Tuesday, November 29, 2016

The Power Of The Slogan

Bloom Consulting is a firm which specialises in nation and place branding. Headquartered in Madrid, it has worked with that city's tourism authority and others, such as Germany's, Sweden's, Austria's and Malta's. So it is probably in a position to be able to judge how countries stack up in terms of their tourism branding, which is precisely what it does. At the top of the list is the USA. Spain is second.

As part of this overview of national branding, there is a look at the slogans that are used. The world's number two nation - Spain - has a well enough known slogan: "I Need Spain". One says it's well enough known, but by whom would be the question. One might suggest that those in the know, e.g. consultants, are rather more familiar with it than the general tourism public. And how meaningful is it to that public? The traveller may need Spain, but he or she is probably after something rather more specific that conveys the Spanish brand's enormous diversity.

The slogans, it is said, capture the essence of countries in a few words. Does "I Need Spain" capture the essence? Well, does it? You tell me, but all it says to me is that I'm supposed to need the country. This said, "need" is a powerful word, so perhaps it does capture an essence. But what about some others? "Welcome to Great Britain"? This is a slogan? "Cameroon is back"? Back from where? "Go to Hungary"? Why?

Adopting adjectives such as "wonderful" (Indonesia), "incredible" (India), "sensational" (Brazil) is a common ploy, and all the more meaningless for being so, though it might be said that each of these nations is still emerging in terms of global tourism. The single adjective may therefore be sufficient, as what is being branded and sold is a national tourism that hasn't begun to reach a mature phase.

This is different in the case of Spain, where familiarity and maturity are such that there needs to be a constant re-evaluation of the message but, more importantly, messages that convey diversity. In Spanish terms, what do the Balearics have in common with Extremadura? Even more locally, what does Palma have in common with Capdepera? Or Soller with Santanyi? 

If slogans are deemed to be so important, then where are they? Indeed, where is the overall branding? Palma is an obvious exception, though even here I would seriously question what influence the "Passion for ..." motif has had. It seems more a by-product of the branding rather than central to it.

There are some slogans knocking around. "Experience Alcudia", "Arta surprises" (the noun rather than the verb), "Pollensa, a place with stories to tell" (quite good actually). But do they lodge in the visitor's memory or make a scrap of difference when it comes to choosing a destination? 

Returning to the nations' slogans, there is one that stands out for the message behind the message. Colombia's is "the only risk is wanting to stay", a sure recognition of past safety issues. Arguably, a negative connotation should be avoided, but the Colombia slogan may well hint at ways forward for destinations bedevilled by problems.

Although Mallorca doesn't have the problems that others do, it does have the issue of the anti-slogan (the one that finds its way onto walls in Palma). While this has been downplayed as the acts of a few (if that) and as an expression of a small minority, I'm unconvinced. In the days before social media and online commenting, I would have been, but not now. Anti-tourist sentiment is such that a front cover of the "Majorca Daily Bulletin" found its way onto the Terraferida Facebook page the other day: "Welcome to the new Magalluf", and a lament at the start of work on the new Hotel Jamaica and the golf fair.

On the "Ultima Hora" website not so long ago, someone mentioned the slogan "un turista, un amigo" in challenging a host of comments supportive of anti-tourist sentiment. There have been attempts to revive this old slogan, which was memorable enough. The Bauzá government said it would, but then didn't. In 2002, the town hall in Palma had intended investing in it as means of highlighting the social welfare from tourism and so as a way of countering negative sentiment. And in 2003 there was another slogan, this one from the regional ministry of environment - "Mallorca - sí al turismo sostenible!"

While there are numerous slogans that mean virtually nothing, others can mean a great deal. "A tourist, a friend" would now sound desperate, but it (or something by way of an alternative) has the power of addressing different audiences, such as the general public, a target, according to Bloom, under the heading of "admiration".

Slogans are very much more than simple adjectives. They need meaning and not just meaning for one audience. Now, more than ever.

No comments: