How can a nation synonymous with gorgeous landscapes, fine wine and a flourishing start-up culture incorporate other defining elements into its brand strategy?
We spoke with Constanza Cea, the CEO of Imagen de Chile, who in this interview shares details on the strategy behind Chile’s mission to improve its competitiveness and global standing. Constanza talks about the transition of Chile’s image from being a country in a remote corner of the globe to becoming the most attractive destination for clean energy investment, committed to sustainability.
Constanza also highlights how the country’s strong healthcare system swiftly swung into action and earned international recognition for having the highest vaccination rates in the world against COVID-19.
Constanza, Chile’s country brand proposition focuses on sustainability, quality of life and community. How is Chile creating a future in these areas?
Imagen de Chile has been working to create a positive image of Chile abroad for the last twelve years. Last year, we worked on updating Chile’s brand strategy and this resulted in our ‘Chile Creating Future’ concept based on Chile’s contributions to sustainability, quality of life and community. We wanted to reveal who we are today and what we can contribute to the world. Chile is already well-known around the world for its amazing landscapes and geography. We want to move beyond this so that we also become known for our people and what they can create thanks to their talent and vision. We want the Chilean brand to be associated with the creative abilities of the Chilean people.
In addition to this, Chile has an entrepreneurship ecosystem that is recognized worldwide. We have some companies that have become unicorns and others that are on the way to doing so. Then, if we look at astronomy, Chile’s desert has exceptional conditions for observing the universe and this has enabled us to become home to 40% of the world’s terrestrial observation. We are united in our care for our territory and proud that a significant proportion of our land and maritime areas is protected and dedicated to conservation. We are also the gateway to Antarctica, the continent of the future.
This is why we say that Chile is creating a future. Take renewable energy, for instance. We’re the most attractive emerging country for investing in renewables. And we will be carbon neutral by 2050. This is a challenge that unites us as a country.
Which have been the main challenges for place branding in COVID-19 times?
When the pandemic first began, we organized a virtual meeting with a dozen country brand managers from around the world, and we realized that we were all facing the same challenges. I don’t think that had ever happened before, and it opened an important door to collaboration. We were all facing impacts on tourism, the need for financial reorganization – and countries were turning sharply inwards. Beyond any initiative that we could undertake, we knew that how each country managed the pandemic would impact its international image. We also knew that, despite everything, COVID had made Chile just one click away from anywhere on the planet. As the southernmost country in the world, this represented an opportunity.
At Imagen de Chile, we saw this as an opportunity to coordinate our work more closely with our partners and include them in our new Chile Creating Future strategy. We also took the opportunity to study our audiences with a panel of 12 cities around the world. The results were fascinating. Additionally, we felt it was time to reap the digital development that we had been sowing for years, achieving a very powerful digital ecosystem that has allowed us to reach large audiences.
Meanwhile, we were able to implement a vaccination rollout that made us really proud and that has been widely recognized internationally as one of the fastest in the world. These have certainly been challenging times because the energy of an entire country has been focused on the health emergency. But there has been a positive side. It has given us an opportunity to show the world who we really are, and it speaks volumes about Chile. Our success has been thanks to the contributions of all Chileans, and this adds to the positive image of our country.
How does the world perceive Chile currently? And what’s next for Imagen de Chile?
A very important part of the work we do at Imagen de Chile is to measure how the world sees us. This allows us to understand what kind of image we are projecting and how to work with it. What excites people, connects them, mobilizes and motivates them.
During the first year of the pandemic, we developed a panel in 12 of the world’s main cities – cities we have defined as strategic – in order to find out how they perceive us and in what way we are impacting them. It has been very interesting to see how the awareness of Chile has increased, going from 31% to 41% in our most recent measurement. And while a decade ago the world associated us with low prices, today it increasingly associates us with good quality and sustainability.
Additionally, Chile is currently going through a constitutional reform process in which we are also building a future in the social sphere. The world views this process very positively, with 72% saying that drafting a new constitution in order to adapt to new social needs reflects well on the country.
The great challenge for the Chile brand is to move us on from being known for our landscapes and wildlife – which are extraordinary – to being recognized for our people, their vision and their capacity to create and respond to global problems.
Challenges bring out the best in us and that is something the world knows little about. For example, despite the fact that we have experienced some of the world’s most destructive earthquakes, we have the tallest tower in Latin America. This speaks volumes not only about our country but also about our character. We have shown that we have the ability to turn challenges into opportunities. We have the driest desert in the world, but we convert it into energy. And today, a Chilean is creating a technology that will allow seawater to be desalinated without using energy. Imagine what that means for a country that has 4,500 kilometres of pure coastline.
