The Role of Multinational Corporations (MNC) in Soft Power (Part II)

There are other methods that can attract the people towards companies or governments which help them to sell more products, shape the thinking of people about one country and surpass other countries or corporations. For example, companies or corporations can invest money to the aid programs for the poor countries or just send their products, workers in order to help other populations. Recently, one of the world famous Swedish corporations- IKEA suggested a better solution for the refugee shelter. They built a refugee shelter that won – “2016 Design of the year”.[1] This contribution by IKEA and partnership with UNHCR [2] raise the name of the corporation globally and helps to boost the reputation of the corporation worldwide. It is obvious how ordinary and famous people and even companies expressed gratitude to IKEA in Twitter which is also beneficial for the reputation of Sweden.[3]

Another example is P&G (Procter and Gamble) with together USAID (U.S. Agency for International Development) contributed 2 million dollars in order to improve health care and clean water system in Myanmar. Award-winning Purifier of Water packets was allocated by P&G which is the powder for cleaning water just in 30 minutes. This contribution saved 37,000 lives and millions of people from diarrheal disease across 75 countries. Because of the scarcity of water around the world, P&G started its Children’s Safe Drinking Water Program (CSDW) since 2004 and provided seven billion litres of water to the people. [4]
Another example is Merck & Co. Pharmaceutical Corporation which ran programs in order to improve public health and help to improve an area where the health system is inadequate and poverty is at the apex. This company took an obligation for the improvement of the world healthcare. In 2003 they allocated 3 billion to the research, development and to the social goods – medicines, pharmaceutical tools too which are limited in the poor regions. [5]
Apart from social aid and improvement in the world, multinational corporations also create bridges and links between countries. When one corporation builds its company or sells products to host country they bring a peace with themselves to those ties. Also, today governments and non-governmental actors do not just fight for political influence. They also compete for commercial power,[6] because as we know now so many actors want to get customers and seek mass workers for their own production. Melissen in his book – The New Public Diplomacy, Soft Power in International Relations wrote that now world nations are in direct and obvious competition with each other in three designated areas: brand export; foreign direct investment; and tourism.
As Melissen claims, branding also plays a crucial role. There are so many things that corporations are capable of doing without any obstacles and can persuade the people to the aimed directions. After the political developments of US in Iraq and other Muslim countries, the reputation of the United States and even its brands weakened. Therefore image makers in the USA began to bring back this reputation with the help of national branding. They argue that there are so many things those governments incapable of doing, however, the business companies can cope with uncongenial situations. They began to create a corporation that would encounter anti-Americanism. Melissen believes that this attempt may or may not be successful, but even this attempt shows that corporations and branding is a vital part of “national promotional program”. [7]
If one country wants to maintain its reputation and use soft power in the broad sphere, then it should not minimise its range of brands. For example, Finland is well known for its phone and anyone knows that if there is a phone needed to be chosen it will be Nokia. But if we are talking about diffuse the soft power broadly then Finland needs to increase its number of products. Germany, the USA, or Italy kept their soft power and always increased its products types. For example, Germany produces cars, cosmetics, computers and etc. and well-known for its broad range of products in the world which appeals to the world. The range of products of Italy can also be exemplified in this term.[8] Today there are so many countries which seek a national branding, some kind of multinational corporations in order to raise a reputation and use soft power for their own needs. Poland, Hungary, and Balkan countries can be the best example.
Another example of a country using soft power can be Japan. After WWII Japanese economy collapsed and the country could barely know for its products or another kind of capabilities except for its military power from the war. When they sold products for the first time, all Americans looked them as the worst one. But afterward, these products became a high demand and all people began to buy it and appraised Japanese products. These are the one kind of soft power which conquered hearts of the world and the Japanese corporations also became wealthy. Everyone wanted Sony, JVC at their home and Nissan, Toyota at their garage. These corporations and products attracted the world towards Japan.

pop-culture_header_1a1After using soft power and raising its reputation in the region, other countries joined to this competition in order to surpass Japan. China, Singapore, and Korea used soft power a lot more efficiently. Although Korea was well known for its Samsung, LG, Hyundai and other corporations, Korean government stepped forward by using Korean pop culture as the soft power which became so successful in the world with surpassing Japan.[9] This pop culture attempt helped Korea to become the main user of soft power. In order to confront the rise of Korean soft power in the world and especially, in the Asian region, Japan even started a project called “Cool Japan”, because Koreans preoccupied the Asian nations with their soap operas, “Gangnam Style” music and with other attractive tools. [10]

There are some people and scholars who did not believe the might of corporations in soft power. How could corporations be successful in persuading the nations? Or is it possible to use the products of companies as soft power? I reckon, just looking this picture which was taken in Moscow in 1990 where thousands of people standing in the queue for buying Mc Donald’s, can be the best answer.[11]
Luttwak (1993) stated that geopolitics changed its name and had become “geo-economics”. The states would be less important than multinational corporations where Griffiths M. believes this hypothesis in his International Relations Theory for the Twenty-First Century book. [12]



  1. CNN. Ikea flat-pack refugee shelter named 2016 Design of the Year. (January 30, 2017)
  2. UNHCR. IKEA Foundation.
  3. Twitter. #BetterShelter hashtag.
  4. The Borgen Project. What is Soft Power? (June 22, 2015)
  5. Linda M. Distlerath, Guy Macdonald. The African Comprehensive HIV/AIDS Partnerships – A New Role for Multinational Corporations in Global Health Policy, Merck & Co., Inc. Yale Journal of Health Policy, Law, and Ethics. (February 25, 2013) (pg. 148)
  6. Melissen J. The New Public Diplomacy. Soft Power in International Relations – 2005 (pg. 172)
  7. Melissen J. The New Public Diplomacy. Soft Power in International Relations – 2005 (pg. 169-170)
  8. Melissen J. The New Public Diplomacy. Soft Power in International Relations – 2005 (pg. 173-174)
  9. Huffington Posts. K-pop: Soft Power for the Global Cool
  10. The Economist. Squaring the cool. (June 16, 2014)
  11. The Soviet Era Museum. The end of Soviet Empire: First McDonalds in Moscow.
  12. Griffiths M. International Relations Theory for the Twenty-First Century. An Introduction – 2007 (pg. 140)

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