Friday, November 19, 2010

Re-branding Philippine tourism -- a little knowledge is a dangerous thing

A little knowledge is a dangerous thing...  

Surely, almost everybody by now has an opinion about the new tourism slogan that Tourism Secretary Bertie Lim tried to impose upon the entire Philippine Tourism industry (which actually goes against the mandate of the Tourism Act of 2009).

"Pilipinas, kay ganda" has received a lot of negative criticism from various sectors.

In an interview on Umagang Kay Ganda with Tourism Secretary Bertie Lim, he was asked about the basis or rationale for the slogan.  He said that the new slogan was distinct from other slogans, being rendered in Filipino (Tagalog, to be precise) and would prick the interest of foreigners.

He, however, didn't cite any specific study or trotted out data that would validate such a view.

The secretary said after the fateful "launching" of the "Pilipinas, kay ganda" that Focused Group Discussions and research would be done on the slogan.

Now, I am NOT an expert in advertising or marketing, but from what I've read (books by Ogilvy, Ries, Gladwell, etcetera) during my college years, FGDs are usually done BEFORE the launch of any advertising campaign NOT AFTER.  Perhaps, what Secretary Lim had in mind -- and I am just guessing here -- is a COMMUNICATION AUDIT or a survey of the reactions to the slogan.

It was really quite shocking to hear Secretary Lim say something to the effect that "experts in marketing" would agree that "Pilipinas kay ganda" was a great slogan and that the non-experts who were against it were talking through their hats.

Now, the thing is this and it may come as a shock to Secretary Lim, the slogan "Pilipinas kay ganda" isn't intended for an audience composed mainly of "experts".  It is meant for a global audience, specifically, a segment of the global audience who frequently travel and who are tourists.  This global audience may be composed of some experts but a larger part will probably comprise ordinary folks of varying levels of competence in one field or another.  The point is, if the larger part of that audience doesn't appreciate the genius behind "Pilipinas kay ganda", then it would have failed miserably.

On the other end of the discussion was Bobby Joseph who, apart from saying that the slogan was just plain ugly, came across with a number of points that I agreed with.

First, is the idea that such a decision to re-brand the country's tourism campaign should have undergone a consultative process -- a process outlined in the Tourism Act of 2009.

Second, the re-branding concepts should have been presented to the industry and its stakeholders.

Third, by tapping a consultative process, the government would have been able to tap -- FOR FREE -- an enormous pool of EXPERTS in the tourism industry.

The actions that Secretary Lim undertook in arbitrarily deciding to re-brand the country's tourism campaign not only goes against the Tourism Act of 2009, it also goes against the principle of TRANSPARENCY that President Noynoy Aquino said he would GUARANTEE under his administration.

Put it another way, it seems QUITE CLEAR that LIM favored Campaigns and Grey's slogan and logo (the design of which was DERIVED from that of Poland)... Instead of asking various advertising agencies to all make their pitch for the new slogan and logo.  By doing so, the Department of Tourism would have had more concepts to choose from.

Campaigns and Grey said that her agency hasn't received a single peso from the DoT for creating the slogan.  But, the question is, if people lapped up the new re-branding concept and it passed without much event, WOULD HER AGENCY THEN BENEFIT FROM THE EXECUTION OF THE REBRANDING CAMPAIGN?

Of course, before an ad agency presents a pitch, it cautiously guards the ideas it shares with copyright claims and those claims come into effect if others choose to use their concept.  Supposing that the DoT were able to adopt the re-branding concept, wouldn't it then be possible for Campaigns and Grey to rake in money from the entire tourism industry for being COMPELLED to use the slogan and the logo???

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