Monday, January 9, 2012

"More fun . . ." Joe Am Gives it a "Like"

Marketing people do their business in front of the world. It is a thankless task because it is absolutely impossible to satisfy everyone.

We see this now with the carping and ridicule directed at the Department of Tourism for the new marketing slogan, "It's more fun in the Philippines . . ." I think the objections are always going to be strident in the Philippines where under-evolved but amazingly huge Ego's have a strange penchant for trying to raise themselves up by tearing someone else down.

Here's the example I use. We were building new home on a large 2,400 sq meter lot, but before doing that needed to build a small house for my wife's mother, as she had no permanent living arrangement.

People would visit, see the small house, and invariably ask "Why is your house so small? You have lots of money."

Later, as we were working on our own home, a two-story place of good but not lavish size, visitors would invariably ask "Why is your house so big? There are only three of you?"

You see, the questions were not really about our house. They were about the person asking them. The penchant for having a wiser view of things exists everywhere in the Philippines, for just about every subject. It is the subtle way Filipinos jack themselves up in a land where power and face ride on every interpersonal meeting.

Another quirk in marketing . . . in the Philippines or anywhere else . . . is that people generally don't see marketing as a skill. It is something anyone can do. And, indeed, you will hear people offering up better slogans, and it is difficult to understand how they figure theirs will do any better. ANY slogan has an upside and a downside, unless you invest in it relentlessly like Nike does to make the slogan mean one thing: shoes that are more prestigious and more fun. Fancy that.

So for the Tourism people, I would say you have a sound slogan so let the commentary roll off your back like so much water off an albatross's back. Or maybe a duck's is a better back to use.

I don't know if the Department of Tourism did focus group research, or any kind of testing of competing slogans. If they did, they should say so. Most slogans are not just thrown out without a great deal of thought. When I was marketing director of a major bank in the U.S., it was common practice to test different approaches to understand better how a creative pitch would strike the people to whom advertising would be directed. Slogans, logos, advertising creative . . . all pre-tested.

Indeed, I see the new slogan as having great potential as it is applied to different attractions that are unique in the Philippines. "More fun finding underwater caves . . ." "More fun climbing volcanoes . . ." "More fun finding girls . . ." More fun scuba diving . . ." "More fun making your dollar go a long way . . ."

You can't do that with "Wow, Philippines."

But I also don't know to whom the slogan is directed. If it is to Malaysians, it may ring better than if it is to Americans. Americans would claim Hong Kong Disneyland is more fun for families than anything the Philippines could put up. Americans are cynics and can read "smoke" or "sizzle" pretty well. Malls are not a great attraction for Americans, except for local shopping.

I rather think the slogan is partly directed toward Filipinos, making them proud. Making them think their country is fun. Filipino pride is always lurking behind anything going overseas. I dislike this pride because it is so anchored on showboat boxers and stars, reflecting a kind of complacency with the way things are. It is not pride in achievement. It is peacock pride, people flaring their feathers with no real substance behind the squawk.

A big problem with tourism under any slogan is that the Philippines is rather dirty and worn out, in the mainstream cities and roads . Some tourist destinations certainly have a lot more attraction. But a lot of them are frayed around the edges, too. So the slogan may be jazzy, but the product is not. And those who travel a lot are not fools. They won't take risks or just fly off somewhere because of a slogan. They will do THEIR research.

If the Philippines can put good product behind the slogan, then I would say give the slogan a lot of play. Work that baby until it is blue in the face. But if the product is what I think it is, you can't sell a sow's ear as a purse. Spend your money working on the product, not pushing smoke.

So, in conclusion, I'd say the slogan is largely irrelevant, the product is what counts, and a lot of people are only arguing for the sake of their own Egos. Maybe even people in the Palace.


  1. Hi, Joe.

    I thought you were going to skip this topic since it's already getting a fair amount of buzz, and egos.

    I'll let you in on my not-so-little secret.

    You know what I hate the most about the online discussions about the tourism slogan? These are the comments that stop short of saying "Please, do not come to the Philippines. It just sucks here for a number of reasons." Fine, we have a not-so-great product. We all know that already. What do people want to do? Close our doors to the outside world? I agree that some things need to get fixed first but going overboard with why the slogan/ country sucks is bordering on a thing called "analysis paralysis."

    In my mind, this question begs an answer: do we stop selling just because the product is not "great" by everyone's standards or do we continue selling to people whose standards the product meets? The product is there. Do we yank it out of the market just because we can't get our heads straight with slogans? It's already 2012 and the issue is still about "slogans." Talk about progress.

    I think the DoT just needs to communicate or identify to the curious people the target segments they want to sell to. I mean, obviously, this country isn't meant to be marketed to everyone, at least not to people who consider airports as tourist destinations and are regular readers of travel advisories. So how does the DoT plan to deliver? We're supposedly in the age of transparency, right? Imho, let's deliver what we can and work on those that we can't. If we won't do that, then we might as just put up a sign that says "Closed for Renovation -- Indefinitely."

  2. No slogan will convince any of my friends and coworkers to visit the Philippines. I gave up that already. I was not able to give them a good argument of why they should go there and not the Caribbeans and South and Central America. No hope for improved tourism coming from the USA. Even with progress in the Philippines they just cant compete. I know photographers and backpackers who visited Laos, Cambodia and Thailand but only one scuba diver couple who visited the Philippines some years ago. That's it.

  3. Visit Philippine Islands: 7,100 Tropical Island Jesus Christ forgot it exist

    Visit Philippine Islands: 7,100 Exotic Islands that gave William McKinley many sleepless nights ... and a huge headache

    Visit Philippine Islands: Justice is Cheap so are Witnesses.

