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For a country preparing to host the Olympic games in less than six years, Japan got an encouraging nod from FutureBrand’s Country Brand Index this week for having the strongest country brand in the world, the first time Japan topped the list.

As preparations get underway for the 2020 Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo, FutureBrand measured country brands for how many consumer brands they’re known for, their expertise across multiple consumer categories and how much momentum they have in technology, innovation and sustainability.

The index found Japan’s business potential has the most positive perceptions, followed by its heritage and quality of life. The strongest association people have with Japan is its advanced technology, and the country’s health, education and culture also have strong associations.

Of the 75 countries part of the index, only 22 qualify as country brands. This isn’t particularly jarring, given half of the countries examined are classified as “developing” by the United Nations (UN), and are therefore less likely to have an organized and established brand strategy.

No surprise, as a tourism magnet Europe had the most country brands on the list, and Switzerland was ranked directly behind Japan, followed by Germany and Sweden. Australia and Canada also landed top 10 spots. The U.S. is ranked seventh.

The five cities to watch for emerging country brands during the next three years are all in Asia or the Middle East, according to the index. They are:

  • China
  • U.A.E
  • South Korea
  • Israel
  • Qatar

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Photo Credit: Detail of a photo of two tourists at a temple in Nara, Japan. M.G. Siegler / Flickr