Thursday, 5 June 2008

Do countries need a brand identity?

Australia is apparently rethinking its advertising approach to tourism. Some countries were upset by the current advertisements which ask: “Where the bloody hell are you?”.

Personally I liked the line. It has the brash good humoured charm we expect from our friends down under. Anecdotal evidence suggests that most British people also found this appeal credible and persuasive. However this acceptance was not matched in Japan who now send fewer tourists to Australia.

It proves that culture and customs are still different across the world,
even in today’s global village.

Perhaps the British attitude is informed by our shared history and
their ready willingness to fight by our side in two bloody world wars.
They sacrificed a lot of young men to help protect their cousins half the earth away.

Now the Australian authorities are to develop an all encompassing
brand identity which will hopefully reflect all the positive elements
that make the country what it is.

A country’s image is affected by its geography, geology, history, people, politics, economy and its position in the world. Branding a country is therefore a complex task, since we are talking not just about tourism, but also exports, off shore banking, foreign and domestic policy, inward bound investments, culture and
heritage.

The danger is projecting an identity that conflicts with current
perception. Psychologists call this ‘cognitive dissonance’.

Countries that need a new and credible image, need to adapt rapidly and there is usually not the will or resources to do it.

Consider three countries as examples.

Sri Lanka is an ancient land, culturally interesting with a strong rooting in Buddhism. It offers great value for tourists, wide sandy beaches, wild elephants, but once again in turmoil because of the actions of the Tamil tigers.

China is a huge country, accounting for a quarter of the world’s population. Many peasants are poor, though there is a burgeoning urban middle class. It is home to one of the great civilisations but currently ruled by a repressive totalitarian regime with a bad human rights record at home and in Tibet which they occupy illegally. They are the hosts for this years Olympics and have just suffered a calamitous earth quake.

Indonesia has the worlds greatest concentration of Muslims and a source of militant Islamism. Bali, is one of their beautiful islands, inhabited by gentle Buddhists and favoured by Australian tourists. It was targeted twice by terrorists.

Perhaps all most countries need is correct positioning for each of their many target sectors.

New Zealand provides incentives for film makers. Much was achieved by the shooting of the ‘Lord of the Rings’ trilogy, which was watched by millions all over the world.

The ad concept of ‘Pure’ is simply true and stronger for the lack of hyperbole.

Egypt cleverly positioned their Red Sea resorts by describing the strip as the Red Sea Riviera. This succeeded in shifting the perception of the place from the Middle east and all that implies to Europe, safe and sophisticated.

Branding a country with a universal message may be very difficult.

Repositioning a country differently for its different targets may be all that’s needed.

1 comment:

Chris said...

Interesting post.

Yes, I think countries need to consider their branding seriously.

I think Spain have done an excellent job of branding and re-positioning their country, once known for cheap package tourism and 'The Costas of Crime'.

The 'Miro logo' used in conjuncton with a wide range of images appears to have been very successful in helping them re-position themselves and target a totally different visitor audience.