Georgia on my mind…
Every once in a while, I see a business development ad in The Economist for Georgia.
No, not our Georgia – the one that’s the Peach State, home of the Vidalia onion, site of Sherman’s March to the Sea.
The other Georgia – the one on the Black Sea. The one that, quite frankly, was far easier to keep track of when it was back in the USSR.
The World’s number 1 in fighting corruption.
Thus the transposition of the “I” in Georgia to a Big Red 1.
Marketing pro that I am, I’m always interested in how someone, something, or somewhere is positioning itself, so I thought I’d read the full text, not just the header.
According to the 2010 Global Corruption Barometer by Transparency International, 78% of Georgians think that corruption has decreased over the last 3 years – the best result across the 86 countries surveyed…Only 3% of Georgians who had contact with various public services reported paying a bribe in the past 12 months. This is a better figure than the EU average and places Georgia in the pool of countries whose citizens report the fewest bribes in the world…as noted by TI ‘one out of four worldwide has paid a bribe in the past year.’ Another recent survey…points out that only 0.4% of the population of Georgia has paid a bribe to get a service or a decision.
Well, I don’t know about you, but if I were thinking about plant relocation or setting up a Black Sea branch, I don’t believe this particular message would get me to think about ‘how to become part of Georgia’s big success story.”
But this appears to be a big part of the current message over on Georgia.gov which touts the country as “The world’s number one reformer 2005-2010”.
And while the certainly should get some props for whatever improvements they’ve made over the years, with a score of 3.8, they rank 68th overall, out of the 178 countries that comprise the Transparency International index.
Yes, this score places them well ahead of the country’s former BFF, Russia, which scored a tawdry 2.1. And they’re ahead of Ukraine. And Greece. And Cuba. And just a smidge behind Italy.
Still, 68 out of 178…
I suppose that as a tagline ‘We’re less corrupt than some others we could name” beats “Birthplace of Stalin,” or “Home to pebbly beaches where paunchy, fish-white-bellied men in Speedos with white hankies tied over their bald pates bask in the sun.”
But it seems that, from a pure positioning angle, there might be more compelling points to make that answer the question “Why Georgia?”
Of course, lest we get too smug about our fragile yet still (for now, at least) mighty Number One-ness, the U.S. fell from the grace of the Top 20 this year. We now rank Number 22, tied with Belgium and wedged between Chile (as in, used to be run by Pinochet Chile), and Uruguay (about which I know blessed little, other than that they’re not Paraguay, which ranked a dismal 146). Bottom rung, by the way, is held by – surprise, surprise – Somalia, with Myanmar, Afghanistan and Iraq nearby. Top rankings are held by Denmark, New Zealand, and Singapore (where rumor once had it that you could get caned for chewing gum, so imagine what the treatment is for bribery…).
Anyway, Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index is, well, based on perceptions. The rankings are derived from composite scores of surveys of the ‘have you paid a bribe in the last 12 months’ variety. So the results are not really based on any big objective measures.
The US supposedly dropped a few places in the rankings because of the financial meltdown, Bernie Madoff, and the way we fund elections. We don’t “suffer” so much from legal, bribe-style corruption as from a systemic “integrity deficit.” (The Supremes decision on corporate spending on campaigns should really help improve our rankings, ya think?)
Meanwhile, against the backdrop of Georgia’s ad campaign, on Monday a former software sales exec pled guilty to charges that he bribed a Massachusetts state official to get a big, fat software contract for his company. (And a big, fat wad o’ compensation for himself.) The state official – our former speaker of the house – goes on trial next month. The fact that the sales guy pled out ain’t going to help his case any.
That said, I’m still guessing that Massachusetts is not as corrupt as Georgia. Or Georgia, for that matter. (As it turns out, I may be at least marginally correct here. In the only ranking of corruption by states I could find – from 2004 – Georgia was the 23rd most corrupt state, while Massachusetts placed 26th. But then I saw that the corruption rates were based on the number of convictions for corruption, as measured against the population. While I can absolutely believe that Mississippi is the most corrupt state, and that Louisiana ranks as third most corrupt, I do have a hard time wrapping my head around North Dakota as number two. It sure seems that if this is the way you measure corruption, a particularly zealous state could end up with a pretty high ranking as corrupt….)
As for Georgia the country, my advice is to get a new ad campaign going. This one kind of reminds me of something a CMO I once worked for used to say: “Our tagline should be ‘we suck less’. True, perhaps, but it just doesn’t give the shopper much of a reason to buy.