Meet the IPM: Interview with Fabiana Gondim Mariutti

Fabiana Gondim Mariutti
Fabiana Gondim Mariutti

Fabiana is an associate member of the IPM. Her career started in business communication twenty-two years ago. She is third generation from a family of mixed-European immigrants, (Italian, Portuguese, Dutch) who settled in Brazil around 1880. This diverse ancestry made her pay attention to countries’ distinctiveness since her childhood. As a Brazilian living in the United States of America in 1990, she realized that each country is known through particular images, associations and stereotypes. After working in corporate environments until 2009 (strategy, marketing communications, branding, public relations), she embraced the challenge of becoming a researcher in 2010 and completed a Master’s degree in business on the topic of ‘country brands’. This year, Fabiana is finalizing her PhD in Business in the UK.

Fabiana Mariutti, you are now completing your PhD in business. What exactly is your subject and what are you examining?

Fabiana Mariutti: The subject of my research was the evolution of country-of-origin theory towards the theoretical expansion of country reputation, ontologically and epistemologically, as a research domain. I have examined the reputation of Brazil based on four stakeholders’ perspectives, after exploring and describing the country brand image in the United Kingdom. My research was a snapshot case study that was focused on associations with Brazil, highlighting favourable and unfavourable perceptions towards the country during the period of my PhD years (2013 – 2016).

What can you tell us about stereotypes associated with Brazil? Have you studied them? Or – do we even have methods to examine country-related stereotypes?

Fabiana Mariutti: Country as a unit of analysis denotes much more complexity than a city or a region, as we know. Taking the case of Brazil, there is a plethora of stereotypes associated with the country due to the diversity and contrasting features, for instance, historically, ethnically, culturally, socially, economically, geographically, etc. The same applies to any country, represented by a brand which is surrounded by several dimensions and sub-dimensions placed at a dynamic and multifaceted setting along with several stakeholders, internally and externally.

“Monitoring the level of reputation  founded on academic research and robust theories, supports the management of country reputation”.

In fact, my research was specifically focussed on associations with the country, based on a multidimensional framework using mixed-methods of qualitative and quantitative approaches. Existing research discreetly recognises the presence of theoretical convergences regarding the image of a country (i.e., country-of-origin, country branding, nation branding) and country reputation. Either stereotypes or associations with Brazil are certainly part of the country reputation, which is a diverse topic with many intertwined conceptions, disciplines and theoretical perspectives. If a country is positively or negatively stereotyped on the global stage, it strengths or weakens the perceptions of people in relation to the reputation of the country over time or temporarily. Monitoring the level of reputation, not only based on the media outlets or country brand indexes, but also founded on academic research and robust theories, supports the management of country reputation.

It is vital to point out that while the country reputation is revealed globally yet it is firstly managed locally by strategies for the development of the place: neighbourhood, town centre, town, city, region. That is when place management plays a significant role by integrating citizens’ engagement with community commitment, aiming for increasing overall well-being, at least in the case of Brazil. Regarding your last question, methodologically, there is a lack of studies regarding evaluating or managing a country’s reputation.

Does Brazil pursue a country branding strategy? If yes, how has it evolved and how do you assess it?

Fabiana Mariutti: Yes, there are three Brazilian governmental institutions that to some extend work on strategies and efforts concentrated on the country image abroad. For instance, EMBRATUR, the tourism bureau is in charge of the promotion of Brazilian destinations using Marca Brazil, which is represented by a colourful logo launched in 2005; the attributes of Marca Brazil regarding the country brand identity are the following: joy; sinuosity and curves (of nature and of people’s character); luminosity, brightness and exuberance; mix of culture and races; modern and competent. By the way, I have published papers on the topic and a book as well. The book was part of my master’s degree at University of São Paulo, Faculty of Business at Ribeirão Preto, campus, which had the purpose of theoretically transposing Aaker’s brand theory into a country brand context. Another institution that promotes Brazil is APEX for the progress of trade and business worldwide.

“The role of branding a country should be promoting the reality of a country.”

Of course, there is the Media Relations at the International Press Office that has been continuously working on agenda-setting and international communications in order to enhance Brazil’s reputation globally. Brazil’s image was measured using scales in country-of-origin studies for specific industries, for instance, beef, fashion, among others. It can be also assessed through country brand indices based on real-data, for more information see my paper published at Place Branding and Public Diplomacy journal in January 2016.

What is the role of Country Branding? What do you think can be achieved through it for a country? How?

Fabiana Mariutti: The role of branding a country should be promoting the reality of a country, shouldn’t it? However, improving the country (as much as possible) for positive and authentic exposition requires more than implementing communication strategies right way. This is not limited to country branding’s responsibilities, I can say that the reputation of the country plays the primordial and substantial role for triggering real changes and effective activities, as residents’ participation towards the place’s improvements and, then for worldwide promotion and recognition. This leads on to increase tourism, business and investments, immigration, scientific attraction, and education partnerships in a virtuous cycle.

You are a student member of the Institute of Place Management. What has your experience with the IPM been until now? What do you think it can offer you in the future?

Fabiana Mariutti: Actually, these are my final days as a PhD candidate… I will need to upgrade my membership soon! I have to say, my experience was brilliant so far. First of all, I believe in the philosophy of the institute and its past and future actions. Second, the team is knowledgeable, updated and dynamic. I have really enjoyed the study trip to Berlin, it was totally learning-oriented and practice-based. Well-organized as well. Looking forward to the next ones. As an associate member, I will continue to benefit from access to IPM’s shared research and practical insights which can be applied to my Brazilian context in future projects and research. Obrigada!