The Art of Rebranding Greece
02/10/2012 | By Dimitris Yannopoulos | AthensNews.gr
WHEREAS thousands of Greeks of all ages and walks of life hope to flee from the nation’s dire economic predicament by emigrating, one of the most successful Greek expatriates chose to return to the land of his ancestors in 1999, purely out of love and faith in its unique virtues.
Peter Economides, who was born in South Africa and has lived in Johannesburg, Hong Kong, Mexico and New York City, is one of the leading experts in the field of brand management and strategy. His impressive portfolio includes promotional creations for world-known brands - from Apple and Coca-Cola to Audi cars or Absolut vodka. His Greek portfolio includes Antenna and Mega TV channels in Greece and the world’s first interactive destination branding project for the Cyprus port city of Limassol.
After a 40-year journey through the world of advertising and marketing, Economides is now the owner and founder of Felix BNI, an Athens-based consultancy firm that builds on experience as high-level executive in global advertising agencies McCann Erickson Worldwide and TBWA Worldwide.
In an interview with the Athens News he talks of how reversing Greece’s image abroad can be achieved by managing its “brand DNA” and extols the work of what he calls “Greek heroes” from all walks of life in leading the country out of the crisis.
Athens News: At a time when some, like Greek-born Eurodeputy Yiorgos Chatzimarkakis, suggest that Greece should change its foreign name into “Hellas” to restore its image, you insist that the country has got a “brand-DNA” linked to its name that should be respected at home and abroad. Could you explain?
Peter Economides: Absolutely! It’s only a couple of extreme people who have that point of view that would let the country’s identity perish for the sake of something totally new or very old. To change our name at this point would be the most ridiculous thing on earth. Every strong brand has got its brand-DNA, that’s the fundamental undeniable truth about the brand, the reason why the brand exists in the first place.
And if you think of all the truly great commercial brands like Apple, Coca-Cola or BMW and Nike, they’ve all got very strong DNA and the people who manage these brands must be conscious of that DNA. And this is not something that can be changed.
So what’s the DNA of Greece?
To even ask the question means we are out of touch with our fundamental DNA. It’s what Valery Giscard d’Estaing means when he says “Europe without Greece is like a child without a birth certificate”. I’m not one of those who say “Let’s get in touch with our ancestors”, but I am saying that this is the overriding concept of this country worldwide. So without saying that we are the descendants of Plato and Aristotle, I am saying that we have all this inspiration around us that we have to live up to.
What, then, are the elementary building blocks of this DNA?
As I said, they’re all the things we lost touch with: It’s our classical heritage, filotimo [a sense of personal honour], human scale, sense of measure, simplicity, perfection, diversity and beauty of landscape, the colours, the light, the brightness of the Greek sun, the mild weather, individualism, love for freedom, clarity, balance, creativity, invention, the rich music and poetry. We’ve got this stuff all around us but fail to see them as sources of inspiration we can draw strength from and inspire others to cherish Greece.
What makes contemporary Greeks undermine their own worth so easily?
I differentiate between “brand”and “branding”. Brand is what people think of you, while branding is managing what people think of you. And if you’re conscious of branding, then you’re gonna manage what people think of you more effectively. A brand is not just an advertisement campaign, a name, a logo or a slogan. It’s everything that affects what people think of you. Think of the image of Samaras and Papandreou arguing in public last October. It creates impressions which affect the brand called “Greece” in people’s minds - it makes us look stupid, frankly. It means we have lost control of our identity, our own brand, by rebranding Greece in a negative light.
How can we regain control to counter this negative rebranding of Greece?
There’s a fundamental systemic issue which undermines the image of the country. It’s the whole disconnect between state, government and people, the clientelism that prevents people who lack the right “connections” to be creative. It is also an educational issue.
However, if we wait for the system to improve or the next generation to be properly “educated”, then we’ll never get out of this mess. We must start rebranding ourselves. It’s up to each and every Greek to take charge of his own situation; and today, with the power of the internet, you’ve got the ability to do so. And I am already seeing pockets of absolute genius, the new Greek heroes, capable of leading this country out of the crisis.
Is there time for them to prevail before the Greek brand is buried for good?
The Greek brand can never be destroyed. It’s arrogant for us to think that we can destroy it. We can destroy ourselves, but not the Greek brand. This is the lesson from of our long history.