chairman of New York-based advertising agency DDB Worldwide, is a
man on a mission. Several missions.
He has spent much
of his working life thinking about brands and how to shape them.
His agency is behind the McDonalds Im Lovin It campaign and has
worked on the public face of several well-known brands, including
Dell, Bud Light, Johnson & Johnson and
company has handled successful tourism campaigns for Bermuda and
Spain in the past and currently works for Malaysia and Canada, he
flatly states Im not an expert on tourism. Nonetheless, hes been
thinking about destinations in terms of corporate branding and
believes that a countrys complete brand image is more complex than
most people who work on destination tourism marketing campaigns
And hes worried
about Americas brand image in the world today.
If he has his
way, Americans as a whole will help shape the brand image of the
U.S., and destination marketers, whether they work for his agency
or not, will begin seeing their countries as distinct corporate
brands with unmistakable and distinct identities.
exclusive to Travel Weekly, represents some of Reinhards thinking
on the topic Countries as Brands.
much advertising today -- certainly in the tourism category --
lacks differentiation. There are interchangeable photos of
inviting, sandy beaches and interchangeable promises of friendly
people. People seem to have forgotten the universal principle of
great creative work: Find a relevant promise and present it in an
unexpected way. Differentiation is key, but its much more than
Its about bringing
multiple aspects of a countrys image into one cohesive whole. Im
very impressed with what South Africa has done with its
comprehensive branding campaign. Travel and tourism is part of it,
but just part of it. The whole country was repositioned as being
alive with possibility.
In large part, South
Africas effort was created to help overcome the negative image left
by the apartheid era and inherited problems like AIDS. But its
happening because four years ago, President Thabo Mbeki put
together a public-private partnership to create a positive and
united image for South Africa.
The campaign they
launched provides a good example of how to think of a countrys
identity more broadly than only in terms of tourism. The marketing
of tourism flows logically from a countrys core corporate
Our company has
discovered that the U.S. has a branding problem. Though we dont
have a particular client in this instance, weve begun implementing
a plan to overcome it, for the benefit of both tourism and
diplomacy. The project has been nicknamed Brand America because we
believe the classic tools of brand building are applicable to the
management of a countrys image.
The first phase of the
project was like any typical branding campaign -- the listening and
learning phase. We went to 100 countries and interviewed people to
find out how the U.S. is perceived by the rest of the
Among other things,
we heard many references to our country as a land of freedom and
opportunity. There was appreciation for
our ethnic and cultural diversity, our can do spirit, our
creativity and our technology. Even our wealth.
But some respondents
also found Americans to be insensitive to other cultures. Others
saw us as arrogant and self-centered, often preferring to talk
rather than listen.
A branding campaign
cant change perceptions unless theres reality behind it. Robert
Heath (a British brand and communications consultant) says that in
the U.K. people associate France with stylishness and sexiness.
They believe it, and they will pay more for French clothes and
perfume. They associate Germany with well-engineered products and
are willing to pay a premium there, too.
The Japanese provide
a good example of how perceptions can change when reality does.
Theyre thought of as being technically sophisticated -- Japanese
TVs and audio equipment can cost more.
But its important to
remember that 30 years ago made in Japan certainly did not signal
quality. And clearly, there are misperceptions about America that
need to be addressed. But it wouldnt work to try to change
perceptions of American attributes without changing some of the
In positioning Brand
America for the 21st Century, the U.S. must re-emphasize its
founding values of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, even
while Americans take on new, more world-sensitive
To do that, we hope
to enlist U.S. businesses in a collective effort to build on the
historic positive perceptions about America. Any negatives must be
replaced with new, positive perceptions, such as honesty, fairness,
empathy, inclusiveness and humility as well as a willingness to be
a partner, a good listener and multilingual.
An ad campaign is not
the answer. Weve formed something called Business for Diplomatic
Action, an initiative for the U.S. business community to undertake
actions thatll improve Americas image in the world.
