Which countries have the best reputations? What does that even mean? TheReputation Institute, a global private consulting firm based in New York and Copenhagen, has just released its fourth annual list of 50 countries, ranked according to what it says is people’s trust, admiration, respect and affinity for those countries.
Topping the list for the third year in a row: Canada. Sweden comes in second, one place up from last year and Switzerland is third, up from fourth last year. (Australia slipped from second to fourth place.)
The Countries With The Best Reputations
What’s most notable is how far down the U.S. ranks: 22nd place, behind Brazil and just above Peru. Several European countries that continue to battle severe economic turmoil ranked above the U.S. again this year including Italy in 16th place, France in 17th, Spain in 18th and Portugal in 19th place.
One reason the U.S. doesn’t rank higher, says Fernando Prado, a managing partner at the Reputation Institute, is that when asked what was most important to them in gauging a country’s reputation, respondents said it was effective government and appealing environment a bit more than an advanced economy. But the U.S. has been steadily gaining in each of those three categories, says Prado, which explains why it moved up one place from 23rd last year. Prado adds that the U.S. is burdened by what he calls “a negative emotional halo” that has to do with being a world superpower. Outside the U.S., people have mixed feelings about its dominant role in the world.
To compile its data, the Reputation Institute conducted online interviews with 27,000 consumers in G8 countries from January through March of this year. The study asked about the 50 countries around the world that either have the largest economies and populations or are in the public eye as a result of economic, political or natural events. The Institute put four simple questions to the respondents. It asked about the countries’ overall reputation, whether the respondents had a “good feeling” about the countries, whether they admired and respected the countries and whether they trusted the countries.
The countries with the worst rankings are no surprise. Iraq ranked 50th, preceded by Iran, Pakistan and Nigeria. China came in 44th and Russia, 46th.
Once it compiled its overall reputation ranking, the Reputation Institute asked respondents about 16 different attributes, including physical beauty, whether the country offers an array of appealing experiences like food, sports and entertainment and whether the country produces high-quality products and services. On those 16 points, the U.S. only made it into the top ten countries in three categories–producing well-known brands, contributing to global culture and fostering technological advances.
At least the U.S. scores near the top of the branded product category, where it is second only to Japan. In terms of technological advancement it’s in third place after Japan and Germany. In culture it’s No. 6 but there is only a marginal difference in the rankings between Italy, at No. 1, and the other five countries (Germany, Sweden, France and the U.K. are the four ahead of the U.S.).
A country’s reputation rankings are extremely important, says Prado, because all countries are competing for support from groups like tourists looking to spend leisure dollars, private businesses deciding where to invest, consumers buying foreign products and governments looking to place aid and investment funds.
Prado’s home country, Spain, has been fighting an internal branding battle between the country’s appeal to outsiders, which remains high, and its perception among Spaniards, which has fallen as a result of its economic woes. Spain has appointed a High Commissioner for Brand Spain, Carlos Espinoza de los Monteros, a former vice president at Inditex, owner of the successful Zara fashion chain and former CEO of Mercedes-Benz Espana. But Prado says Espinoza has a tall order, since the government isn’t funding his efforts and he has to raise funds from the private sector. Despite its problems, Spain has a better reputation than the U.S., the Reputation Institute would tell you.
To download the Reputation Institute’s reports, including specifics on selected countries click here.
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