The United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), and the European Brand Institute (EBI), held the 16th Brand Global Summit at the Vienna International Centre and online. The Summit brought together leading branding experts and government representatives, and showcased success stories of Branding for Sustainability – a theme that raises awareness of brands’ impact on business performance, upgrading and sustainable development.
The event was held in an online and offline hybrid format, gathering hundreds of participants from government, business, academia and international organizations. Discussions highlighted the ever-growing importance of branding and intellectual property, particularly in times of COVID-19 and increased digitalization.
“The pandemic has brought inevitable challenges, but also opportunities. As we have seen during this pandemic, digitalization has accelerated dramatically. It has opened a window of opportunity for new approaches, including in branding,” noted LI Yong, Director General of UNIDO.
Gerhard Hrebicek, President of the EBI, underlined the fact that “brands are the most valuable intangible assets that, unfortunately, remain the least understood”.
UNIDO has pioneered branding as a tool for sustainable and inclusive industrial development. Since launching the service module, “Branding for competitiveness and sustainable growth (B4C)”, the approach has generated a number of success stories across the globe and industries. Examples of corporate-, destination-, city- and region- branding initiatives showd the value of (umbrella) branding initiatives for improving product quality, leading to more competitiveness, sales and contributing to sustainable development.
Investment in brands show superior returns and short payback times, as UNIDO’s project beneficiaries showcased. UNIDO’s branding initiatives have had a large impact on Armenia’s textile sector, Cuba’s agribusiness development, Namibia’s sustainable bush harvesting, Morocco and Tunisia’s food-processing, and Tajikistan’s carpet industries, leading to an increase in tax income, exports and job creation.
Representatives from the private sector also emphasized the value of brands and highlighted the need for a uniform approach to brand evaluation. Only 10% of companies make use of brands, so “branding has to be democratized, proactively managed and measured, thereby resulting in increased competitiveness, innovation and sustainable development, contributing to the SDGs,” Hrebicek added.
Speakers identified financing for companies through brands and the potential and challenges of digitalization for brands as among the main challenges. It is easier than ever to become global, by going online, but that requires integrated planning and a strategic branding and digitalization initiative, suggested Austria’s Federal Minister of Digital and Economic Affairs, Margarete Schramböck, who underlined that “branding for digitalization is key, and comes first in all the initiatives.”
Hhighlighting the benefits, UNIDO’s Li noted: “As digitalization continues to accelerate dramatically during the pandemic, UNIDO incorporates the perspective of developing countries that turn towards innovation-intensive production and intelligent marketing, including strategic branding as a tool to advance inclusive and sustainable industrial development”.
To address the challenges going forward, UNIDO and the EBI will further expand their branding activities globally. Raising awareness of the value of brands and realize their potential for sustainability will require the combined efforts of this partnership, the private sector’s awareness and public support. Bringing the discussion to the highest levels and decision-makers, branding can guide companies on innovative paths to increase their value added and achieve sustainability. Therefore, UNIDO and EBI are planning a Brand Global Summit roadshow, with worldwide coverage, to address the bottlenecks of branding and increase strategic brand management’s efficacy for sustainable development.