Why Costa Rica is a Winning Brand

The view from Papagayo Bay, Costa Rica

The view from Papagayo Bay, Costa Rica

I recently returned from a trip to Costa Rica — and along the way, discovered that almost everyone I know has either traveled there recently or has it at the top of their list. How did this tiny Central American country of four million people become such a tourist juggernaut, drawing close to two million annual visitors? The secret lies in Costa Rica’s use of four branding principles.

1. Your Brand = Your Unique Strengths. In developing a brand, you always want to start by identifying your unique competitive advantage. In the case of Costa Rica (which covers a miniscule .03% of the Earth’s surface), it’s the concentration of biodiversity, with 4% of the world’s plants and animals (over 500,000 species). In fact, it’s considered to be one of the 20 most biodiverse countries in the world — catnip for nature lovers, who have been lured by canopy tours (aka “ziplines”), kayaking, volcanoes, and rainforest walks.
2. Exploit Your Competitive Advantage. If you’ve got a powerful strength in the marketplace, beat it like a drum. Other countries have rainforests and nice climates, too, but Costa Rica has used every opportunity to reinforce its branding as the nature destination, from the tourist board’s slogan (“No Artificial Ingredients”) to a commitment to environmental causes and policies. In fact, Costa Rica launched a network of national parks in the 1970s, which now cover more than a quarter of its land. And the country (which first implemented a carbon tax in 1997) has set the ambitious goal of becoming entirely carbon neutral by 2021.

Read the rest at the Huffington Post.

Dorie Clark is CEO of Clark Strategic Communications. She is a strategy consultant who has worked with clients including Google, the National Park Service, and Yale University. Listen to her podcasts or follow her on Twitter.