Promoting tourism is big business. Branding is a big part of it. But does branding a country’s tourism potential always hit the intended target? Most countries want to sell their tourist attractions under a brand umbrella. So we have Armenia – Noah’s route, your route; China – Come, Discover China; Croatia – the Mediterranean as it once was; Greece – the true experience; Incredible India; Korea – Discover its hidden beauty; Malaysia Truly Asia; Visit Montenegro – Breathtaking beauty; Naturally Nepal; Poland – the natural choice; Portugal – unforgettable memories; Amazing Thailand, etc.
The crucial role that branding plays is to help countries differentiate themselves for travellers. For instance, Italy, the most successful country brand in 2005, sells itself as a destination offering almost every tourist attraction under the sun – art, authenticity, history, culture, architecture, sun, snow, food, wine, high street fashion, etc., etc. On the other hand, Australia, seen as the top country brand in 2007, is seen as a destination offering a wide variety of experiences. To quote the Country Brand Index 2007, “For brands to excel, they need not only to be targeted, but also fine-tuned to meet the needs of diverse audience segments, each with distinct brand adoption requirements. Research provides us with a considered viewpoint on where your customers may reside along the spectrum of awareness and advocacy, and what can trigger their decisions to visit, reside or invest.”
There’s no end to the branding efforts going on here. Romania – Fabulospirit! Romania – Always surprising! Romania – Simply surprising! And each slogan attempt costs more and more money. Reportedly, the Fabulospirit campaign cost €100,000… just the slogan. Eternal and Fascinating Romania cost around €6 million, and Romania – Always Surprising cost around €1.7 million. That’s a fairly big bundle of taxpayer’s money, but none of these campaigns have been particularly successful.
What is country branding all about? “Unravelling the complexity of countries and using their richness as an advantage rather than a hindrance is one of the powerful opportunities and unique aspects of country branding. This, however, must be done with great care and effort. It is not an excuse to simply be everything to everyone or to develop a brand without clear meaning, motivation and cohesiveness. Instead of using traditional marketing or business approaches established for consumer goods, financial services or technology products, countries should embrace their complexity and factor it into their entire brand-building efforts,” underscores the Country Brand Index 2007.
Ironically enough, Romania’s branding opportunity probably lies in showcasing the country as a picturesque holiday destination offering something for everybody – art, adventure, history, culture, beaches, mountains, wildlife, and the romance of the Old World.