I have been reading a case study about Malaysia as a destination with global appeal in the book, "Stop Advertising Start Branding: How to Build the Brand That Will Build Your Business" by Marcus Osborne. I was quickly struck by how a comprehensive brand audit can not only fine-tune a destination's brand positioning and platform, but can directly contribute toward major cost savings and efficiency.
The case in point was when Malaysia had been spending about US$7 million per year advertising itself as a shopping destination to the Middle East. The advertising was generating prospective Arab shoppers who went to the stores in Malaysia with pockets full of cash only to find that clothing sizes were too small. Many visitors from the UAE and Saudi Arabia had been suitably impressed by the design and quality of the clothes on offer, but they had almost all returned home without buying any of this merchandise. The items they liked were designed to fit Malaysians - and both men’s and women’s clothes were too small for the bigger-build of the Middle Eastern visitors.
Unless the Malaysian garment-makers and retailers were prepared to manufacture and carry stock specifically intended for sale to overseas purchasers, the idea of targeting long-haul shoppers from Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States was simply never going to work.
The moral is to do thorough research with open-ended questions and carefully match your end products and experiences with target market needs before investing in efforts to demonstrate brand capabilities. And, of course, initiate outreach to key local stakeholders to get their buy-in and input. In this case, the Federation of Malaysian Manufacturers who had failed to convince its members to manufacture larger clothing to meet the needs of foreign visitors who may be arriving in large numbers.
It’s a great reminder that a brand is nothing more than a valued and distinctive promise that must be consistently delivered. The Malaysian experience also demonstrates that when it comes to international destination marketing and branding, one size cannot fit all. No pun intended!
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