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My story is about government of a country with a nasty recent past. Like beating up their neighbors, stealing their lands, expelling the undesirable population, etc. Fortunately for them, and unfortunately for their neighbors, they got away with their crimes. International community was too busy with other things, great powers & security council couldn't agreed on any practical measures beside the blubbers of condemnation.

It has been few decades since those awful days and things have changed, neighbors lost any realistic hope they will ever get their land back, refugees got splintered around the world, and most of victims of crimes died waiting for justice. Even the population learned to love the ruling party. "Leadership is a corrupt scum,but they got us a free farms, with free equipment included. And those previous owners were dirty barbarians who hated us and stole it from us in the past anyway"

The only thing left is their awful reputation. When people hear their name on the news they associate them with wars, crimes and suffering.

Is there a way the country to rebrand itself to attract tourists and investors?

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  • $\begingroup$ Could you clarify what time period this is happening in, approximately? Tourism wasn't a large industry for a long time till trains and ships made it feasible to cover long distances quickly, in relative safety. $\endgroup$ – Green May 15 '18 at 14:33
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    $\begingroup$ What research have you done? Recent history (1900-) seems chock full of examples. $\endgroup$ – user535733 May 15 '18 at 14:33
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    $\begingroup$ I will point out that Germany and Japan both managed to rebrand themselves, though it took a generation-long occupation to do it. Viet Nam is more-or-less in the process of doing so, and the People's Republic of China is at least trying, if with only limited success. $\endgroup$ – Jeff Zeitlin May 15 '18 at 14:34
  • $\begingroup$ Is the country willing to change its political system or government? How drastic can any changes and rebranding be? $\endgroup$ – HDE 226868 May 15 '18 at 14:39
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    $\begingroup$ Are you talking about Israel? $\endgroup$ – Vincent May 15 '18 at 14:49
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Yes, it's possible

There are many examples in Earth history of countries significantly improving their reputation on the world stage, with other populations and foreign governments. Post WW2 Japan comes to mind.

In a modern world with social media and easy travel (assuming open borders), changes happen more quickly, but even prior to that, change is possible; it just takes longer.

For the change to stick, the country would need to prove that the changes it has made are more than skin deep; that they are committed to lasting improvements.

No, it's not possible

Especially if a country has been "bad" for a long time, and especially if they have ever been involved in a direct conflict with another country, and especially if that conflict has been raging off and on for hundreds of years, animosity runs deep. Just as families have blood feuds with other families, countries do the same. Erasing a long history of conflict and tension would not be possible in the short term, and even long term, it's going to leave a mark.

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Yes

The thing about brands and reputations is that they are audience specific. Unless your country has a history of abusing tourists and investors, you do not really even need to rebrand because there is nothing wrong with your tourist and investor brands.

I'll ignore tourism because I do not really understand why you'd want drunken tourists polluting your beaches and drawing graffiti on thousand year old statues. But the process is similar to that with investors. Sell the gain, manage the threats.

For investors the gain is all about the money. If they invest in your country can they expect healthy profit? That is the primary part of your investor brand. Basically you just have to be willing to let the investors profit and investment will come. Of course you have to find some balance where the investments also benefit you but that is outside this topic.

The rest comes from all the other concerns that increase investor risk. Is there corruption? Does political instability make taxation and labor laws unpredictable? Is there unrest that might result in terrorism affecting your investment or employees? Is the government involved with things that might lead to embargoes or boycotts? Is there economic instability that might lead to things such as nationalizations?

Closer the answer to those questions is to "no", the better your brand will be.

This sounds simple but many of these issues are actually very hard problems that you cannot fake in the long run. Just saying you are committed to fighting corruption will only take you that far, you will eventually need results. Saying you are committed to peace with your neighbours is fine but you will need to actually solve all those border disputes or they will grow into real issue. While investors and politicians are usually perfectly happy to ignore human rights issues, you do not want "ignores human rights issues" as a permanent part of your brand, so you'll want some results there as well. And so on.

The short advice on this is to act in a manner that makes clear that you value your investor brand and by extension the investors and their concerns.

You can just copy the way Apple does it. Both Steve Jobs and Tim Cook have personally made clear that they personally are committed to protecting the Apple consumer brand and that Apple values its customers "more than the competition". This has been repeated over the years to the point of nausea.

Does Apple really care more about its customers? Doesn't matter, really. What does matter is that nobody can really doubt they are committed to protecting their brand with their customers. They will pay the price and the CEO will personally apologize and try to make things right. They will even fight the federal government on a case related to terrorism. Because they are committed.

That said, governments cannot generally focus on a single audience like Apple can, so you'll need to exercise some moderation and make lots of hard compromises. But whenever you make anything that is bad for investors, there should very clear and compelling reason and some person of authority should personally explain and apologize for the necessity.

Also remember that "bad" and "not what investors wanted" are entirely different things. Investors are generally fairly bad at wanting what they actually need. And knowing what they actually want. So in practice you will need to figure out what they really want and then sell it to them. You can copy this part from Steve Jobs as well.

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  • $\begingroup$ +1, except I'd add that after providing high quality internal stability, the issue of solving border disputes is of low priority. (as long as the situation is stable) Let's say Pakistan main problem is not a border dispute with India... $\endgroup$ – Shadow1024 May 16 '18 at 8:26
  • $\begingroup$ @Shadow1024 The thing with border disputes is that they have unpredictable consequences if you take them seriously. (And if you do not, why not resolve them?) For example, the relatively minor border dispute in Kashmir has resulted in Pakistan actually supporting Islamist groups which then has led not only to embarrassing terrorist strikes in India with direct links to Pakistan but to attacks and assassinations inside Pakistan... Investors really do not like that kind of unpredictable chaos. $\endgroup$ – Ville Niemi May 16 '18 at 19:19
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Certainly. There's even an easy parallel on the real Earth: the United States.

Beating up their neighbors? Canada and Mexico say "Yes."

Stealing their lands? The Native Americans were here first.

Expelling the undesired population? Japanese-Americans and Native Americans were both ousted. Maybe not from the country, but that's just a small step.

So why is the US such a powerhouse in the modern world? Why is it such a hot tourist destination?

For starters, it has places like the Grand Canyon and Yosemite National Park. Hollywood is a major part of the international entertainment industry. New York City is, well, New York City.

Places like Silicon Valley helped build the backbone for modern technology, but the fundamental things that make the US an economic powerhouse are resources and space. The United States is big. In fact, the US is almost as large as all of Europe. That's a lot of opportunity to expand and find new resources. Additionally, the distance between the Americas and Asia and Europe meant the US wasn't heavily involved in a lot of wars (until the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor) and had the time to invest in technology and manufacturing centers.

Also, nuclear weapons.

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  • $\begingroup$ Don't forget the Marshall plan. $\endgroup$ – Jan Doggen May 15 '18 at 15:18
  • $\begingroup$ When the indigenous Americans were being pushed out, was the rest of the world in an uproar? A few elite Europeans were, but how many others? Given that Europeans attacked each other on a regular basis, how much real outrage was there over the War of 1812 (especially when England started it by impressing Americans) and the Mexican War? nytimes.com/1983/05/22/us/… "Anyone reading this flow of messages during 1941 could easily conclude that thousands of resident Japanese were being organized into subversive organizations". $\endgroup$ – RonJohn May 15 '18 at 15:35
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    $\begingroup$ @RonJohn The OP specifically mentions that the international community is "busy with other things." The concept of an "international community" didn't exist in its current form until the end of WW2 with the advent of the United Nations. In either my examples or the OP's circumstances, there is no international outrage. $\endgroup$ – Frostfyre May 15 '18 at 16:00
  • $\begingroup$ China, Spain, Germany, India, and South Africa also have had pretty good PR recoveries after some Bad Times last century. $\endgroup$ – user25818 May 15 '18 at 16:59
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Yes, and there is a number of historic examples.

However, in the list of misdeeds, you mentioned "stealing lands". If territorial disputes are still not settled, this will be the most serious obstacle to international acceptance. Everything else - wars, crimes, genocide - can fade away in history, but the land which is in "wrong" possession is a constant reminder that the past is not gone yet.

So, the country can either:

  • Give away conquered lands, which is likely if there is a long-term insurgency going on there;
  • Make up with its neighbors, which is possible if those lands are not particularly valuable and neighbors know that should they take the land back, they will get their own problem with insurgency;
  • Establish itself as an indispensable political ally of one of the world's superpowers. It still won't be able to join NATO, for example, but will make it open and maybe even attractive to trade.
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