A debate over ASEAN tourism brand differentiation.

OK, everyone knows brands should differentiate themselves from each other to carve out their own space and, hopefully, compete favorably with their competitors. Except that assumes they will compete on characteristics they can “own” and that will attract their customers.

HOWEVER, in a recent Khmer Times article a respected Cambodian tourism industry insider has criticized ongoing efforts to define separate “brand identities” for countries in the region, as officials try to work together to distinguish the different benefits of visiting ASEAN countries.

Thourn Sinan, chairman of the Pacific Area Travel Association (PATA) Cambodia Chapter, said he disagreed with the typecasting of different countries, arguing that tourism could not be reduced to a series of consumer products.

Here’s how Thourn Sinan sees the individual countries’ “typecasting”:

  1. Cambodia is being promoted as the leading country for heritage tourism;
  2. Myanmar as the place to have the best local encounters;
  3. Laos as a country where you can take part in adventures by road;
  4. Vietnam as the home of luxury cruises;
  5. Thailand as the place to have a lively metropolitan and food experience.

Mr. Sinan said officials are free to define brand identities for each country in the region if they want, but claimed the majority of travelers are interested in understanding more than one aspect of each country, from the local people, to politics, the economy and wider traditions, outside of the obvious culture and heritage attractions.

“We cannot divide up countries like this or give tourists the option of purchasing a particular tourism product. Tourists want to see how developed a country is, what the living standards of the people are like, and also how they relate to the host country’s culture, customs, politics and economy,” Mr Sinan said.

And here is an alternative view from Lor Thoura, Director of the Marketing and Promotion Department at the Ministry of Cambodia Tourism:

He said the attempt to define brand identities is intended to play on the strengths of each country in the region.

Cambodia is famous for its cultural heritage, so the brand is “Kingdom of Wonders”, which will attract travelers who are interested in culture, he said.

“Those travelers who like culture and heritage will come to Cambodia,” Mr Thoura said.

He added that Thailand, for example, is branded “Amazing Thailand”, because of its recreation services available to tourists.

“We cannot separate tourism into brand identities,” Mr Sinan said. “It is not possible because tourism is not a consumer product. Tourism is about feeling and imagination.”

Chhay Sivlin, president of the Cambodia Association of Travel Agents, argued that brand identities were just a way of grabbing the attention of tourists.

“Regional tourism authorities agree that Cambodia is rich in historical and cultural sites compared to other countries in the region, so that’s why we branded Cambodia as a cultural and historical country,” Ms. Sivlin said.

“That doesn’t mean we don’t also have other tourism products to offer, such as our rivers, coastal areas and other natural resources.”

            So just where does this debate take us? 

I don’t know what the right answer is, but it does seem that the parties involved could use a little better information (via effective market  research?) to select what really makes their countries DIFFERENT  from their neighbors and ATTRACTIVE  to tourists. Other than that, if Mr. Sinan’s view of Vietnam’s and Laos’ branding is correct (as focused on”luxury cruises” and “adventures by road”), those countries might want to get some new thinking to guide their tourism marketing efforts.

To see the original article, just follow this link : http://www.khmertimeskh.com/news/39538/tourism-branding–falls-short-/

Airbnb launches new brand name in China. Maybe it needed “more effective”research.

Airbnb, the very successful, worldwide, U.S.-based online marketplace and hospitality online service provider, just launched the brand name it will use for marketing in China. It is a three-character name 爱彼迎 (ài bǐ yíng). Individually, the three characters mean ‘love’, ‘mutual’ and ‘welcome’—strategically on-target for Airbnb,  if you consider them in isolation

According to an Airbnb spokesperson, the name represents “the value and mission of our brand, with the love of the world’s tens of millions of neighborhood communities converging in the different corners of the earth”.

Except, there ‘s a little problem. Chinese consumers’ response to the name has been mixed and in some cases quite critical.

While an important step in localization for Chinese consumers and for establishing a clear differentiation from domestic competitors, the brand’s “love”-laden Chinese name may prove to be a liability.

The name has gotten more than just chuckles from Chinese netizens on the brand’s Weibo account and other social media, where comments have ranged from “ugly-sounding”, “sounds like a ‘filthy love hotel’ “and that the brand “might as well stick to having no Chinese name at all”.

