UAE skyline
The full extent of the reforms, on economy and residency rules, the UAE introduced in these two years are being felt in full. The latest Brand Finance rankings offer a reflection on that. Image Credit: Pexels

Dubai: The UAE has been ranked No. 1 nation on ‘brand performance’ for 2022, with the country’s handling of COVID-19 and the way it opened up the travel and tourism sector cited as the main factors. With a score of 80.5 out of a possible 100, the UAE made these gains while the bigger economies are still some distance away from returning to pre-Covid times.

The rankings were issued by the influential UK-based Brand Finance (which also brings out an annual list of the world’s most powerful corporate brands). For the UAE, the full gains from its various economic reforms and initiatives launched in 2021 started to show results this year.

“The UAE attracted a higher volume of trade, tourism, investment, and talent than other nation brands,” says the report.

The Brand Finance rankings come when the UAE has just removed the compulsory wearing of face masks in public. “The reforms and better connections with regional economies mean that UAE is recognised as a top destination for talent,” said a spokesperson for the company.

On whether UAE’s consistent message about being the place to work and live is being heard by the intended audience, the spokesperson said: “Very much so.”

This at a time when “brand performance has not yet returned to its pre-pandemic levels for most nation brands in the ranking. With global interactions in the crucial areas of trade, investment, tourism, and talent attraction down across the board throughout 2021, most brand strength scores remain held back by the legacy of the pandemic,” says the latest Brand Finance report.

Thanks to maintaining a higher brand performance score and improving its brand perceptions, the UAE has defended its position as the strongest as well as most valuable ($773 billion) nation brand in the Middle East and Africa

- Brand Finance

Residency reforms

The full extent of the UAE’s multiple changes to the long-term residency.criteria will start being felt from October, in particular those associated with the Golden Visa on property investments of Dh2 million and more. Simultaneously, visa reforms that retain and attract talent in select categories such as healthcare, tech, and in the R&D space.

"Thanks to maintaining a higher brand performance score and improving its brand perceptions, the UAE has defended its position as the strongest (76.7 out of 100) as well as most valuable - $773 billion - nation brand in the Middle East and Africa," the report says.

According to a Dubai-based marketing consultant, "These rankings matter just as much as those that list consumer brand preferences. Because this helps the UAE reach out further to a global audience about what it has done during Covid times - and just as important, what it intends to do going forward."

How do other nations stack up?

The combined value of the world’s Top 100 ‘nation brands’ is at $97.2 trillion, up 7 per cent year-on-year and ‘marginally behind the pre-pandemic value of $98 trillion in 2019’. But only 50 nation brands have seen increases in value over this period.

US still tops in 'brand value'

When it comes to nations and their brand value, the US retains its status as the most valuable, with a 7 per cent gain to $26.5 trillion, maintaining a lead over China (up 8 per cent to $21.5 trillion). "The USA and China are standout leaders in the Brand Finance Nation Brands 2022 ranking, with the combined brand value of the two equal to that of the remaining 98 nation brands in the Top 100," the report notes.

The Russia-Ukraine situation has led to erosion in their respective rankings. As for the UK, 'although brand perceptions are likely to increase following a period of unprecedented global attention as a result of Queen Elizabeth II’s passing, the looming recession and the drop in the value of sterling – if sustained – may undermine the UK’s brand value in future'.

Setting a value to a nation's brand power
The relative strength of nation brands is measured through a balanced scorecard of metrics that evaluate brand investment, brand perceptions, and brand performance.

"The US, France, UK, and Japan all make a comeback to The top 10 brand strength ranking after the extraordinary one-year decline in their international perceptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic," Brand Finance reports. "Similarly, China enters the top 20 for the first time, claiming 15th place, and Italy and Spain return to the Top 25."

The latest Brand Finance rankings were prepared ahead of the current round of uncertainty that has gripped global markets.