Interview with Myriam Gómez, Executive Director of Imagen de Chile

“The major legacy of this organization will be its management of Brand Chile”

Its launch of a large-scale campaign linked to the services export boom, in conjunction with its contribution to Chile’s recognition as an ‘unmissable’ vacation destination in 2018 stand out among the achievements of Imagen de Chile, the foundation responsible for positioning the country on the international stage. Moving forward, its tasks include progress on key trends such as the digital revolution, as well as enhancing Brand Chile in the United States.

By Jorge Isla

In recent months, a number of milestones have marked the work being undertaken by Imagen de Chile, the foundation that designs and manages the national global visibility strategy to position the country as an attractive tourist and business destination, with a unique identity and highly competitive. Noticeable among these milestones are the foundation’s launch of the international campaign ‘Pregunta por Chile, Un Mundo de Servicios’ (‘Ask About Chile, A World of Services’), which is accounting for the rapid growth of a new export frontier. The foundation has also played a key role in the multi-sector efforts to position Chile as a top tourist destination, as well as helping the country to achieve the Lonely Planet’s number one tourist ranking for 2018.

Myriam Gómez, Executive Director of Imagen de Chile describes the task of the foundation as a complex mission, one that “manages an intangible concept related to the perceptions of others and based on a relationship that is built over a number of years”. Part of this complexity includes bringing together a range of diverse actors to promote the so-called ‘Brand Chile’ abroad, and as such the achievement of the foundation’s tasks rests on three foundational pillars: its status as being enshrined as a national policy, with commitment from all public institutions; the formation of strategic alliances with the private sector; and the implementation of visibility plans to boost awareness of Chile among international audiences in key strategic areas, including exports, investment, tourism and culture.

Imagen de Chile can trace its origins back to 1993 and has undergone continuous evolution ever since. It began as an office within ProChile where it was responsible for the general promotion of specific sectors in a small group of markets. In 2009, it was constituted as an autonomous institution funded with public finances and run by a board of directors consisting of 19 individuals, presided over by the Minister of Foreign Affairs.

For that reason, and unlike past strategies, “today we don’t have a particular slogan, such as ‘Chile Always Surprising’ or ‘Chile is Good for You’” explains Gómez. Rather, she adds that “we are more focused on positioning the attributes of the country in a compelling way through a systematic and consistent story, ensuring that all our actions relate to our wider strategy to achieve specific, undebatable results in a cost effective manner”.

However, she stresses that the foundation has attempted to build on the success of previous governments. “This means that progress has been made on the basis of what’s gone before. The incumbent government didn’t start off by ignoring past achievements and imposing a clean slate. Instead, it has incorporated distinct aspects of improvement that are based on international benchmarking trends and best practices from other countries in terms of brand positioning. Regardless of who the new government will be in 2018, I expect them to focus on building on the positives” says Gómez. She goes on to note the importance of the structure of the foundation, in which its public-private board of directors provides the critical elements of “independence and autonomy, which is a tremendous strength that should be protected and preserved. So much so, in fact, that other countries are looking enviously at the model we have here in Chile”.

In her assessment of the progress made by the current administration, Gómez believes that Chile has progressed from being an economy recognized primarily for its traditional export base, to one in which other aspects have gained prominence, such as “innovation, technology and vanguard areas such as astronomy, which have generated positive externalities and new scenarios”.

The foundation has sought to implement specific action in these areas. This includes launching campaigns in the digital domain, which she emphasizes for their ability to “create greater impact and general interest, and to reduce costs”, as well as in services, which she describes as “a disruptive and state-of-the-art challenge, in addition to an example of effective public-private work in building a brand in a sector that involves multiple sub-segments: architecture, video gaming, audiovisual production, information technology, engineering and financial services, among others”.

Based on a diagnosis of best international practices over the course of a year, the campaign launched in October seeks to position Chile specifically in the United States and the Pacific Alliance nations, and includes ambassadors such as the renowned architect Cazú Zegers and award-winning film-maker Gabriel Osorio. “Chile is the best country in which to be an entrepreneur in Latin America thanks to its levels of innovation, competiveness, open economy and spirit of collaboration”, stresses Gómez.

– How are the results of the positioning strategy evaluated?

– From a combination of studies, specific assessments, international rankings, awards won and, more generally, the extent to which recognition of Chile increases on the global stage. We are registered with the Nation Brands Index to track the brand and reputation growth of Chile in a number of aspects including exports, tourism, investment, culture and people. We also track international media for relevant mentions and newsworthy content, such as the Chilean presidential elections and the decision of Lonely Plant to rank the country as the number one global tourist destination for 2018 (which I do not attribute directly to our work, although we did play an interrelated role), as well as evaluations of our efforts such as the participation in Chile Week China 2017.

– What success can be put down to Imagen de Chile?

– Success relates to increasing the visibility of the organization and raising awareness about how it is adding value. We have achieved this through strategic alliances, more than 40 in recent years, built from public and private sector collaboration, international campaigns and a digital strategy that has generated a significant following on social media, including 2.2 million followers on Facebook. We are also highly active on Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn.

– How does this success compare to similar agencies in other countries?

– I think we are the nation branding agency with the most results and interaction in terms of generated content. In the last month we have launched 15 videos, thereby generating a lot of material on YouTube, we have a fantastic audiovisual repository, and we have improved the Visit Chile website considerably. We also have a full-time team of excellent journalists who highlight specific areas of interest for international audiences, such as the national network of protected land and marine parks, the latest-generation technology (for example, anti-earthquake engineering), renewable energy, biotechnology, astronomy and the efficient use of water.

– In conjunction with national guidelines, in what way have the regions been incorporated into building Brand Chile?

