of a beautiful sandy beach retirement? … Probably Costa Rica.
  • What country comes to mind when you think of wealthy superyacht owners? … probably Monaco.
  • What country comes to mind when you think of freedom and free enterprise? … Probably the USA.
  • What country comes to mind when you think of a wildlife safari? … Probably South Africa.
  • Or the most beautiful women and beaches? … Probably Brazil.
  • How about tax friendly and privacy? … Probably Cayman Islands.
  • The country of love? … Probably France.
  • The world’s best pasta? … Probably Italy.
  • The world's most bananas? … Probably Guatemala. 
  • The world's best scuba diving or snorkeling? … Probably Belize.

Do you think these are accidents?

No. These associations are deliberate.

You can do the same. And in this helpful tutorial we teach you how to market a country.

Let’s get started.

Strategic Plan for Marketing a Country with Examples

With nearly 200 countries competing for limited economic resources, you need a superior marketing strategy to position your country on the global map.

Fortunately, there are several ways you can promote your country. In this article, we share insights into some effective country marketing strategies that can help attract more of the people you want.

Like destination marketing, country marketing is also about promoting your country to attract the ideal type of people you most desire.  It's also about improving your country's image and making it more appealing to foreigners. 

Here are eight marketing strategies that you can use immediately.

1. What do you want your country to become?

This may sound trite, but you absolutely need a vision. After all, if you don’t know where you are going, that’s exactly where you will end up.

Start here:

Think big. Think basic. Think simple.

See where that takes you.

The place to start in this process is through ideation with your team: How to make a breakthrough.

2. Get the facts about your country

This first step is going to require some ‘boots on the ground’. This is where you will literally find out where you are starting from. This requires some foundation building, but this part of the marketing process is very important. There are four strategic planning tools in this first step: 

  1. SWOT analysis -- Determine your country’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. Go here to learn how to do a SWOT analysis.
  2. Gather feedback from foreigners, visitors, and business people and gain their unbiased perspective about your country. Collect and document it all. This information is the core to your plan, and will be critical for comparison when you come to get feedback from these same groups of people over time.
  3. Define and establish your Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to measure where you are no and where you want to go. 
  4. Apply the law of 80 / 20 to your plan -- Prioritize the biggest activities that will get you closer to your vision -- leaving the smaller activities that produce the least results for another time. Go here to learn how to apply the Law of 80 / 20.

3. Define your country’s ideal target market(s)

This is marketing 101, but just as true for marketing your country as ever.

If you could wave a magic wand, who is your ideal target market? Who do you want as visitors, vacationers, to spend time in your country, maybe even become a resident, or take a path to citizenship?

The answers should be obvious.

And most likely, you won’t have just one target market, but possibly hundreds of pockets of ideal “customers”. Sports, museums, students, history buffs, business people, travelers, vacationers, honeymooners, retirees, on and on. The options here are endless. Here are some methods to help you when doing your research.

4. Build your country’s marketing strategy using the Marketing Mix

Ok, now it’s time to get into some of your country’s marketing tactics and strategies. This is where the fun begins. 

The 4 P’s of marketing is a great place to start. Again, keep it simple.  Go here to learn how to structure this.

The most important part of this process is communicating your message to the right target market. In this case, you want to use big, broad, bold, simple language.

Above all, it must be compelling.

Let’s look at an example.

Marketing your country example: Malaysia

The Malaysia Convention & Exhibition Bureau feature the many reasons "Why Malaysia".

In it, they report Malaysia as "16th in the world as being the most peaceful country", and No. 1 World’s Best Countries to Invest in or Do Business for 2019" by

They position themselves as being in a "strategic location" because Malaysia sits at the heart of Asia, the largest and fastest growing economic region in the world. This supports their statement that "AirAsia ranks 1st in the world for the 'World’s Best Low-Cost Airlines 2019". This also supports their strategy of attracting worldwide students as well as being a great place to do business.

You’ll also notice their official government services website is organized in a user-friendly way, chunked up by important category, and it is fully mobile friendly: Your site needs something similar.

Also, it looks like they are doing a very good job in marketing to attract students, as one of their unique selling propositions (USP):

Malaysia is doing a great job with their messaging to the world. 

So, what is the best way to build your country’s marketing mix?