    Visit Philippine Islands: Got Gossip? Philippine Media Prints it !

  4. brianitus, I agree the topic is getting way too much play. I think your observations are superb. Candor is masked by so much interest in building or protecting "face".

    Attila, yes, the American market may not be realistic. But I think the Philippines might be able to market to Malaysia, Indonesia, etc. But the first focus should be on "product".

    Mariano, why do I think you laugh a lot?

  5. Product?
    Medical tourism, retirement communities and
    scuba diving. What else can you think of?

  6. Ah Medical tourism. This is where everyone get's an "appointment" that goes between 9-5. Don't forget to go through window A before window B. With a little patience, you'll finally get to window G to pay your bill so you can go back to the 4th floor and get in line for your "appointment" Ah what a fine product indeed.

  7. Attila, good question. About 10 years ago, I went on a tour of Malaysia and Indonesia. Both countries are very similar to the Philippines. The "product" consisted of an inward bound night in Singapore, stays at an orangatan rehabilitation center, a national park deep in the rainforest (requiring boats upriver and a 2K hike), Mt. Kinabalu (including a day dedicated to hiking up the mountain), a visit to the Borneo headhunting tribes, nights in Kuala Lumpur and Medan, visits to cacao and rubber plantations, and outward bound stay in Hong Kong.

    If I were a travel agent marketing to Americans, I would create a product consisting of two nights in Manila with bus day tour, a visit to the Pinatubo crater, a flight to Cebu and boat trip to Palawan for a nature trek and visit to the caves, a boat ride to Borocay and a few days there, maybe locate a mountain in the vicinity with some terraced rice fields and have a hike. You could plop in a fishing trip or visit to a native village.

    I think marketing would have to be tour-based, and the Department of Tourism should really market to tour guides, not directly to travelers. I think most individuals would be overwhelmed by the inability to get about easily, and the dirty underbelly of the country. Adventure travelers could do it; young people. The price is right.

  8. Thank you for mentioning Cebu, Joe. There are plenty of places to go to in Cebu, it is safe, too!

    1. Bantayan Island and its satellite islets. Visit while it is still virgin
    2. Forget Mactan Island. But, do not skip the bird sanctuary across it.
    3. Mocaboc islet. Sanctuary of purse-snatchers, slashers and wanted felons. Regardless, they do not harm tourists that lost their way there because there is no place to hide and run just do not mind the nipa huts. Pure bliss. White sands. Fresh fish.
    4. Southwest side of Cebu from Toledo City to southernmost tip stay over a night or two at the town of Moalboal in Panagsama beach along the way. Favorite of european scubadivers. Whites come home to their huts unmolested even in the middle of the night.

  9. Bohol is a must see. I never get tired of this place. Locals are annoyingly friendly.

    There is not much to see in Leyte. I've gone around it from Ormoc to the east side and rode bus down the middle half to Maasin. Nothing seems to interest me there.

  10. I stopped at a few travel agencies including Liberty Travel which is the largest here in New York and none of them had any tours available to the Philippines. No brochures or flyers and advertisements, NOTHING.

  11. Islands like Bantayan and Borakay are not better or different than most islands on the Caribbeans. You have to do a more exciting tour including places like EL Nido Palawan and Coron etc in order to attract tourist. Those places look nothing like you would see on the Caribbeans or the Americas. They have a much more inspiring and dramatic beauty than you could see anywhere else.

  12. Attila, Try Philippine Embassy in Washington D.C. they may have brochures there including a pamphlet "How to Survive in the Philippines".

    Inside it are useful information if kidnapped:

    1. In case of kidnapping, do not contact Philippine authorities. Contact your respective embassy;
    2. Have your embassy negotiate not Philippine authorities;
    3. In the event of ransom exchange, do not rely on Philippine authorities. The kidnapper may end up holding an empty money bag and your next of kin may end up piecing you together;
    4. In short, Philippine is a fun place if you have enough ransom money.

  13. Attila, re travel agencies. The fact that they have no brochures reflects on the lack of marketing skills in the Department of Tourism, and hits my point exactly. There are places to visit in the Philippines, but they are not packaged right, either here on the ground or at travel agencies.

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  15. "The hit franchise known for trotting around the globe, from France and Italy to India and Morocco, is adding a new location to its roster: the Philippines. Universal Pictures' “The Bourne Legacy,” the fourth movie based on the Robert Ludlum novels, will start filming in Manila, the country’s capital, this week." - LOS ANGELES TIMES

    This is a good free advertisement of the Philippines assuming they put it in a good light. For sure, without having read the script, they will highlight Manila with its Harrison/Mabini prostitutes.

  16. The Philippines is a great place for a certain type of travelers but for most tourist from the USA it doesn't have the edge. No marketing or advertisement would make up for it. Most vacationers want a family friendly resort with palm trees, white sand beaches and cold bear. Europe is only 6-8 hrs flight away. The Caribbean Islands about 4hrs. Brazil and Argentina 8 to 9 hrs away. The type pf tourist who are interested in Angkor Wat in Cambodia will not find the Philippines interesting enough for it's Spanish colonial history. They can get that by traveling to Mexico or Central/South America. The only way they could attract some Americans to go there if they advertise the unique and dramatic beauty of places like Palawan.

    1. I agree, Attila. Go to Boracay for once. The tourists there are mostly backpacking adventurous types not the snooty-types Apartment-dwelling Park Place types.

      Boracay is crowded ... What I like about Boracay is I can walk end-to-end without anyone shooing me away because I am trespassing totally unlike other places in the Philippines where you are stopped by riff-raff as boundaries of their properties when this is totally against the law.


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