Peter Economides will speak at the Greek America Foundationʼs National Innovation Conference in New York on April 28, 2012.
Usually when YouTube videos go viral, they are short clips involving adorable babies accomplishing incredible things or unsuspecting individuals being hit in the head by airborne objects. Rarely will the footage be thirty minutes of an academic lecture, complete with a PowerPoint presentation, a podium, and a speaker wearing a blazer and reading glasses. In November, brand strategist Peter Economides spoke at a small conference in Thessaloniki, but it was not long before his video made its way into classrooms from Athens to New York, taking with it the imaginations of all who watched. His idea of rebranding Greece hit the Greek media like wildfire, while Facebook, YouTube, and other social media were crawling with references to his talk.
The idea is quite simple. Greece can escape this crippling crisis by first solving the crisis of image, reputation, and perception. “Greece is one of the greatest brands thatʼs never been branded,” explains Economides. He defines brand as the general populationʼs set of impressions and then defines branding as the managing of the brand. On the one hand, the prevalent image of Greece today is that of the riots and the corruption. On the other, we have the stereotypical Greek --Zorba-- dancing his troubles away in his little village by the sea. When you put Zorba against the backdrop of scandals and strikes, you have the new image of Greece: the Swindlers of the Euro Family.
Economides points out that the current crisis is much bigger than Greece, but that Greece has come to serve as the scapegoat, or the “poster child.” The crisis has clouded the true image of Greece, with its historic gravity as the cradle of civilization, its breathtaking beaches and stunning mountains, its ancient monuments, its art, and the unprecedented success of the 2004 Olympics, and has rendered this image to be irrelevant. Economides calls upon Greeks to reclaim this profound heritage. “Greece has richer DNA than any nation on earth. Greece is the heart, the soul, and the spirit of the Mediterranean. Greece needs to own this. Greece needs to express it. Greece needs to inspire and be inspired by this.”
Grounding his lecture in his professional experience and expertise, Economides describes Greece as “The Apple of the Mediterranean.” But while Apple, like Coca Cola, has never changed its logo, Greece has redesigned its logo 14 times since 1990 and has revamped its branding campaign 16 times. Economides seems to imply that this indecision and inconsistency is reflective of a volatile cultural consciousnesses. He necessitates a common brand narrative: 11 million people telling the same story through shared values and goals. He necessitates a public-private partnership with corporate participation to unite the Greek people on the basis of shared hopes for the future. The worldʼs perception of the country is a direct manifestation of the peopleʼs perception of themselves.
Economides keeps his presentation simple, demonstrating for his audience that it is the simplest of ideas that prove to be the most brilliant. Think Apple. But is it possible that his next speech, NIC 2012, could make a bigger splash?
See Economides on YouTube here.