From coffee to figs -- can Turkey brand itself?
To boost its international image, Turkey is learning the value of national branding, centered around its crown jewel, Istanbul.
By Burak Sayin for SES Türkiye in Istanbul -- 05/01/12
"If the Earth were a single state, Constantinople would be its capital," Napoleon once said of Istanbul.
Turkey had been known in the West for economic and political crises, coups and movies like Midnight Express that painted a rough picture of the country. Today, however, Turkey is viewed as an increasingly powerful regional actor and its image is improving, especially in places like the Middle East.
According to Brand Finance, Turkey is the 19th most valuable country brand in the world. The research is made on the basis of a country's economy, politics, national income, unemployment rate, tourism income, country risk perception, health services, total exports and banking system.
"Istanbul is a huge intersection point where so many cultures touch each other. By this meaning it can be capital of the world," Levent Erden, a brand management expert at Bilgi University, explains.
Erden says that Istanbul is not only a Turkish legacy, but has been a cultural intersection of the world for over 2,000 years.
"In no place can you find the intersection of the Romans and Greeks. You'll find the intersection of Orthodox and Catholics here. An incredible intersection one atop the other: young and old, modern and classic, East and West, oriental and modern, secular and religious."
With its nearly 13 million inhabitants and 6.9 million visitors last year, Istanbul has been a draw for tourists and businessmen alike. Now, some would like to see Turkey's image in the world improve through branding.
"Istanbul seems like a bigger brand than Turkey," Efe Sevin, the director of political communication at Turkayfe.org, an interactive blogging website developed to support Turkey's branding process.
Sevin says most resources have been devoted to tourism advertisement without any systematic effort to brand Turkey.
"Turkey has great potential with its countless resources -- and this potential is not only limited to culture and tourism -- but includes limitless economic, investment, education, and business opportunities," he says.
However, Erden says it's difficult to create a "Turkey" brand because of regional variations, pointing out that while the south is focused on tourism, in the east there is six months of snow and negative 20 degree weather.
"Under these circumstances Istanbul is only option you can use."
Thayne Forbes, a UK-based branding expert, says that Turkey's successful economy has contributed to it becoming a top brand, but in a tier below major economies like the US, China, Japan, UK, France, and Germany.
"Over the last 10 years there has been a substantial rise in the brand value of Turkey, not just in volume of business but in its quality too," he says, adding that "there is a lot more to Turkey than Istanbul".