First, go here to ensure you are dialed in on the 4 P’s of marketing, a.k.a. the marketing mix

Second, since you know who you are targeting, i.e., business executives, start to ask yourself where these business executives are located in a concentrated market. Let’s go with, since we already knew them (they gave Malaysia the top review). Now it's your job to call and literally ask them what the best way is for you to market to their database of business executives. They will have a suite of options. This is how you get your marketing mix started. And the success of this entire country marketing plan is by repeating this process dozens of times. Over time, this is how you will brand your country in line with your vision.

Oh, and one of these ways to get your message across to the business executives in the database of will be through social media. Of course all this is tied to a mobile first website with tons of easy to navigate, useful information.


5. Leverage Social Media to Promote Your Country

Who would have thought that one of the ways to market your country is through social media.

But it's true. 

An increasing number of people are using social media to make huge life decisions, including vacations, study abroad plans, business connections, on and on.

In fact, one major player is so effective, he is literally rebranding his entire country. This is Nayib Bukele, the President of El Salvador.

But it's not just his way of communicating via social media, the same way many other leaders do.

It’s that he literally changed the direction of the country’s financial system.

And this has already drastically affected how his country is perceived in the world, increased tourism, and created new buzz for his country.

It is extremely easy to use social media platforms to reach people online and promote your country’s message. 

On social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, you can post content that will interest people, like photos and videos, or even hold promotions to gain attention. You can create a hashtag for your country, market it on Instagram, and share images that show off what you have to offer. 

And all of this can be done for free.


6. Perception of your country’s brand is reality -- using movies and video

Success is built on the basics.

And this is why this step is so important.

Movies are so important to your country’s marketing that it cannot be overstated. Movies shape the culture of not just the citizens, but also foreigners who watch them.

In fact, probably the best at this may very well be the United States.

True Grit, Coming to America, the Quiet American, The Alamo, Forrest Gump and The Good, the Bad, the Ugly all contributed to shaping how people think about America. The US government has been instrumental over the years in not just overseeing movies that are produced, but also in sponsoring them through tax credits, grants and bonuses.

Movies such as these absolutely are part of a country's marketing plan, and help to support tourism, branding, culture, language and more, much more.

But don’t think it has to be a major motion picture.

There are so many options to produce quality video today, that sometimes the best could be user generated content (UGC). 

After all, video marketing is an extremely effective way to boost your country's marketing. 

  • It allows you to showcase your country's top attractions. On your terms, which are then of course easily shared on social media or in other advertising. 
  • Travelers can also use videos to tell their own stories about their experiences during their visits. 
  • Virtual reality marketing also enables you to give your visitors a unique travel experience – they can experience your country from the comfort of their homes.
  • A great first step is to simply offer virtual tours of staple luxury hotels or resorts or even some of the country's most important landmarks. 
  • You could easily hire a celebrity to do the videos for you.
  • Combined with eCommerce strategies and you have infinitely more opportunities.

For example, you may be able to visit Finland in winter if you plan to see the northern lights, while visitors to Cyprus might be interested in visiting in summer when the weather is more pleasant. These are absolutely fantastic video promotional tools.

7. Highlight your Country’s Top Tourist Attractions

It is very important that you highlight the main attractions of your country. 

Focus on the unique selling points of the country, such as its amazing wildlife, ski slopes, mountain hiking trails, secluded beaches, and ancient temples. 

Focus on delivering these targeted messages to your ideal market(s).

It's never been easier to promote the heck out of your country’s scenic beauty, beautiful national parks, and fascinating historical sites.

If your country has significant historical landmarks, ancient ruins, or medieval castles, these will attract visitors! But you have to promote them!

Chile is an excellent example of a country that has excelled in turning around its fortunes through exemplary marketing strategies. 

Chile's image was previously vague with its brand-building programs. Instead of using slogans, Chile focuses on unique things that make its people attractive. It adopts a more subtle approach, emphasizing the country's stability and natural beauty. Chile also sells the country's many distinctive features in its commercial communication, including public relations and social media campaigns.

8. Have a healthy time perspective

Certainly President Bukele doesn’t expect his results to materialize in 90 days.  He most likely has a healthy time perspective. That is, he knows that to change the currency of a country, this requires changes in foundations, infrastructure, supply chains, buying habits, on and on. 

While he can execute on 90 days plans, similar to sprints, he knows that lasting change could take a generation, or two.

So to close out, as you develop your country’s marketing plan, start out by having a general idea of what you want your country to become, get the facts to find out where you are starting from, decide who you would like to communicate your new visions to, build your marketing plan and work hard to make it happen! 

And above all, give your vision and your plan time to succeed.

You’ll be surprised at what you can accomplish!


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