Were looking at
facilitating massive exchange programs, including internships in
U.S. companies, and initiating a number of specific actions aimed
at promoting better world citizenship on the part of Americans and
Weve already created
the World Citizens Guide for American students studying abroad. A
version of this guide is on our Web site at www.businessfordiplomaticaction.com.
I realize that
destination marketers are more interested in travel and tourism
than public diplomacy. But in thinking of a country as a brand,
most people isolate tourism without recognizing that other
considerations can also be important to selling travel.
Of course, you can
certainly brand a country without having to rework society. But you
still need to go through the same steps you would take in building
any brand, beginning with the most important step -- listening
carefully to how your country is perceived, both positively and
negatively. This is the first phase of the process.
We have a proprietary
tool called Brand Foundations that guides us through the five-step
process of the second phase, establishing a brand platform. Its a
process of discovery and distillation.
representatives of key stakeholders and go through long, intense
discussions -- facilitated by a professional -- to arrive at
answers to a series of questions.
The first of these
questions is: Where do I come from? In other words, what are the
countrys origins, its anchorage?
Note that all the
questions use I. Its helpful to think of the country as a
The second question
is: What do I do? Or, another way to put it is, what are my special
fields of competence? What makes me different? And Ill tell you
what its not -- that your country is friendly to tourists. They all
are (or so they say). But what will be the real differences between
your countrys brand and all the others?
The next question is:
Who am I for? How can I define the target user or need that the
brand addresses? Ask what you know about yourself. What is my
country like as a person?
with a youthful lifestyle and might see the country as a youthful,
fun-loving person. Australians might see their country as more
masculine, humorous and outdoorsy.
The final question
is: What do I value? What do I stand for? In the case of America,
we like to believe we stand for freedom.
After the question
phase, the next step is to create a strong umbrella concept. This
can often be expressed in a single sentence.
When we did a
campaign for Bermuda, we borrowed a distinctive feature of the
place, Bermuda shorts, which, for the U.S.-targeted campaign,
inspired a theme line connected to A short trip to the perfect
The idea of shorts
was translated to short stories (Brief notes about our island) in
print and to short films in television that reflected Bermudas
unique colors -- pink and turquoise.
Let me add a couple
of points about the umbrella concept. First, you must ensure that
it can be broadly applied, not only to tourism, but for political
branding, business branding, even social and religious
A second point to
remember about the umbrella concept is that brands must be true to
While brands can, and
should, represent aspiration (in order to act as agents for
change), they should be an amplification of what is already there,
not a fabrication. A Cool Britannia campaign failed because Britons
did not regard themselves as being all that cool.
Then comes the
application of the umbrella concept.
We would recommend
the development of a multi-audience marketing and communications
plan that takes the umbrella concept and translates it to specific
We use a
multi-audience grid, across the top of which we state a specific
objective -- increasing tourism by 20%, for example.
Then we specify whats
required on the part of each constituent group to achieve the
We list what barriers
exist -- why the various audience segments might resist taking the
desired action, followed by what incentives or motivation might
overcome those barriers and what marketing and communications
tactics would be most effective in reaching out to each
Finally, we set the
priorities and allocate funds to each branding activity deemed to
have the greatest impact on reaching the objective. Putting someone
in charge is important.
Behind every strong
brand is a strong brand manager, a leader who can keep all the
brand voices singing in harmony to create a rich and appealing
The process Ive
described is not science. The tools are for the purpose of
organizing those things that can be organized, so that that which
cannot be organized -- the creative process -- can proceed from
solid brand understandings.
So dont forget the
magic. The creative process itself is all about magic. And magic
For an example of
that, Id like you to see a commercial for an airline. This was not done by our agency, but by J. Walter
Thompson. To me, it is pure
To see the
commercial, go towww.travelweekly.com/movie/.
additional details on this article in the April 11 issue of Travel