Some marketing professionals have criticized the choice, because with the letters it joins together, it is not easy to pronounce. Also, the first character “爱 ài” is a widely used Chinese word expressing the idea of love. “Nothing wrong for a brand to be associated with love, but the issue is too many brands use it for exactly this reason,” says Jerry Clode, head of digital and social insight at Resonance. He feels the character is used excessively in the advertising of other industries and product categories in China. “There is too much ‘love’ in Chinese marketing; it seems difficult for Airbnb to own this emotion for themselves in a differentiated way.”

Well, we’ll see how this turns out. It seems to me that Airbnb will stick with its choice, until significant negatives develop.

However, it does seem strange that a company as knowledgeable in marketing as Airbnb did not either adequately or effectively use market research to evaluate all aspects of a completely new name in a market as widely diverse as China.

For the complete article from Campaign Asia go here: http://www.campaignasia.com/video/china-to-airbnb-new-chinese-name-is-ugly-sounding-like-a-filthy-love-hotel/434914

 

Introducing the most misunderstood and misused term in advertising: “U.S.P.”(Unique Selling Proposition).

Perhaps no advertising term has been so indiscriminately and consistently (yes, I said CONSISTENTLY!) misused as U.S.P. or Unique Selling Proposition. Defined by Rosser Reeves, legendary Chairman of Ted Bates agency, in his 1961 seminal advertising book, Reality in Advertising, U.S.P. has become recognized worldwide as something that effective marketing communications must have. Unfortunately, most marketers, then and now, have only a very dim idea of what a U.S.P. really is and how to develop one.

“Father of the U.S.P.”

Reeves had developed the concept based on years and millions of dollars spent researching the effectiveness of Bates and competitive agencies’ advertisements. He effectively (and concisely) captured all that learning into what was the ideal selling idea, or what made marketing communication WORK.

Even in 1961 Reeves observed that U.S.P “is the most misused series of letters in advertising. Applied loosely and without understanding to slogans, headlines, visuals and more —in fact to most anything that advertising creators consider slightly different   from what they find in their competitors’ advertisements.”

U.S.P. — The Definition

What I hope to explain here, is that U.S.P. is a PRECISE term, and in Reeves words, “deserves a precise definition.” That definition has three parts, from which interestingly the acronym U.S.P. is derived. Imagine that!

PROPOSITION: Each communication must make a proposition to the customer. By “proposition” this means, buy this and you will get this specific benefit.

UNIQUE: The proposition must be one that competition cannot, does not or chooses not to offer. It can be a unique feature or benefit but, AND THIS IS IMPORTANT, it can be derived from the uniqueness of the brand itself. This latter consideration is especially relevant in today’s crowded and many times over-regulated advertising field, where many brands within a category essentially do the same thing. Many marketers give up and say, “There’s nothing unique about my offering, so I’ll just say what it does.” Remember, there is always the possibility of being unique, as long as the BRAND’s uniqueness is capitalized upon.

SELLING: The proposition must be capable of “selling” new customers to try a product or service, or convincing existing ones to remain loyal, even in the face of new competitive offers.

So you see, every brand CAN have a U.S.P., and by doing so can have more effective marketing. Unfortunately, most SME’s don’t ever really create one. These SME’s without a U.S.P. could be described in the words of Jay Abraham, a marketing consultant some describe as “the most expensive and successful marketing consultant on the planet”, as being …“only ‘me too’, rudderless, nondescript, unappealing businesses that feed solely upon the sheer momentum of the marketplace. There’s nothing unique; there’s nothing distinct. They promise no great value, benefit, or service—just ‘buy from us’ for no justifiable, rational reason.”

This is the first in a series of posts where I will comment on and attempt to explain some of the marketing communications, U.S.P.’s and Brand Essences currently in use by branded marketers here in Phnom Penh. Next post will be my view of the very crowded, and in my view undifferentiated branded coffee shop category. I will share my take on Starbucks, Cafe Amazon, Brown Coffee, Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf and Cost.

And after that, I will post about some marketers that I think are “doing it right.” Stay tuned.