Branding the PH beyond slogans
Another presidential administration, another attempt at having a catchy marketing tagline for the Philippines.
That seems to be our fate every six years as the so-called best and the brightest of every sitting government try their hand at creating a campaign that will successfully promote the country overseas and translate to more dollars for the local economy.
The latest incarnation of this effort is the “We give the world our best” slogan that—with the image of the Filipino nurse who administered the world’s first COVID-19 vaccine attached to the side of a double-decker London bus—seems to, more than anything else, play up the nation’s strength as a labor-exporting country.
No doubt, our expatriate workforce is a major strength and asset. But, as Sen. Nancy Binay pointed out, the message is confusing as to whether it is meant to attract more tourists to the Philippines, attract more foreign investors, or persuade foreign hospitals to hire more Filipino health workers.
Truth be told, the country’s previous marketing campaigns that were oriented toward tourism were better, from the 2000s-era “Wow Philippines” to the more recent “It’s More Fun in the Philippines.”
On the surface, what the country needs is a more enduring marketing tagline that will survive political changes every six years and outlast the appointments of government officials who all want the credit for leaving their mark on the tourism scene and perhaps, in the process, aim to sycophantically please their appointing authority.
On the surface, what Philippine tourism needs is a more enduring, more catchy, and more effective campaign that conveys a singular idea about our country’s uniqueness—unique enough to draw millions of visitors in the way taglines like “Amazing Thailand,” “Malaysia, truly Asia,” “Incredible India,” “Wonderful Indonesia,” “Egypt, where it all begins,” and “Hong Kong, Asia’s world city” have done for their respective places.
On the surface, we need to stop rolling out new campaigns just because they were conceived by the previous administration. We need to allow existing ones to permeate the airwaves and the internet so that they can take root in the subconscious of the very people we want to attract to our shores.
But beneath the surface, the Philippines needs deeper, more lasting solutions as well.
Beneath the surface, the Filipino nation needs to put its best foot forward, so to speak, and adopt a singular national brand with which it could promote itself to the outside world for whatever purpose it deems necessary.
To this end, the Management Association of the Philippines is proposing to President Marcos the creation of a National Branding Council that will carefully assess our collective strengths and weaknesses, and weigh them against the threats and opportunities out in the broader world in order to come up with a coherent marketing identity for the country.
Take as a benchmark South Korea’s use of K-pop to promote their culture to the rest of the world but, beneath the surface, what the Land of the Morning Calm is actually selling is the strong brand of a Korean economy that offers everyone around the world the fastest microprocessors, the coolest smartphones, and the most advanced LED televisions, among others.What the “Brand Philippines” needs is a Korea-style combination of soft and hard marketing power that, on the surface, promotes singing and dancing artistic talent to the world, which, once hooked, is drawn in to spend their dollars on world-beating products.
Unfortunately for the Philippines, the national brand remains in tatters no thanks to poor infrastructure (just look at our international airport), slow internet, corruption, and an inefficient government bureaucracy. What needs to be done is for our policymakers to address all these issues in a focused and determined manner and, perhaps then, take on the concurrent task of promoting a Philippine brand to the outside world.
What we don’t want to do is to oversell the country by having a flashy marketing campaign that will fall short of foreign tourists’ or businessmen’s real-world experience locally. But neither can we afford not to market the Philippines to the world for all its inherent strengths and beauty, the country’s ugly warts notwithstanding.
What the Philippines needs is a strong national brand that looks good on the surface, but offers even more beneath it.
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