All this reveals that we have the ability to address the challenges and the creativity to turn them into opportunities and act as agents of change.
A few years ago, Al Gore said Chile is inspiring the world in renewable energies. Why? Who is responsible for this success?
In 2016, former US Vice President Al Gore recognized Chile as a world example for our solar energy expansion. And this year, we were again singled out for similar reasons. But this isn’t the only thing that makes us stand out. The Climatescope 2020 report ranked Chile as the most attractive emerging country for investment in renewable energies due to its solid and long-term public policies, its attractive history of investment in clean energy, and its commitment to decarbonization.
Chile has become a natural laboratory for renewable energy. It has optimal areas for solar energy development in the north, tidal energy from the Maule Region to the south, geothermal energy in the Andes, wind power on the southern coast, and biomass in the Biobio Region.
But this isn’t the only factor. Chile has made a firm commitment to achieving carbon neutrality by 2050 and for 70% of the energy matrix to come from renewable energy sources by 2030. We will undoubtedly achieve this goal thanks to a plan that includes robust measures such as the decommissioning of coal-fired power plants, progress with the development of green hydrogen, energy efficiency and electromobility. In this way, we are making a swift change towards renewable energy.
The world has congratulated Chile for its fast vaccination process. Which are the keys to achieve it? How has this improved Chile’s image abroad?
Chile’s leadership in the vaccination process is another example of how Chile is creating a future. We have been at the forefront both across the region and globally. This country-wide effort has been successful due to a range of factors. They include the early negotiation of vaccines supported by our wide network of trade agreements to ensure we got the necessary doses; the Chilean people’s willingness to take part in clinical trials and to go and get vaccinated in a disciplined way; having extensive health and professional network throughout the country; and the management and logistics capacity headed by President Sebastián Piñera and other Chilean government authorities. We are proud that we have succeeded in inoculating 80% of the target population, that we are pioneering the application of the booster dose, and that Sinovac is setting up a laboratory in our country in order to produce vaccines for the whole of Latin America.
Chile has several startups catching global attention and funding (NotCo, Algramo, Betterfly, Cornershop, Platanus, Wheel the World, etc). Which are the success factors behind it from a location point of view? What’s next?
Chile is a country full of entrepreneurs. Because the world is so connected nowadays, this allows us to transcend our borders. Although this is not something new, today there is a very important emphasis on social entrepreneurship, and Chile is setting the regional trend. A generation of Chileans is putting their talents, creativity and innovation into solving global problems. We should also note the importance of government initiatives like Startup Chile, which was the first public accelerator in Chile (created in 2010) and which led to the idea of “Chilecon Valley”.
It was the first in its category in the world, a leader in Latin America and its disruptive model has since been imitated in more than 50 countries. Startup Chile accelerated innovation and technological entrepreneurship in Chile and generated an ecosystem that allowed these issues to achieve public relevance. Startup Chile normalized technological entrepreneurship in the Chilean mentality.
Given this situation, the future looks very bright. In the words of a foreign investor who has invested in Chilean startups like NotCo, Fintual and Xepelin: “Chile is getting exciting”.
Which would you consider your main achievements in these three years in charge of Imagen de Chile?
Undoubtedly updating the Chile brand strategy for the next 10 years, orienting it towards a brand with a purpose that is focused on highlighting what Chile brings to the world through its people and their talents. Defining that new story and focus was a pending task and that is how we arrived at Chile Creating Future. Twelve years on from when we started, in the midst of important social changes, it was time to reflect on where we were and where we wanted to go as a country and channel all of this into our country’s image strategy. This was a journey that we made together with stakeholders from the public and private spheres, and it is already beginning to pay off. The world already knew about our extraordinary landscapes and the natural world; now it’s time to move towards a focus centred around the creativity and abilities of our people.
It was very important for us to integrate other stakeholders from culture, science, exports, tourism, and investments into our strategy. And all of this helped make the Chile brand gain more recognition worldwide. Through our licensing program, over 1,000 organizations are proudly showcasing the Chile brand. Developing our digital ecosystem has also been key. We have close to 3 million fans on social media, and our digital strategy has allowed us to reach tens of millions of users in Europe and the United States.
We are a young country that is creating a future. The future isn’t just technology; it’s also being connected with nature and leading a healthy life. It’s generating the energy of the future and protecting the environment. It’s finding answers from observing the universe and it’s collaborating with one another. All of these things translate into opportunities that improve the quality of life of all the inhabitants of our country. That is our mission.
Thank you, Constanza.
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