Tuesday, November 19, 2013

I Need A Slogan Change

When the "I Need Spain" slogan was launched at the start of 2010, I asked certain questions. Why does one need Spain? Was it some form of competition for which you had to add the missing words? I Need Spain like I need an enormous budget deficit, that sort of thing. Shouldn't the slogan be in a different order? Spain needs you, and at the time it most definitely did. As things turned out, I wasn't the only commentator to have considered that the slogan should have been Spain needs you. The reversal of the slogan's word order became something of a trade joke. 

Nearly four years on from the slogan's launch there is discussion of changing "I Need Spain". It is questionable whether four years is too short or too long a period for a slogan to be current, but the length of time isn't the issue. If the slogan has failed to do what it should do, then extending its lifetime isn't going to make it any better. In addition, four years in the travel and tourism industry is a long time. Markets change, products are launched; tourism is an industry in which it is necessary to stay one step ahead and to constantly be looking to the future.

Has "I Need Spain" failed to do what it should do? It's an almost impossible question to answer. While tourism has risen, to attribute this to the slogan would be ludicrous. Tourism has risen in part because of events in other countries. How much of it is even down to marketing (and not the slogan alone) by the national tourism institute Turespaña is anyone's guess.

"I Need Spain", as slogans for countries go, isn't by any means the worst. Very often they are no more than one-word slogans. Adjectives. It's hard to believe that there are in fact sufficient adjectives to enable all countries to indulge in this one-word sloganising, unless they borrow from other countries the lazy adoption of "inspiring", "incredible" or "magical". Indeed, "I Need Spain" was a vast improvement on what Spain had for two years between 2003 and 2005. Who can forget the slogan "Spain marks"? No, sorry, who can remember it? And what on earth did it mean?

Is it in fact essential that there is a slogan? If they're not much good and so are not memorable and do not convey a degree of emotion that would make the punter recognise the slogan and remember it, then it's probably as well not bothering. But the slogan is tourism marketing de rigueur; there has to be one, even if it doesn't really say anything.

In the marketing world there is a debate as to what constitutes a good slogan. One side says that it should be short, the other side says that it should be long (and by long, one means no more than ten or a dozen words). For tourism, though, there is a problem with longer slogans. One is getting the slogan onto banners at travel fairs (and I'm serious, this is an issue), another is how well it might translate. Though "I Need Spain" has been globally in English, it is reasonably understandable to many nationalities. Create a longer slogan, and it might not be.

Nike is a brand that has opted for the short slogan and used it hugely effectively. "Just do it" is not only simple, it is also strong and has an emotional element - one which says don't sit around thinking about it, get on and do it. It is a global slogan, even if it might not be readily meaningful in many countries, but its power as a global slogan lies with its role within the Nike approach to marketing as a whole. It is easier for a large business with deep pockets and with a focused set of products to brand itself effectively than it is for a country. And Spain as a country is a diverse set of products. One slogan that is representative of the whole country is a huge challenge.

"I Need Spain" isn't actually a bad slogan. The use of "need" is quite powerful. The problem with it has arisen because it has been so easy to take the mickey out of. But I'm not sure that it conveys anything and I'm certainly not sure that it has become particularly recognisable, except to those close to the tourism industry. For any slogan, short or long, to work it has to stick in the mind and to mean something, which is why "Just do it" is so good.

The slogan may be changed or it may not be, but there is a separate issue about slogans, one that tackles Spain's great diversity. Its individual parts, like Mallorca, could do with ones of their own, but given the track record with tourism marketing in Mallorca, I dread to think what someone might dream up. And more to the point, they would dream a slogan up and believe that it is the focus of the marketing effort. That it most certainly isn't.

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