The Value Of Country Rebranding

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The unveiling of the “enhanced” tourism campaign slogan – “Love the Philippines” and the recent announcement of the country’s brand anchored on the tagline “We Give the World Our Best – The Philippines” have sparked significant interest again on how best to promote Brand Philippines.

In announcing the new slogan, Tourism Secretary Christina Frasco said the campaign “Love the Philippines” is not a mere branding campaign, but rather a call to action to every Filipino citizen to “remember the beauty of our country, to honor our past, and to look forward to the future armed with the virtues, (and) values of being a Filipino”. She argued that “Love the Philippines” is a recognition of the country’s natural assets, its long and storied history, and rich culture and diversity.

Presidential adviser on creative communication Paul Soriano, for his part, explained that the “We Give the World Our Best – The Philippines” is a country branding campaign to “make us proud to be a Filipino, here at home and anywhere, everywhere all over the world.”

“At its core, the project intends to let the whole world know how good, compassionate, and competent Filipinos are. Filipinos bring their ‘best’ through daily actions that touch lives all over the world,” Soriano said, adding that the campaign spearheads a long-term country branding initiative, in line with President Marcos’ bid to uplift the Filipino name and reputation in and around the world.

As expected, the new slogans have attracted supporters and critics alike, given strong affiliation to past campaigns that seemed to have sat well with some slice of the general public. This column will not pass judgement on the new campaigns nor will it argue why there is a need for a separate country brand and a tourism brand.

Instead, I wish to highlight how important a solid country brand is to a country that needs to attract investments and tourists alike as a way to spur economic growth, especially necessary to recover from the economic ill-effects of the global pandemic.

Indeed, in today’s globalized world, countries are constantly competing for investment and tourism. In order to stay ahead of the competition, many countries are turning to country rebranding.

Country rebranding is the process of changing a country’s image in order to make it more attractive to investors, tourists, and other stakeholders. This can be done through a variety of methods, including changing the country’s name, logo, or slogan; developing a new tourism campaign; or hosting major sporting events or cultural festivals.

There are many examples of successful country rebranding campaigns around the world.

In Asia, for example, Singapore successfully rebranded itself from a “ho-hum” city-state to a vibrant and cosmopolitan destination. From the “Garden City”, Singapore successfully transitioned to “Global City-State” and this move provides valuable insights for successful country rebranding. Key elements include:

a. Visionary leadership: Singapore’s government led the rebranding efforts with a clear vision and long-term planning, focusing on economic diversification, urban development, and international connectivity.

b. World-class infrastructure: Investments in infrastructure development, such as the iconic Marina Bay Sands and Changi Airport, established Singapore as a global business and tourism hub.

c. Sustainable urban planning: Singapore’s emphasis on green spaces, clean environment, and sustainable practices enhanced its reputation as a livable city, attracting global talent and investments.

Another neighbor in Southeast, Malaysia with its “Malaysia, Truly Asia” campaign, was also very successful in its country rebranding initiative by promoting its diverse culture and natural beauty. Key strategies include:

a. Cultural melting pot: Malaysia capitalized on its multicultural heritage, showcasing its diverse traditions, festivals, and cuisines to attract tourists and foster cultural exchange.

b. Eco-tourism focus: Malaysia positioned itself as an eco-tourism destination, highlighting its rainforests, wildlife, and pristine beaches, appealing to nature enthusiasts and adventure seekers.

c. Destination marketing: Malaysia’s strategic marketing campaigns targeted key markets, leveraging digital platforms and collaborations with influencers to amplify its message.

Thailand’s rebranding initiative, known as “Amazing Thailand,” serves as another prime example of successful country rebranding in Southeast Asia. The campaign aimed to redefine Thailand’s image as a premier tourist destination and attract a wider international audience. Key strategies include:

a. Cultural heritage: Thailand leveraged its rich cultural heritage as a cornerstone of its rebranding effort. The campaign highlighted the country’s historic temples, vibrant festivals, traditional arts, and warm hospitality. By showcasing its unique cultural offerings, Thailand positioned itself as a must-visit destination for cultural enthusiasts.

b. Natural Beauty: Thailand’s abundant natural beauty played a significant role in its rebranding success. From pristine beaches and lush mountains to breathtaking national parks and tropical islands, the country capitalized on its diverse landscapes. The campaign emphasized eco-tourism, attracting nature lovers and adventure seekers who sought to explore Thailand’s natural wonders.

c. Warmth and hospitality: One of Thailand’s strengths lies in the warmth and hospitality of its people. The “Amazing Thailand” campaign focused on promoting the country’s friendly and welcoming nature, ensuring that visitors felt embraced and cherished. The genuine hospitality of the Thai people left a lasting impression on tourists, contributing to the positive rebranding of the nation.

d. Culinary delights: Thai cuisine enjoys global acclaim for its flavors, diversity, and uniqueness. Thailand effectively showcased its culinary delights, from street food to fine dining experiences, as part of its rebranding strategy. The campaign presented Thailand as a gastronomic paradise, enticing food enthusiasts from around the world to indulge in its vibrant food culture.

South Korea is yet an exemplary case of successful country rebranding. In the 1960s, the nation was primarily known for its war-torn history and poverty. However, through strategic rebranding efforts, South Korea transformed its image and emerged as a global economic powerhouse, a hub for technology, entertainment, and tourism. South Korea’s successful country rebranding journey involved positioning itself as a global cultural powerhouse. Key strategies include:

a. Cultural export: South Korea capitalized on its rich cultural heritage, popularizing K-pop, K-drama, and Korean cuisine worldwide, fostering cultural exchange and attracting tourism.

b. Technological advancements: South Korea’s emphasis on technology and innovation helped create a perception of a dynamic and cutting-edge nation, attracting foreign investment and partnerships.

c. Tourism promotion: South Korea’s proactive marketing efforts showcased its historical sites, natural beauty, and vibrant cities, boosting tourism and projecting an attractive image to the world.

Japan is another clear winner in its country rebranding efforts by blending its rich traditions with technological innovation. Key elements include:

a. Cultural heritage: Japan highlighted its unique traditions, such as tea ceremonies, geisha culture, and historical landmarks, attracting tourists seeking authentic experiences.

b. Technological innovations: Japan’s advancements in robotics, electronics, and transportation showcased its commitment to innovation, positioning it as a leader in technology and futurism.

c. Omotenashi: Japan’s concept of exceptional hospitality, combined with attention to detail in customer service, created a positive impression among tourists and business visitors.

As shown by the above examples, country rebranding can be a very effective way to attract investment and tourism receipts. However, it is important to note that rebranding is not a quick fix. It takes time, effort, and commitment to change a country’s image. Part 2 talks about benefits and challenges of country rebranding initiatives.

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