Luxembourg’s ‘Nation Branding’: A Marketing Campaign Run by a Government

This article is part of a report which I drafted for a FinTech company based in the United Kingdom. It has been submitted in the month of August, which is why some facts might be outdated.

For Luxembourg, a country of the approximate combined size of Malta, Andorra and Singapore, attracting investors has rarely been an easy task. A country with the total surface of 1,000 square miles is often unknown to many just as much as its history. Remembering where Luxembourg is was an equally painful struggle for former French president François Mitterand, who confused the iconic Luxembourgish village of Schengen with ‘a charming village in the Netherlands’. This owned him mockery by the German newspaper Die Zeit [1] in 1995.

Remedying this situation hasn’t been easy for the last Grand-Duchy in the world: The Efforts of the Luxembourgish government to promote the country abroad date back to the 1990’s. A first structure  bringing together a number of key players in promoting Luxembourg abroad was set up in the early 2000s by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs,. A visual identity for promoting the country was developed in 2004, providing an initial framework for the initiatives which promote the country’s image.

With arrival of the new government under the lead of Prime Minister Xavier Bettel in 2013 came the popularisation of the term ‘nation branding’. The official coalition agreement [2] of the government states as such (translated):

“The promotion of the Grand Duchy as a place that welcomes foreign investment, as an exporting country, and as a tourist, cultural and commercial destination will be based on the implementation of a concept of ‘nation branding’. Positive values carried by the image of the Grand Duchy will be set forth and applied by the various actors and in official media campaigns, for which the Government will make available the necessary resources.”

Ever since this call for action the government has taken extensive action when it comes to marketing, with foreign trips which have a merely promotional nature. The procedure of the ‘nation branding’ plan consists of three stages:

Between January 2014 and June 2015 the government worked together with professionals from the private sector, governmental advisory council and advisors out of civil society in order to establish an outline of the core values that represent Luxembourg. This consultation resulted in three main features that the country intends to be promoted on: Openness, reliability, and dynamism

Screen Shot 2017-06-10 at 14.30.46

A new website[3] with the concept of ‘Inspiring Luxembourg’ promoted these values with promotional videos and events on education and research, innovation, quality of life or languages.

The second phase, between September 2015 and July 2016 was a consulting process on how to market these concepts to an international public which is unfamiliar with Luxembourg. The third phase, launched since January 2016, now inquires the different actions that can be effectively be taken on the field. The Minister of the Economy Etienne Schneider has confirmed[4] at the end of 2016 that the process has so far seen an investment of €1.29 million.

Given that the inherent nature of promoting a country is miles away from the promotion of the product or service of a company,the government has taken the advice of independent policy advisor and founder of The Good Country[5]  Simon Anholt, who provides advice on marketing strategies for countries. Anholt also published studies such as the “Nation Brand Index”[6], which ranks countries according to governance, people, exports, culture&heritage, investment&immigration and tourism.

Screen Shot 2017-06-10 at 15.05.33

Governmental actors and advisors insist on the fact that nation branding is a long-term investment, which, just as much as a marketing campaign for a company, is difficult to evaluate regarding its plausible success. Some objectives of the government seem visible regardless; after the implantation of the Chinese bank ICBC in 2013, the Grand-Duchy’s officials are looking more and more abroad, outside of the continent.

Of the targets appears to be Islamic Banking. In fact, the Luxembourg Stock Exchange was the first to list a sukuk, in 2002. Countries such as Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Qatar will become increasingly interesting for Luxembourg, as the public-private finance agency Luxembourg for Finance states[7]:

“The Luxembourg legal and regulatory framework can be adapted without difficulty to Islamic finance products and the CSSF has built up considerable experience in the authorisation and supervision of Islamic finance structures.”

In the long-term the government’s efforts to ‘nation brand’ the Grand-Duchy look promising, as it will be an effective tool to intrigue foreign investors who are interested in the attractive financial and regulatory framework of Luxembourg.

[1] Wo ist Schengen?, Rob Kieffer, Die Zeit 21/07/1995

[2] Programme gouvernemental 03/12/2013

Click to access Programme-gouvernemental.pdf


[4] “Le «nation branding» a coûté 1,2 million d’euros”, L’essentiel 31/10/2016




Pictures are Creative Commons.

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About Bill Wirtz

My name is Bill, I'm from Luxembourg and I write about the virtues of a free society. I favour individual and economic freedom and I believe in the capabilities people can develop when they have to take their own responsibilities.

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