Recently the Bulgarian Deputy Minister of Economy, Energy, and Tourism presented tourism brand for Bulgaria to the world. For some countries, there are decades of well established reputation which they are able to leverage to build a globally influential place brand – Italy, France, Brazil, and Japan spring to mind immediately. For some of the lesser know corners of the world, creating a tourism place brand is a tougher task – a task that requires a context of understanding to be built before the layers of personality and spirit are added.
At truly Deeply one of our favorite topics for presentation and writing is nation branding. Last year we traveled to Finland to meet with a bunch of people from Ministers to writers who had worked on their very well conceived Brand Finland. Any country that genuinely sets-out to establish a brand in the global market should be applauded for being serious about leveraging the opportunities to business, government and tourism of having a nation brand. The task of creating a brand for a country is never easy and as you can imagine; almost always highly political.
For a country like Bulgaria with a limited established understanding of brand meaning, the rule of thumb for this type of brand process is about simplicity. Surely the challenge for the Bulgarians is about what they are notgoing to stand for as a tourism brand as much as what they are going to stand for. As with any new, small entrant into a competitive market, it’s wise to segment, to enter as an expert with a particular and focused specialty on which a clear and easy to remember proposition can be successfully hung. And here’s where it gets a little lost in translation for me…
The positioning line for the new tourism brand is; “Bulgaria – A Discovery to Share.” The brand visual language is bright and friendly, and the image itself communicates the beach and the mountains, the sun and the flora of the country. These are all relevant components of a place brand identity, but they leave me asking – ‘Why exactly should I go to Bulgaria, when that place proposition is available to me already in many other destinations I know and trust?’
The Ministry of Economy, Energy, and Tourism press release states; ‘the new brand was developed on the basis of an in-depth analysis of the current perceptions of Bulgaria as a tourist destination and a comparison with a range of rival destinations’. I have no doubt they have successfully identified what Bulgaria has to offer as a tourism destination – but strongly suggest their analysis of the most powerful brand proposition missed-out on the critical element of differentiation. The identity includes ten sub-brands to reflect the different types of tourism on offer to visitors. This is where it begins to really go off the rails as the brand unashamedly makes a play for being all thing to all people.
My favorite adage of branding is that brands who try to be a little of everything to everyone, end-up meaning nothing to anyone.
And as the Bulgarian Tourism brand moves into application – that’s exactly what has happened. The sub brand identities below become a bland grab for every possible reason anyone might wish to holiday anywhere, and in so-doing move this brand away for having any authentic or rich meaning. Bulgaria’s Ministry of Economy, Energy and Tourism expects a 25% increase in tourists in the first five years of the implementation of the strategy.
In the Minister of Economy, Energy and Tourism; Ivo Marinov’s words, “the new brand, designed to make Bulgaria’s tourism product more recognizable and competitive, is to double the number of tourists visiting the country over the course of 10-15 years“. Whilst I am all for setting measurable KPIs for brand and marketing initiatives, I’m afraid Mr Marinov’s confidence in this place brand strategy and identity might fall short of the impact he and his beautiful country is looking for.
Below are a few tourism place brand campaigns that show the benefit of a clear, differentiated proposition and strong place brand personality. The target audience and channels vary including a viral campaign created for the Canadian college student market as well as more mass media campaigns: