Professional profile of Gustavo Konisczcer, Managing Director of FutureBrand Hispanic America

Who is Who

Gustavo Koniszczer

Gustavo Koniszczer is a brand expert with four decades of experience in the field. Formed as a graphic designer, he joined FutureBrand in 2000 as Managing Director for Hispanic America, currently overseeing operations across five offices in the region: Buenos Aires, Santiago de Chile, Lima, Bogotá, and Mexico City.

Gustavo has played a pivotal role in more than 30 place branding projects and is now recognized as a global authority in the discipline and a specialist in the Latin American Region. Some of the country brands he worked with are Perú (2011), Costa Rica (2012), Chile (2012), Ecuador (2023), Guatemala (2022), Argentina (2012 & 2017), and Haiti (2018). Additionally, he has led projects for “made in” brands such as Wines of Argentina (2011), Wines of Chile (2004), Wines of Bolivia (2013), Alpaca del Perú (2015) and Aerolíneas Argentinas (2010), among others.

Q&A with Gustavo

What does it take to effectively brand a country or region? How has the concept evolved over the years, and what are the key trends shaping the future of place branding?

Gustavo Koniszczer, Managing Director for FutureBrand Hispanic America, shares his journey and insights into the world of place branding. He reflects on his early fascination with well-designed communications and his professional experiences with country brands across Latin America. Gustavo discusses the substantial growth of the discipline, the increasing influence of soft power, and the importance of sustainability and authenticity in place branding. He also highlights the trends that will impact place branding in the coming years and shares success stories from his extensive portfolio of projects.

[An earlier version of this interview was published in 2015 and is available here]

Gustavo, when did you first come across the concept of place branding? Do you remember your initial thoughts?

When I was a child, at my twelve or thirteen, living in Buenos Aires, I loved to send letters by mail to foreign tourism offices, and waiting for weeks to receive colourful brochures and maps –something that internet nowadays provides instantly. I particularly remember those from Canada Tourism, Italy and Switzerland.

As I knew I wanted to study graphic design, I was fascinated by well-designed communications, and in the specific case of Canada, the visual system created around the logo with the tiny flag on it was probably my first contact with a well-developed country brand.

Years later, working in the professional branding field at FutureBrand, I started to get in contact with different country branding examples. My first impressions were very visual, and very linked to tourism.

And I must admit that after FutureBrand New York first released our Country Brand Index (CBI) in 2005, I started to see place branding as a comprehensive answer to the problem of building a place´s image in a coordinated way.

After 40 years of experience in place branding, how much of that initial view is still there – what has changed?

After participating in the development of place brands worldwide—especially in Latin America—I have witnessed the substantial growth of this discipline and the extensive journey we have embarked upon.

As time goes on, we witness the growing influence of soft power across various professional fields and place branding is no exception to this trend. There is an increasing awareness of the importance of developing a brand for the sustainable growth of all types of locations, including countries, cities, regions, and provinces.

At FutureBrand, we are guided by the conviction that a brand represents the sum of its purpose and its experience. This pair of concepts can be also expressed as reputation and identity, content and form, future and present. Such guiding principle underscores the necessity for a clear strategy, which remains fundamentally at the heart of all branding efforts. Nevertheless, the factors influencing the perceptions of a brand's image have broadened significantly.

In this context, we introduced the idea of "countrymaking" in our Country Brand Index (2019). This concept serves as a guide to shared beliefs, grounded in our methodological model of Purpose & Experience –already mentioned–, aimed at reshaping global perceptions. Its primary focus is on driving tourism, investment, and consumer preference for a country's goods and services, thus expanding the scope of audiences and topics.

We see it as revealing a potential new world order, where countries with smaller GDPs can challenge the traditional dominance of larger nations. This underscores the importance for countries, and any place for that matter, to prioritize the enhancement of overall quality of life, rather than solely economic prosperity.

These shifts compel us to engage with diverse audiences and consider a new set of values to gain traction in enhancing reputation.

As the Managing Director for FutureBrand Hispanic America, what are the trends do you think will impact place branding in the following years?

Several trends are emerging in the field of place branding, with notable focus on the consolidation of artificial intelligence, an inherent commitment to sustainability, and the pursuit of authenticity and well-being.

The technology disruption driven by artificial intelligence is expected to reach high standards this year, resulting in enhanced data processing capabilities and deeper insights into our audiences and target segments. However, this advancement also poses the challenge of achieving greater personalization in proposals and experiences.

Regarding sustainability, we know that pro-environmental policies, which have both local and global impacts, has become a shared point of interest that can positively or negatively influence a place's reputation, affecting its attractiveness for visitation, residence, investment, and trade. Nowadays, this concept has evolved from being a differentiating factor for a place to becoming an intrinsic value embedded in the branding strategies of all locations. Consumers now expect it as a basic requirement; therefore, it is unlikely to remain a distinctive element or unique value proposition for a place in the long run.

While concerns about climate change persist, public expectations push us to go beyond existing sustainability best practices and take inspiring actions that address broader aspects of human well-being.

At FutureBrand, we call this becoming “Super-Sustainable,” reframing sustainability beyond climate concerns to encompass overall human well-being. We believe that those who succeed in this endeavour will benefit disproportionately in terms of public, employee, and investor goodwill and commitment.

With respect to authenticity, it remains a crucial attribute that adds value to place brands, and its significance continues to grow. A place brand must not only deliver authentic experiences but also project and be perceived as such. This is particularly evident in the tourism sector, where there is a trend towards seeking out experiences that reflect the true essence of a place, akin to how a local resident would experience it, in contrast to typical tourist experiences that often feel crowded. This point intersects with another prevalent trend often mentioned in the sector: overtourism.

Lastly, all these mentioned trends are connected to a broader shift in global audiences. The decisions and choices we observe in our audiences regarding permalancing (permanent freelancing), urban gardening, and the decline of single-use plastics suggest a tendency to seek a richer lifestyle rather than a wealthier one. They aim to live a better life now, not later. These personal choices are favouring cities and countries that align with their lifestyles and values.

The gig economy, conscious consumerism, and mindfulness are examples of modern global practices at the core of these trends, significantly impacting place branding.

"The gig economy, conscious consumerism, and mindfulness are at the core of modern global practices, significantly impacting place branding."

If I ask you to mention a successful place brand, which one comes into your mind? Why?

At FutureBrand I had the pleasure of leading many place branding projects, but one in particular concentrates many of the key components necessary to be successful: Country Brand Peru. That project has set a remarkably high standard that will be challenging to surpass in the future.

In a region like Latin America, known for its constant political shifts, Country Brand Peru has not only endured but also flourished. It has effectively leveraged its widespread recognition and powerful reputation to boost tourism, trade, and investment. At its launch, it was incredibly well-received, boasting a 95% public acceptance rate. Since then, it has gained international recognition and appreciation, often cited as a global benchmark at industry forums and conferences.

It has been an honour to be part of the journey with Brand Peru, which has celebrated its 13th anniversary this year.

Recently, you spearheaded the development of the new country brand for Ecuador, which was presented at FITUR this year. What aspects of the project did you find most challenging?

Developing a new brand identity for any country typically involves a set of consistent challenges.

At the outset of a project, we emphasize the critical need to involve all stakeholders. This essential step is crucial for creating a durable brand that can withstand the test of time. This requires aligning a diverse range of interests, which entails a considerable number of meetings and a synergy of wills.

Simultaneously, we initiate research to uncover the essence of a place—its culture and identity. This task is equally challenging. And once we grasp these core elements, we strategically start to develop and design communications that authentically represent these aspects to various audiences, aiming to make a lasting impact.

We overcame all these challenges in our recent project with Ecuador, and we discovered its unique personality: creative, resilient, friendly, energetic, and genuine. The outcome was a new identity that radiates joy, and we believe will authentically shine across the globe for many years to come.

Speaker Profile

As an enthusiastic speaker, Gustavo shares his insights on place branding topics, drawing from his extensive experience as a designer, strategist and storyteller.

For example, he has served as a guest lecturer for the world’s first Master in Place Branding at Middlesex University in London and recently, he presented his learnings at the 10th Iberoamerican Forum of Country Brands, focusing on his work with the Perú country brand, which has achieved more than a decade of success.

Picture: Gustavo speaking at the 10th Ibero-American Forum of Country Brands.

About FutureBrand

FutureBrand, a leading authority in place branding strategy and country brand creation, brings nearly two decades of industry experience and a strong foundation in research. The firm's renowned FutureBrand Country Index reorders the top 75 countries based on Purpose & Experience—a data-driven approach to understand brand perception. This valuable insight helps enhance a country's image and attractiveness for tourism, trade, and investment.

FutureBrand has worked with a diverse range of countries to help them unlock their brand potential and create a unique identity that resonates both internally and externally.

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