Monday, December 20, 2010

Marketing the Netherlands

In the list of countries with the most attractive image, the Netherlands is in 12th place. This is quite a feat for such a small country.

But how should we promote the Holland brand? Hundreds of people from the marketing agencies, the civil service and business, who represent the Netherlands abroad have come together this week to discuss this issue.
US historian and author Russell Shorto, guest speaker at the annual conference on the image of the Netherlands, thinks the Dutch reputation for “tolerance” is misleading. There are plenty of people in the Netherlands, especially in the more conservative areas, who couldn’t be characterised as particularly tolerant.
Mr Shorto, who has two children, would like to suggest another 'unique selling point' for the Netherlands. He was flabbergasted when he first received child allowance. One of the many perks the Dutch are entitled to.
Government funding to bring up your children is unthinkable in America. Fair’s fair, the Dutch pay quite a lot of tax for it. According to Mr Shorto, having a financial safety net eases a lot of social tension. The Dutch don’t have to worry too much about getting sacked or sickness insurance. And that makes them relatively relaxed.
The figures are clear. The Netherlands has a large number of multinationals and is one of the world’s biggest investors. Far bigger that its tiny number of inhabitants warrants. For instance, worldwide the Netherlands is the second largest exporter of agricultural products.
In spite of all this, the Netherlands still has difficulty selling itself. Mark Zellenrath of engineering company Arcadis which helped out in the United States after hurricane Katrina saw what happened there.
“Everyone is glad that we helped. Americans watched how we went to work and took over. The Chinese are good at that too. People have no idea that the Dutch have a lot more technical solutions up their sleeves. A complete lack of marketing on our part.”

Solving impossible problems

The Netherlands is notorious for sending rival trade missions to foreign countries. First Japan gets a visit from a delegation from Rotterdam, and a day later it’s Amsterdam’s turn. The two delegations have no idea that they are fishing in the same pond. Totally confused, the Japanese go for the Spanish option.
Economic diplomacy can open doors, says Henk Jan Bakker, a foreign ministry civil servant.
“Even at the highest level, companies are helped. You would think top companies like Shell could look after its own affairs. Well, not always.”
In 2007, the company was confronted by lots of unexpected financial claims from environmental organisations, when it tried to invest in a large oil and gas project in Siberia.
The Dutch are also very good at solving seemingly impossible problems. Not just in the field of water management, but also in the area of logistics, agriculture and technology.


The delegates to the conference have agreed to be less modest in the future. They promise to be more concrete and give more examples of Dutch achievements and to embrace the new media. Next year, ‘Brand Holland’ will also be promoted via Twitter and Facebook.
So what makes Dutch trouble shooters so unique?
“Thanks to their openness, the most junior employee is allowed to challenge the boss. That can be very refreshing. But in a hierarchic culture, like in Germany, Sweden and America, that is unheard of.”

Sharia in Sudan, pure sadism

Punitive public floggings are the order of the day in Sudan. Tens of thousands of women are estimated to be subjected to this form of corporal punishment and public humiliation. It is unusual, however, for such scenes to be seen the world over via YouTube. It is unclear what the woman was accused of, nor is her identity known.

YouTube has withdrawn the images from its site, arguing that the content violated the company's conditions of service. The footage can still be seen as you can see above. (Warning: these are shocking images.)

The women involved are often accused of having committed adultery, of being improperly dressed in public, or of having behaved 'indecently' in other ways. Sudanese law, which is based on islamic Sharia rules, does not specify when clothing is considered indecent. This lack of definition allows policemen free reign to determine who is looking indecent. Women who were punished for such offences are usually too ashamed to speak about it.
The PM of Turkey Erdogan must be happy to see how his friend the President of Sudan rules his country...

Arash's World: Putting your Best Face Forward in Everyday Life

Arash's World: Putting your Best Face Forward in Everyday Life

Day Opening - December 20

Takestan grapes, Iran