Poland’s brand ‘Creative Tension’

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.

9 thoughts on “Poland’s brand ‘Creative Tension’

  1. […] April 30, 2008 by Datblog 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. Pop over to our co-operative blog to read more about Poland’s Branding […]

  2. island1 says:

    Great post, fascinating stuff. ‘Creative Tension’ sounds suspiciously like a euphemism for ‘unable to distinguish arse from elbow.’

    But seriously, I suppose this is just a multi-million-dollar way of saying ‘Poland is changing a lot.’ Personally I would have gone for something like the ads that very successfully changed the image of Skoda; a bunch of cool modern stuff and some westerners scratching their heads and saying ‘this comes from Poland?!’ Probably not dignified enough for a national brand, but I bet it would have worked.

  3. Ewa says:

    Another way of thinking of ‘tension’ is as the opposite of ‘compression’ (humour me, I’m an engineer). It’s not pejorative and both are usually needed for things to stand up. And anyway, how bad is it really to be labelled as creative?? I’d rather that than being described as being in a state of ‘violent’, ‘destructive’ or lethal’ tension. I’ve read Wally Olin’s work and thought it was pretty fair (though I would have told them the same for half the price). Skoda only works as a brand because VW came and showed them how – there’s nothing inherantly Czech about it now, apart from the cheap labour and favourable tax breaks for investors of course and banding studies show that Skodas are viewed as cheap VW’s . IMO admitting that we’re in a state of flux is a breath of honesty that is sorely missing in Poland. It also gives us more time to explore the options and figure out what we actually want to do.

  4. guest says:

    Poland is like a teenager in puberty

    ugly, beautiful, chaotic, stupid, lethargic, enthusiastic, creative, naive, suspicious…at the same time.

  5. scatts says:

    Dat. Interesting thought but I’m going to have to think about it over the long weekend!

    Off the top of my head, the only thing that springs to mind that might be more appropriate than “Creative Tension” is “Definitely Maybe”!

    This is typical marketing nonsense though and something I’ve seen many times with companies I’ve worked for. Pay massive amounts to end up with something stupid at the end. I wouldn’t say the word “Creative” is suitable for a country, even though it is generally positive, and the word “tension” is just plain ridiculous!

    I just thought of another one – “We’ll get there eventually!”

    or – “Where Eagles Dare”

    or – “Come on you Red & Whites!”

    or – “The Kaczynskis were only a joke, honest!”

    or – “Poland – we’ve got stuff you might like!”

    or – “SMS numer 7324, 1 if you like Agata, 2 if you like Kasia…”

    perfect one for outsiders – “Poland – Not as stupid as you think it is!”

  6. Datblog says:

    According to the Country Brand Index, Poland is omitted from all categories except the very positive rank of number 8 in the Emerging/Rising Star category, not bad – but I’m sure Creative Tension is not stirring that identity…Here’s the report http://www.countrybrandindex.com/resources/pdf/FutureBrand_CBI_2007.pdf

  7. guest says:

    “Poland – Not as stupid as you think it is!”

    :D :D

  8. Brad says:

    While a lot of advertising is, essentially, lying… “creative tension” is far more truthful than I would have ever expected.

    The amount of dichotomy in a country that has, basically, a single religion, single race/color, single language and whole state (very little attention is paid to voivodeships’ lines/areas) is often frustrating and incomprehensible to an outsider. Rather than seeing a lot of lot of those dichotomies as hypocrisy the optimist ought to re-think it as… “creative tension”.

    Personally, when I think of “creative tension” I think of it in the whole phrase, rather than the component parts. I imagine a director and photographer arguing, in an intelligent and constructive way, over how to shoot a scene …Rather than some long-haired “artist” having an tense conversation with his landlady about when the rent is due.

  9. Aleksander says:

    I second Brad’s comment. ‘Creative tension’ sounds right because it has a good outcome (‘creative’) and as a whole it sounds truthful and interesting. Not like another marketing BS. We Poles aren’t English or Americans where they say ‘I’m fine thanks’ even if they feel like sh*t ;) We honestly say what we think and maybe that’s why we argue so much :) Not the best characteristic, I know, but THAT’S WHAT WE ARE. Read some of our greatest poets, see some of our best cinema – you’ll find lots of ‘creative tension’ there.

    I think that in its whole strangeness it could have good results when used with appropriate campaign.

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