Slogans for ad campaigns designed to attract foreign tourists can be as enduring as the adorable. Fine examples such as: "Amazing Thailand," "Uniquely Singapore," "Incredible India," "100% Pure, New Zealand," "Where the Bloody Hell Are You?" (Australia's previous campaign), "Malaysia, Truly Asia," "Taiwan Touches Your Heart," "Indonesia, Islands of the Gods," "Korea -- Soul of Asia," "Cambodia, Kingdom of Wonders," "Hong Kong -- Live It, Love It." They're not just one-liners hurriedly coined or invented. They're products of strategic thinking and research, crafted to develop a unique persona, the catchier the better. In the scheme of things, they're part of a campaign done to build a brand.
So how's the Philippines doing? Not too well.
It used to have "Wow Philippines," an expression of delightful exhilaration, also an acronym for a series of word play -- "World of Wonders," "Wild Over Water," "Warm Over Winter" to name a few. Its predecessor, "More Than the Usual," was more organized and had decent packaging, surprising wit, a global feel. While the proposition was seemingly "usual," it was strategic, targeting those who might have already booked elsewhere to swing by the country. Had the idea been expressed in a more "wow" catchphrase and given sustained media presence, it actually could have been more than the usual.
In "Mabuhay" ("long live," a welcome greeting in the Philippines), Philippine Airlines' in-flight magazine's August issue, "More Than the Usual" evolved into "7,107 Islands Beyond the Usual," sadly with a less than imaginative look.
In the late '80s and toward the '90s, the country had a great shot at huge likability through advertising, thanks to combined efforts with PAL. "The Beauty of the Philippines Is Shining Through" campaign rang like a refreshing melody both regionally and internationally. Many people thought it was much better than even today's "Malaysia, Truly Asia" jingle and thought so even before the advent of the A-380; the airline's Boeing 747-400 fleet, award-winning in-flight cuisine and the prettiest and handsomest crew in Asia all held their own against PAL's rivals.
While innovative products and promotional blitzes had been launched vigorously in Europe, the Middle East, Russia, North America and East Asia today, they would have more of an impact if they synergized into one big unified Brand Philippines.
If it can build some of Asia's biggest world-class malls, the Philippines can build a new international airport more magnificent than what Thailand, Singapore and Hong Kong have. If it has the world's third-largest English-speaking population and where so much creativity abounds, there's no reason why it can't create the mother of all Philippine advertising campaigns it truly deserves -- one that can stop and mesmerize the world.
From all the billion-dollar tourism receipts it gets annually, how much exactly does it invest? Seemingly nil.
All signs point to positive results for another promising year. The Philippines can do more and get much more. Spellbinding beauty, a high literacy rate, perks for foreign investors, eco-tourism and a culture flavored with American and Spanish twists await the world in a country that has won two Miss Universe awards, four each Miss International and Miss Asia titles, not to mention countless runners-up in worldwide beauty pageants.
With all things gelling together, there's no reason why the country couldn't be in the same league as Hong Kong, Singapore, Thailand or Malaysia -- countries ranked below it more than 30 years ago.