(Editor's intro: Mr. Romano, former tourism undersecretary, took responsibility for the "Pilipinas Kay Ganda" controversy and quit his post in November 2010.)
I don’t think it’s crab mentality. It’s just that, for many of us Filipinos, it’s more fun to bash than to build up.
You see the new DOT slogan trending and creating a lot of positive buzz. You tell yourself, “this is too good to be true.” So you google “It’s more fun in” and true enough, it’s been used before by Switzerland.
Never mind that Switzerland used it way back in 1951. Or that there was “Truly Tuscany” before Malaysia’s “Truly Asia”, Amazing Australia before Amazing Thailand, and Incredible Italy before Incredible India.
No. We can’t stoop down to their level. Iba ang Pinoy. Kailangan Orig!
So you feel duty-bound as a patriotic citizen to expose this fraud before it tarnishes our image as a nation. You post the vintage Switzerland ad in FB with a witty remark, “Guess where else it’s more fun?” And just for good measure, you tweet and retweet every 15 minutes just so people will know.
And so the feeding frenzy begins. Another one posts a comment, “What a waste of people’s money – P5.0M for an unoriginal and unexciting slogan!” And those previously lukewarm to the slogan suddenly finds a reason to reject it, “I knew there was something wrong with it. That’s why I did not get excited when I first heard it!” As if the success of the country’s tourism program depended on getting him excited first.
Bash. Bash. Bash.
The next wave kicks in – the outpouring of unsolicited advice.
“Why does DOT insist on replacing WOW Philippines anyway?” even followed by an urgent appeal, “To DOT leaders, please be humble naman. Admit you made a mistake and just revert to WOW Philippines!” And then there’s the old cliché, “why fix something that ain’t broke?”
Bash. Bash. Bash.
I can’t really blame them for their unwavering loyalty to the WOW brand. It appeals to us Pinoys. We use it for things we luv!
But they don’t know that we don’t use it in Japan – our third largest market, because they don’t understand the word WOW and there is no direct equivalent of the word in their language. They don’t know that even in the US – our number one market (and where they fully understand the word WOW but maybe not appreciate it as we do), we dropped it and used another slogan because there was no traction. And they don’t know that in the last few years that we have been using the brand, we have steadily lost market share to the point where Vietnam has overtaken us in terms of tourist arrivals.
Of course you can argue that there are many other reasons for our declining market position – lack of infrastructure, traffic, lousy airport, lack of promotional budget., etc. You may even blame GMA (of which I’m tempted to agree ;-)). But it might interest you to know that at the time when Vietnam overtook us, they had far worse infrastructure than ours (small airport, limited road network), and operating on a smaller promotional budget than ours.
And then there are the armchair marketing strategists who can tell you exactly how DOT should develop its new branding. “DOT is doing it all wrong! The key message should be about our people. It’s what makes us attractive. We’re warm, happy, friendly, hospitable, resilient, respectful, fun-loving, and always smiling.”
Bash. Bash. Bash.
This is usually followed by suggested slogans (sometimes with matching logos) - “where we welcome you with a smile”, “where the sun and the people are always smiling”, “where you can find a friend”, “service with a smile”, “where every one is a friend”, “where you can ‘friend’ anyone” (with supporting FB-like visuals), and “tuloy poh kayo!” (respectful daw ;-)).
And it is declared with such conviction, “if only we let the world know the kind of people that we are, they will surely come!”
Do tourists go to Thailand, Malaysia, or Singapore because of the warm and friendly people? Do tourists shy away from Japan because they find the people aloof or too serious? In fact, do tourists even think of the kind of people they will meet when they’re planning for a vacation?
It’s easy enough to find out. There are many research studies on this and they will tell you that tourists are looking for beautiful sceneries, sun and beaches, fun and adventure, bargain shopping, history/culture/arts, nightlife, and a few others – with or without friendly people.
If we want them to come, we have to tell them that we have at least one of the things they’re looking for. And then we can tell them, “sure, you might find beautiful beaches or fun and adventure in other countries, too. But our warm, hospitable, friendly, ever-smiling and fun-loving people will make your experience unforgettable.”
It’s not about us. It’s about them – the tourists. It starts not with what we have to offer, but with what they’re looking for.
There are many ways, key messages, marketing strategies and campaigns that can lure the tourists. Your idea might even be better than what DOT just launched.
Sure, you have all the right to bash this one and assert your own idea. You live in this country and, ultimately, you are a co-owner of whatever country brand our government rolls out.
But unless you can get the other 95 million co-owners behind your idea, perhaps we will all be better off supporting this one, instead.
But #ItsMoreFunInThePhilippines when the tourists begin coming in droves!
Stop Bashing. Stop Bashing. Stop Bashing.