The Digital Country Index is a country brand ranking with a difference.
Whereas most rankings rely either on survey data or a collection of indicators from third party sources, this one draws together almost one billion keywords used across online searches globally. The resulting data is classified into five dimensions deemed most relevant to the overall strength of a national brand: Tourism, Talent, Inward Investment, Exports, and National Prominence.
Countries that rank near the top in any of these categories demonstrate that the world is interested in them. Those near the bottom show the exact opposite; that they are of little consequence in global affairs. Some countries and territories produced no search data at all.
Online searches, in particular Google, have become the go-to reaction to anything that triggers our curiosity. For many people the act of searching for a country starts from this curiosity, perhaps about something they read in the news or hear in conversation. When we search online we are remarkably candid about the terms we type in. That means the terms used are most revealing of people’s true opinions about countries.
“The act of searching for a specific country is a clear indicator of how interesting that country is,” said José Torres, CEO of Bloom Consulting, nation branding specialists and creators of the Digital Country Index.
Critics say that country brand rankings simply perpetuate stereotypes. They point out that the big players always win, leaving little opportunity for smaller ones to be acknowledged. Those people may well be disappointed to hear which country is the overall winner of the Digital Country Index. But we can’t escape reality. Some countries are simply more prominent than others. The question should really be: how can the others leverage their unique strengths to make themselves stand out?
So, let’s dig into the Digital Country Index 2015.
Overall, there’s a predictable outcome. Right at the top of the pile, ranked top despite numerous reputation-related challenges, is the United States. The country didn’t score highly in the Good Country Index, nor did it top Futurebrand’s 2014 Country Brand Rankings. That honour went to Japan. But undeniably, the world is searching online most frequently for the United States.
In the Tourism dimension of the Digital Country Index, Spain ranked top overall, followed by Italy in second place. Turkey, despite ongoing problems with politics and security, still ranked top in the Tourism sub-category ‘Visits’, although Bloom Consulting informed me that most of the search terms were collected during the earlier part of the year. The next Index could potentially produce a very different result for Turkey, reflecting concerns in the latter part of 2015.
There are some surprises in the rest of the results. Singapore, sometimes accused of dullness, in fact ranks top out of 180 countries for ‘Leisure and Entertainment’ related searches within the Tourism dimension.
China is top overall for Inward Investment, followed by the USA. Other BRICs hog the top five, with India in third place and Brazil in fourth.
For Talent, meaning the inflows of foreign workers and students, the USA ranks first, followed by Canada, Australia, Germany and the UK. Germany’s performance here could reflect its recent decision to offer free higher education in all its universities.
For National Prominence, the USA is predictably top, followed by Australia, Japan, Germany and Canada. In the National Prominence sub-categories, an interesting result stands out under Governance. Uruguay ranks in fifth place, beating both Germany and the UK. This could be due to Uruguay’s well-publicised and unusually humble former president José Mujica.
In the Society sub-dimension, Singapore ranks top, while the USA leads in both the Sports and Culture sub-dimensions.
Unsurprisingly, ‘world’s workshop’ China ranks top overall for Exports. The USA tops the sub-dimension for ‘Flagship Companies’, but China comes top in the remaining three: ‘Made In’, ‘Export From’, and ‘Goods’. However, this still does not show whether country-of-origin goods from China are associated with high quality. Recent negative comments in reaction to China’s unveiling of its first domestically produced passenger jet would suggest that they are not. Another interesting result is found in the Flagship Companies dimension, where Colombia ranks third, ahead of both Germany and China.
Bloom Consulting created the Index using a proprietary tool (Digital Demand D2) to collect global keyword data from a range of search engines. This big data was then filtered according to keywords searched, nationality (country of origin), and time of year (month). Data was collected in nine languages.
Understanding what motivates people’s initial interest in a country can help governments make better strategic decisions. This data can be constantly monitored for changes over time and in response to specific triggers, such as significant policy changes, economic shifts, terrorist attacks, or international accolades.
“Governments need to start monitoring their digital country reputation in the same way that they monitor it in the real world. Whatever happens in the real world also happens in the digital world… and will stay there forever,” added Torres.
Find out more about the Digital Country Index, and other country brand rankings, at Bloom Consulting’s website.