Monday, 19 January 2015


I just found out that I’m living in the ‘goodest’ (yes, unfortunately, that is the apt word in this case) country in the world! As reported by Tim Adams of The Observer, political consultant Simon Anholt has devised something called the Good Country Index, to illustrate how much each nation looks outward, fulfils its international obligations, innovates and spreads the most positivity per person around the planet.

Using the kind of database that we mere mortals might only fear, Anholt tests 7 different metrics of each nation’s existence: science and technology; culture; international peace and security; world order; planet and climate; prosperity and equality; health and wellbeing.

Then he puts the 7 of diamonds back on the bottom of the pack, shuffles his mum’s phone number, adds it all up, subtracts the number he first thought of and wouldn’t you know it: Ireland is ranked Number One Top of the Pops.

Not only does this country come out above all other nations, but rather surprisingly, Ireland actually comes top of the rankings in the Prosperity and Equality category, from which I conclude either that every other country must be a truly terrible place, or that Anholt has never actually been here.

The trouble with this kind of evaluation is that you bring to it research bias, in the shape of your own subjective baggage. Therefore it’s no surprise that someone who lives on the Norfolk coast will end up with 9 of his top 10 ranked countries being European, with New Zealand representing the rest of the world in a very clean, Anglicised and ecologically eager way.

What interests me more than all this collection of random right and wrong answers is the need we have to brand absolutely everything.

Back in 2005 Anholt created the Nation Brands Index, assessing how 50 countries are perceived as brands by the rest of the world. The index has now become a major influence in the realms of global tourism and academia, yet like so many others, Anholt’s studies go the long way round to telling us what we already know: Ireland is a powerful brand, seen as a benign influence upon the world.

Don’t think many of us will be surprised to hear that.

It’s strange the way that brands are these days more important than nations, more powerful than products, when you consider how they started off. A searing hot piece of shaped metal burned onto the hide of a stock animal, a brand was nothing more than a primitive way to prove that you owned a cow.

Now it is the brands that own us. We live in a brand, eat and drink brands and socialise using all manner of other brands.

If asked to offer the first singular brand that springs to my mind, I’d say the label on the tin of Heinz Baked Beans, but that’s because I’m both old and English. Not only would the Irish lean towards Bachelors Beans, but you have in this country two of the most extraordinary brands in the world. 

Guinness is a global phenomenon, while on a domestic level, in the shape of Tayto, you have a unique brand loyalty. When asking for a pack of Tayto, an Irish person is not only asking for a particular brand, but also tacitly requesting a specific flavour: cheese and onion. If you simply asked for a pack of Walkers in England you’d remain crispless.

If asked for a brand these days, most people will say Apple, the most valuable in the world. Currently worth around $119bn, the computer firm’s brand alone is worth more than Ecuador.

Brands offer us a familiar short cut, an open door to gratification. I’ve always thought that Galway represented a tremendous brand, so I was concerned to read in this Noble Rag a few weeks back that in an effort to secure Galway the title of European City of Culture 2020, mayor Donal Lyons has put aside money to spend on re-branding Galway.

Among many other places, I have lived in London and San Francisco, two of the greatest city brands on the planet, so I can say with some certainty that Galway has a strong brand.

We know what we are, as does the rest of Ireland and the world.

We are the beautiful bay; the mad craic; the centre of technological excellence; the capital of Ireland’s arts culture; the river and lough Corrib; Connemara and the sight of salmon leaping in a city centre.
We are Claddagh boatmen sailing Galway hookers and horses racing around Ballybrit.
We are the builders of lifesaving medical devices and innovators in marine biology.
We are home to sideways rain, the best at partying and the best hosts of parties, festivals, more festivals and global yacht races.
We are a fantastic brand, which the world already recognises, respects, and revels in.

So instead of paying consultants who know little and care less about us, invest your rebranding budget directly into Galway: into the active beating heart of our arts; into the eager creative hands of our people.

Go mad and build a municipal gallery. Create a fund for local musicians to buy instruments.

Trust us Galwegians with our own tax euros. We will make them work for us, because we live in the greatest city and county in the ‘goodest’ country in the world.

We know that Brand Galway works best when it’s financed from the bottom up.

©Charlie Adley

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