In another indication of Ukraine’s continuing recovery, the country ranked as fourth best-performing nation brand in the Nation Brands 2016 survey published by Brand Finance. This annual global ranking, carried out by UK-based consultancy Brand Finance and based on data from a range of partners including the World Economic Forum, credited Ukraine with a 27% increase in brand value, climbing from USD 44 billion to USD 56 billion. This allowed Ukraine to rise from sixty-eighth position up to fifty-ninth – the fourth best performance globally over the past twelve months.
The yearly report cited Ukraine’s return to relative stability in 2016 as a key factor behind the country’s impressive brand rebound. “Ukraine’s economy remains finely balanced as its standoff with Russia over the Donbas continues. However, having already suffered significant damage since the start of the war, the relative stability of this year sees the brand value climbing upwards again,” stated the survey. One of the key areas highlighted was Ukraine’s increased ability in 2016 to retain the country’s most talented workers.
RECOVERY NOT GROWTH
This positive assessment is the latest international recognition of Ukraine’s improving position following the sharp declines of 2014 and 2015. Indeed, the country’s plight since the onset of the Russian hybrid war in Crimea and eastern Ukraine in spring 2014 has created a low baseline that places any improvements firmly within the context of recovery rather than growth.
Nevertheless, recognition of Ukraine’s strengthening national brand will be welcome news at a time when the country desperately needs to attract increased international investment. The recently launched government-backed Ukraine investment promotion office ‘Ukraine Invest’ has already identified increased communication as a key focus for the coming year. Writing in Business Ukraine magazine in November, Ukraine Invest Director Daniel Bilak said the newly established office would focus on “promoting Ukraine’s brand as a country where attractive opportunities exist for investors.”
LONG-TERM IMAGE WOES
Ukraine’s international image has long been a weak link in the country’s efforts to attract foreign direct investment (FDI). For more than two decades following the Soviet collapse, successive governments largely ignored the issue. This left Ukraine particularly vulnerable to information attacks launched by the Kremlin as part of Russia’s ongoing hybrid war against the country. Efforts to counter these information attacks have so far produced modest results due to a combination of limited funding for communications projects and resistance within Ukrainian government structures to the creation of a centrally coordinated communications strategy. The opportunity cost of this neglect is now increasingly apparent, leading to growing calls for a complete overhaul of national communications policy.