NationBranding.info offers some handy advice on branding your nation: Mine the paradox.
In an essay posted March 24, Saher Sidhom argues that "a country brand should start with a coherent brand and attitude but allow for paradoxes." Contradictions in cultural characteristics are inevitable, and highlighting them makes a nation's brand "more surprising and lively."
Sidhom cites Sweden as an example, noting that the country is progressive, but values preservation. Personally, I think a greater Swedish paradox is that their furniture looks sleek and basic, but tends to require an advanced degree in physical logic and a six-pack to assemble, but I am no expert in country branding, so I'll defer to Sidhom's judgment.
In general, I think Sidhom's advice is sound. Most nations and cultures do contain paradoxes, and it's better to acknowledge them upfront than to wait for your detractors to point them out, but it needs to be done with care and finesse. Otherwise you get something that looks like this:
There is some danger in defining a nation's characteristics according to its inconsistencies. But, of course, the act of reducing one's national character to a symbolic brand is an inevitably dangerous enterprise. As Shana Alexander notes, "the paradox of reality is that no image is as compelling as the one which exists only in the mind's eye."
Nation branders beware!