Costa Rica – An Essential Part of the Global Nation Branding Strategy

nation branding

The nation branding concept is a perfect tool for countries to show their uniqueness and pave their path to global recognition. In some of our previous articles, we have talked about how Estonia won the nation branding game and emerged on the global scene as a key economic player.

In this article, we are going to travel a bit west, now to Central America, and cover a story about a country named Costa Rica.

Costa Rica shares borders with the Pacific Ocean to the southwest side and the Caribbean Sea to the northeast, while it has land borders with Nicaragua in the north and Panama in the southeast.

The total population amounts to 5 million, according to the Worldometer’s latest statistics. This small piece of land is actually a real example of how a country can work hard and thoroughly in order to become a brand.

But first, let’s just take a look at a short statistics piece that will introduce us to this Central American pearl.

Brief info about Costa Rica

Costa Rica is a constitutional republic that is actually famous for its stable democracy system. The country was inhabited by indigenous peoples, but soon Spain has conquered this piece of land in the 16th century. The country was actually a peripheral colony of the Spanish rule and remained as such up until its independence within the First Mexican Empire, and later as a member of the Federal Republic of Central America.

Unlike the other countries in the region, Costa Rica has not seen many turbulences within its rule. However, the country we know now has laid its foundation after the Costa Rican Civil War in 1948.

Since then, Costa Rica has worked very hard on its public imagery and developed a strategy that will launch the country high up on the global scale in various segments.

Costa Rica’s Nation Branding Concept

Nation branding is a strategy that a country uses aiming to position itself on the world’s scene and use this position in order to capitalize on it. Usually, countries choose 3 to 4 focus segments that might be a deciding factor for the county’s reputation. Thus, they market these traits in order to boost their reputation.

Costa Rica, a sunny, central American country, naturally chose to put its primary focus on tourism. Additionally, the country also covered foreign direct investments and the sector of acquisition of exportation products.

And that is how this central American country summarized all its activities in one simple nation branding strategy and named it “Essential COSTA RICA.”

In fact, the strategy was built to incorporate the image of the brand represented through the culture and idiosyncrasies.

It all started in 2008 when the country conducted research that covered two aspects: national and international. The international aspect included 79 countries from the world and along with the national one, all the participants were asked about how Costa Rica was perceived. All the results stated the same: Costa Rica was seen as a green country with so much potential for making further links with the rest of the world.

In the next stage, the country brand was developed by hiring a branding company that at that time was a pioneer in this segment.

The results were the creation of the brand’s name ‘Essential Costa Rica’, a name given to portray the country’s competitiveness through the features of the people.

Later the country started the international process of placing the brand in various trade and tourism fairs to show the world what this Central American country has to offer.

Embassies, international events, and various commercial sites were included in the caravan dedicated to promoting the best out of Costa Rica. For the needs of these constant promotional events the first-ever brochures that explain the nature of the nation’s branding strategy were developed. Additional steps such as protocol licensing and the constitution of the Committee of the Country Brand were also part of this marketing journey, which led to overall global success.

In the fourth phase, Costa Rica started another arm of the nation branding strategy but now the focus was put on the human factor, and the target were the centers for education, business meetings, various sessions, and many regional tours that covered social events and gatherings. The presence of the Costa Rica nation brand was the primary goal, and in this phase, a more aggressive content strategy was launched on numerous social media channels.

Essential COSTA RICA operates according to two main criteria: country positioning and country competitiveness.


Country positioning is seen through the traits of the people from Costa Rica. Costarican traits that are widely used for promotion are the Pura Vida which can be described as a charismatic site, and the term “pulseadores” which portrays the talent of the people

Country competitiveness is an institute through which Costa Ricans guarantee everyone using their nation’s brand will also represent their core values such as sustainability, excellence, social progress, and innovation.

Of course, every nation’s branding strategy’s ultimate goal is to promote the country worldwide. The promotion is done through various objectives a certain strategy has and following these objectives is what will, in the long run, provide the desired result of the nation’s branding strategy.

Costa Rica’s nation branding strategy contains several such objectives.

  • Promotion of tourism, foreign direct investment, and exports, all while emphasizing the Costa Rican rich culture.
  • Attraction of foreign direct investment in areas such as technology and other high-in-demand services.
  • Promotion of Costa Rica people’s skills as well as their talents.
  • Keeping a high-profile image whenever the country is presented abroad and sustaining its reputation.
  • Promoting exports of products characteristic of the country and boosting their international demand through marketing.
  • Maintain competitiveness through adding increased value to companies by providing the Essential Costa Rica branding stamp.

Segments of the nation branding strategy


The first thing that pops in mind when someone mentions Costa Rica is something related to nature, oceanside, greenery, etc. That’s why in the first place the branding strategy was mainly focused on this aspect of the country. Boosting tourism or marketing it can only lead to more tourism.

nation branding and tourism

Now the facts. Costa Rica is a very small country that amounts to 0.03% of the overall global surface. However, an interesting detail is that this tiny territory is the home of 6% of the whole world’s biodiversity. Add the perfect average temperature of 24 degrees Celsius throughout the whole year, and you get a recipe for a successful tourist destination. Sustainability plays an important role in the nation’s brand, as more than 250 companies are participating in a program that represents a groundbreaking symbol of quality, the Sustainable Tourism Certificate. In fact, this certificate proves the long-term efforts for reducing the carbon footprint.


The people of Costa Rica are perceived as adroit, and the overall picture is that they possess a strong ambition for innovation and doing business. The country is ranked 35th on the Global Talent Competitiveness Index with acceptable performance. Talent attraction and talent growth are the two values in which the country is a leader, especially in Latin America.

An additional fact is that Costa Rica has a literacy rate of 96.1% which is rather a high number. This is due to the highly developed education system, with numerous universities that rank among the best universities in the world.


Right now, 25.6% of Costa Rica’s land and water territory is under protection from the State. Additionally, the country’s electricity is mainly coming from natural sources.


The National System of Conservation Areas (SINAC) is in charge of preserving the biodiversity in the country, while the Ministry of Environment and Energy (MINAE) leads the management efforts for all the wildlands and the areas under protection.


Being right in the center between North and South America seems to be ideal, as many companies have chosen Costa Rica as the country for their operations. An additional reason is the availability of the service and the development of the manufacturing sectors.


The infrastructure is once again a great factor for the country’s successful nation branding strategy. The perfect location makes sea transportation one of the essential routes for trading. There are two main ports Puerto Limon-Moin and Puerto Caldera. Puerto Limon-Moin is very close to the capital San Jose and is one of the most important ports in the country, due to its proximity to the Panama Canal.

Additionally, the two main airports, Juan Santamaria Airport and Tobias Bolanos International Airport are the main centers for general aviation in Costa Rica.

To sum up

All these mentioned segments play a vital role in the overall nation branding strategy and add to the notion that Costa Rica is a national gem when it comes to positioning. In fact, Costa Rica is a perfect example of how a country can benefit from nation branding, by putting to use all of its country’s capacities.

Having a clear vision of where a country is headed is one of the most important things when a nation’s branding strategy is developed. In fact, envisioning realistic outcomes are what makes one country thrive in terms of nation branding. Costa Rica’s nation branding did just that and successfully became a positive example of how this game is played on a global scene.

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