Monday, 15 September 2008

Chinese Olympics: Leveraging “Soft Power” to build Brands

As the Grandest Show of the Planet, the Chinese Olympics drew to a close, i use this post to articulate the extremely effective display of "soft power" in building Brand China.

But first, a small semantic definition- It was Joseph Nye, who coined this term in his book, which contrasts the use of power of attraction vs the carrots and sticks based notion of hard power. In my assessment, China has done the following 3 things:

  1. As I watched Boris Johnson, the mayor of London take the flag in the closing ceremony, I could not but help think that China was at that point in time, very much a part of the global community- as compared to perhaps a sense of "them" vs "us" that seems to permeate some of the other conversations that include the Chinese (global trade talks, the credit crunch, the dollar weakness etc).
  2. In setting the new benchmark for how this event should be run, the rest of the world now has a viable and a valid powerhouse to emulate- if there was ever a coming out party for the Chinese, this was it, and what a grand party it was!
  3. The power of Sport as a unifier is perhaps another "soft power" force that has worked very well for the Chinese. Be it in swimming, or gymnastics or athletics, the sheer beauty of superlative performance leaves us breathless, regardless of the gender or the race of the one delivering this performance. And this event has given many of us beautiful moments to cherish.

I have articulated elsewhere that I am a big believer in the power of attraction as a way to increase brand relevance, and in the aftermath of the Olympics, the Chinese have a great tail-wind to consolidate on the goodwill and the attraction they induced in the rest of the world- will they be able to leverage this to get to the next highs in their prosperity?


“Hot, Flat and Crowded”: Tom Friedman and the art of Setting the Agenda

Just heard a review from the Scientific American
podcast on Tom Friedman's latest book, " Hot Flat and Crowded". By all accounts, this book looks to full of Tom's incredible ability to help us picture, in vivid colour, his insightful views on the implications of the three global megatrends of Climate Change, the Rise of the Emerging Markets and the Population Explosion- He argues that the country that will take a lead in getting into Green Energy Efficient game will be the next superpower of the planet.

However, this post is not about the book itself, but rather the timing of the launch and the release, and the potential implications. It was launched in End Aug/ Early September, sort of around the time the Republican National convention was going "Drill baby Drill", in their support for offshore drilling. Tom himself has, thro his conversations, positioned his ideas into the policy making and the political implications of this including in commenting on the "madness" of drill-baby-drill policy as well as in appearing on the NBC Meet The Press programme.

In launching this very topical book right in the final run-up to the US presidential elections, Tom has ensured two things:

  1. The insights from this book, in particular, the recommendations for the future are going to be a direct part of the ongoing debates, and perhaps more important, play role in shaping the presidential agenda going into January.
  2. He will sell a lot of these books.

Very Smart, Tom! Way to Go.