Rebranding France

Jul 26, 2017
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Institut de France à Paris

How President Macron is putting France on the top spot

 
 
France has become the world’s top soft power nation making a big leap from n°5 to n°1 within a year. This makes France the most influencial nation, overtaking the U.K. and the United States. Not long ago, this would have been unthinkable. There is clearly a rebranding going on that put France in the top spot. How did that happen?
 

What is this “Soft Power” ranking?

 
“Soft Power” was coined by international relations professor Joseph Nye 27 years ago. It refers to the persuasive power of a nation by means other than military (which is “hard power”). The idea behind it is that power with others is more effective than power over others. Some items surveyed are pretty straightfoward: education, enterprise, digital developpement… And some are less tangible: cuisine, friendliness, liveability, tolerance. The openness to other countries is paramount.
 
France has a lot going for her already: an extensive culture, a renowned cuisine, even the French language is considered “the language of diplomacy”. Yet, she was only in the 5th spot in 2016. But a lot has happened since then.
 

President Macron is changing France’s stance worldwide

 
Despite all odds, Emmanuel Macron, a young(er) party-less man, became president last May. The French people wanted change and they got it. Mastering all marketing techniques, he made his way to the top while gathering popular support. Still within his first 100 days of presidency, Emmanuel Macron spreads his aura worldwide. He resisted Donald Trump’s handshake and beat him at his own slogan game (“make our planet great again“).
He supports FrenchTech startups, environnemental research and opens the frontiers to innovators and investors worldwide. Several decisive summits offered him an occasion to make his mark on the world stage and present France as a dynamic team player.
 

Rebranding from the inside

 
The Soft Power ranking relates the efforts of a nation at reaching out to the other countries. But France’s new president had a peculiar challenge which was to reach out to the French people. If a nation is typically broken up after an election, France faces an extra challenge. Years of France-bashing from both the outside and the inside has drained confidence. Even the layman is eager to explain how France is not what it used to be despite great creative spirit.
The international feedback of President Macron’s actions overseas are having a big impact on French people. They are beginning to see France as a major player and not as a follower. They are ready to see France as a place to create and thrive rather than a strike-ridden old country. They are ready to believe. And when French people change the way they see themselves, they change the way the world sees them.
 

France had a little help though

 
Last year’s n°1 was the United Kingdom and obviously the Brexit wasn’t perceived as an act of open-mindedness towards other countries. Across the pond, Donald Trump’s “America First” and regular twitter outburts failed to establish him as a soft power leader. France’s number one spot cannot be solely attributed to Emmanuel Macron’s election although it was decisive (imagine Marine Le Pen in his stead). It was the combination of the new French presidency, the new US presidency and UK’s choices that lead the way to this turnaround.
 
It’s way too soon to say but who knows what will happen when you mix creativity, soft power, self-confidence and desire for change. Guess what, France is back!