Whilst researching Poland‘s recent history for inclusion in my book I discovered that in 2004/5 the Polish Government embarked on a multi million zloty investment into a brand campaign. The idea was to identify a brand which would differentiate Poland from other nations and project its national characteristics attractively and effectively.
The essential idea behind a brand needs to do 4 things. 1) It needs to work on an emotional as well as a rational level, essentially it must appeal to people’s hearts as well as their heads. 2) It must be relevant to all of the brand’s stakeholders. 3) It must be distinctive – set you apart from your competitors. And 4) It must be true, avoid clichés, and outline a concept that is recognised as realistic and inspirational by all target audiences.
After recruiting an outside source (i.e. a third party from the UK) to develop the brand, the brand development group began by investigating perceptions of Poland amongst its most significant audiences in the outside world. They carried out studies in the major European nations and also talked to people in Russia and the US. (Yep that would certainly cost quite a few dollars and help understand any one of points 1 through 4 above)
And here’s what they found – Perceptions of Poland in Western Europe were hazy, confused and negative; Poland was seen as poor, grey, boring and inhabited by peasants. There were background images of Solidarity, Pope John Paul, anti-semitism, Chopin and war time heroism. So that’s the external stakeholders perspective then – very positive
The research then moved to within Poland, where the views of older people clashed considerably with younger. The older Polish people were typically pessimistic and anxious, and the younger Polish people, tended to be more optimistic and relaxed. Sounds about right!
After further research inside the country the brand identity started to take shape and apparently everyone in the Government who could vote on it said it was a realistic reflection of the “dualities and contradictions in the Polish character”
The brand was born “Creative Tension”
To accompany the brand the ‘specialists’ wrote the following statement:
“Poland draws its personality, power and perpetual motion from a wealth of apparently opposing characteristics. For example: Poland is part of the West and also understands the East; Polish people are passionate and idealistic and also practical and resourceful; the Polish character is ambitious and also down to earth.
These tensions create a restlessness unsatisfied with the status quo, and a boisterousness that is always stimulating and often astonishing. This creative tension is why Poland produces so many entrepreneurs, artists and sportspeople. It’s why Poland is constantly changing and evolving, sometimes tumultuously. And it’s why Poles have always tried to achieve the seemingly impossible – and often succeeded.
This core idea of “creative tension” accepts Poland as it is. It moves perceptions in the direction we wish them to go, yet at the same time has the ability to justify and explain some of the apparently negative aspects of Poland’s reputation.
It is essential for the self-confidence and self-esteem of Poland for the nation to be seen for what it is and what it is becoming. In other words, it makes Poland credible.”
Remember the instruction was to find a brand which would project Poland’s national characteristics “attractively and effectively” – can you honestly say Creative Tension is attractive and effective….
What a bizarre brand and summary – sure I agree the research certainly highlighted some of the characteristic traits of this ‘interesting and varied country’. Creative is a word that can be used to sum up some of the nuances of Poland but ‘Tension’?
Tension typically is associated with mild hostility or as one dictionary defines it “Barely controlled hostility or a strained relationship between people or groups: the dangerous tension between opposing military powers. The continuing, and essential, tension between two of the three branches of government, judicial and legislative”
Now I understand —- the government were in fact being honest (strange thing) they wanted to be known on the international stage for the problems that persist between President, Prime Minister and the Opposition (often a coalition member).
But seriously would the people of Poland truly want a brand identity of ‘Creative Tension’? I invite Polandian readers to submit suggestions for a Brand which would differentiate Poland from other nations and project its national characteristics attractively and effectively.