– The program ‘Chile Que Te Quiero’ (‘Chile How I Love You’) collects elements that define the identity of each region, which are selected in conjunction with the regions themselves, to see how we can enhance the national positioning strategy on the global level. In 2016, we travelled across the entire country holding workshops with public and private actors to identify the most relevant elements.

In the second phase of this process, in 2017, a final document was drawn up that took this work conducted with stakeholders and regional audiences to the general public, inviting people to vote on four iconic elements, which we are devising. Subsequently, three key events will be held at the regional level.

Number of Companies Using the Brand Reaches 230

– To what extent has Brand Chile been used by companies in different promotional campaigns such as labelling, packaging and on website advertising?

– The licensing program concerns how the initiative ‘Uso de la Marca Chile’ (‘Use of Brand Chile’) adds value to businesses. There are now 230 companies from distinct sectors and a number of regions that are using the brand, primarily in food products and tourism. Now that a critical mass has been created, the challenge is to increase coverage and brand loyalty. In 2016, we awarded a prize to the company with the most active use of Brand Chile at the national level and we plan to expand this initiative at the regional level moving forward.

– What progress has been made in terms of branding for the productive sectors?

– We have created the Chile Mining brand through a public-private initiative. We have also worked closely with other sectoral brands since we form part of the committee, and we are currently in the initial stages of brand building in this area. Progress has been made, but there are, of course, opportunities for improvement.

– To what extent are you focusing on international events?

– In conjunction with ProChile and InvestChile we are working in a fluid, coordinated and collaborative manner in this regard. Furthermore, we will be represented at key international events in the coming years, including the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit 2019 and the Expo 2020 Dubai.

– To what extent have the productive sectors understood the need to work together to build a national brand?

– All efforts that are undertaken but not aligned towards the national brand, ultimately, lead to a loss of resources and a lack of coordination. Therefore, actors increasingly understand the need to work together in a coordinated manner to move forward.

– What will be the main contribution of Imagen de Chile?

– The major legacy of this organization will be its management of Brand Chile, in terms of the concrete projects that have been implemented and that are adding value and increasing the visibility of the institution as a whole, particularly in global media and at international events. In addition, there are significant contributions related to partnership projects implemented between public and private actors; a highly professional and committed team that operates according to best practices; internal efforts to systematize processes and procedures and to manage knowledge so that everything is documented and registered and able to serve as a base for future endeavors.

– At the national level, debate has been marked by criticism of large sectors regarding what has taken place in Chile since the early 1990s. How should this issue be addressed?

– We have a great country, with many aspects that should be valued, as well as areas that need to be improved. We need to reach a situation in which society can coexist more harmoniously, regardless of the fact that the country is in the midst of an election process. Since Chileans are generally positive people who provide active support for the country as a whole, we cannot be the ones to detract from what has been successfully built over the last two and a half decades.

– Would the role of your organization be more effectively fulfilled in a ministry that oversees all entities working to position the country abroad? 

– That idea is very far off and, in reality, I do not think that such a conversation is taking place at the moment. The fact that we are an entity with a public-private board of directors that is presided over by the Minister of Foreign Affairs ensures ongoing collaboration with not only that ministry, but also the General Directorate of International Economic Relations, with which we work very closely. We also have a productive understanding with similar organizations, such as ProChile, Corfo, Sernatur, Turismo Chile and the Undersecretariat of Tourism, which has helped to strengthen the wider institutional framework.

“Our work with AmCham Chile has been extremely positive”

– Since one of the main areas of focus for building national branding is the United States, how do you evaluate the work undertaken with AmCham Chile?

– Indeed, the US in a strategic market for us and our work with AmCham Chile has been extremely positive. I think we contribute to the work of the chamber and its mission to extend the trade relationship in goods and services, and investment, between the two nations. We have complemented each other across a number of different areas, such as the kind of positioning to project, and the type of international missions that are staged by the chamber and in which we want to participate. An example of this is the recent mission to California to gain an insight into best practices regarding successful and sustainable economic development.

We have also participated in the Tourism Committee of AmCham Chile to understand how we can gain access to the US market through a sustained, consistent and coherent approach.

– What are the pending challenges to boost US tourism to Chile?

– I would say that we have not yet fully grasped how to capture the US market. Many American tourists now visit Costa Rica and Chile could transform itself into a natural destination for US citizens thanks to the stability of the country and the type of offering that we provide. That is why, by means of the aforementioned AmCham Chile committee, we seek to enhance our understanding of the US market.

– How has the American perception of Chile evolved over time?

– Around 15 or 20 years ago, studies on US perceptions showed that we were thought of in terms of coffee, carnival and insecurity. This has indeed evolved over time and now Chile, in economic and trade terms, is considered secure and stable, with strong institutions and numerous opportunities, particularly for niche markets. Regarding tourism, efforts to strengthen the national brand are paying off and the country is seen as an attractive destination for nature and adventure.

– What progress has been made in your work with the network of Chilean professionals in the US?

– We have formed alliances in the field of biotechnology to strengthen our work with the diaspora of professionals there, and we have also mapped all relevant actors related to top issues to gauge how they can be best approached. This includes people who now work in Chile and, in particular, academia, in addition to companies that are looking to learn about best practices. The aim of this approach is to better understand how to generate an even stronger ecosystem of innovation and entrepreneurship. Accordingly, in December 2017 we staged an entrepreneurship seminar in conjunction with AmCham Chile, as part of a wider initiative implemented by Corfo.

– Moving forward, what will be the main tool for positioning Brand Chile in the United States?

– In the US, we are primarily pursuing a strategy with a digital company, which has involved working closely with an international agency throughout the whole of 2017. At the internal level, we are working with a creative agency on concepts such as the ‘Ask About Chile’ scheme, which was a call for action from a campaign that has received widespread positive feedback.

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