The task of defining a nation brand that can be used by trade, investment and tourism marketing can be very tricky. Each is vying for the brand to resonate strongly with their individual target audiences and be broadly adopted by their stakeholders and partners. This balancing act can work OK for some places, but for many it leads to compromises that result in a diluted proposition that has to be used by all. I get a sense of this when reviewing the Costa Rican media coverage of the announcement for their new nation brand.
Minister of Foreign Trade Anabelle Gonzalez in revealing the brand said that it aims to highlight the virtues of Costa Rican culture, including the “authenticity and entrepreneurship” that characterizes Costa Rica, as well as the country’s environmental commitment, governance and democratic stability in a troubled region.
The research and development, and production of the creative elements has taken five years and $650,000, with expenses shared between the Costa Rican Tourism Institute and PROCOMER, the Foreign Trade Corporation of Costa Rica. I can only imagine what may have taken the five years. Could it have been the struggle to find compromises in regard to positioning, brand platform, tagline, and logo for all parties and its relevance in global markets?
I have long admired the brand development of Costa Rica tourism. The new country brand replaces the previous “Costa Rica: No Artificial Ingredients” which has been immensely successful in promoting Costa Rica as an ecotourism and adventure travel destination. While we shouldn’t get too hung up on taglines alone, I found ‘No Artificial Ingredients’ to be very distinctive, believable and hinting at a reward that I wanted to experience. It was quite a rarity in a world of bland, irrelevant and short-lived destination taglines. But I can understand if investment bankers and some of the exporters may have found it difficult to work with. What’s the new tagline you might ask? The new tagline is “Essential Costa Rica” (Esencial Costa Rica). It doesn’t come much more generic than that.
As I said earlier, defining a brand that is going to resonate and gain traction across a nation’s portfolio can be difficult without diluting the results for some partners. It is somewhat like espousing a single brand for Procter & Gamble (P&G) to embrace all of its products. Ed Burghard, CEO, Strengthening Brand America Project and former Harley Procter Marketer, observed, “The reality is all P&G brands, e.g. Bounty, Tide, Pampers, Pantene, and Oral B, etc., support the corporate brand promise of touching lives and improving life. Their individual brand promises explain how. Every city or community can define an overarching brand promise and subsequently explain how it delivers that promise by industry (or target audience). How they deliver on that promise can be different for various industries because the asset collection is different,” Ed added.
While politicians may want trade, investment and tourism to use the same brand playbook for their nation (or city), I think that the P&G brand architecture model provides a much more viable proposition and is much more focused on gaining traction than gaining compromise.