Branding Romania, touristic one or not, it’s easier to say than done, as today’s Romania tourism logo’s launch showed. The Romania’s brand story started a few years ago, with a bunch of different ideas and a lot of different people assuming the responsibility over the time.
Long time ago, one of the first ideas related to building a brand to promote Romania was to exploit the unwanted branding Bram Stoker put on Romanians shoulders, Dracula. There was even a project of building some Dracula themed park in the area the story is said to have happened. After months (even years I think, can’t remember exactly how much it took), the idea of changing the location came, than more discussions, than the project was abandoned.
Before the recent efforts related to building a brand for Romania, maybe the most important effort in this direction was Sibiu – European Cultural Capital, a program that really made an impact overseas and showed the cultural side of Romania to foreigners that heard before only of problems, poor people, gypsies and stray dogs.
In 2008, the discussions related to branding Romania started to take a shape. In that year, some of the Romanian advertisers and representatives of the private sector started a coalition for the country brand.
The same year, Felix Tataru, IAA Worldwide’s Communication Vice president, IAA Romania’s president and General Manager of GMP Advertising, appreciated that the creation of Romania’s country brand will need a budget equivalent to 3% of GDP, meaning around Euro 3bn. He made the estimate by analogy with a company’s marketing budget.
In June 2008, the former Romanian Government announced the intention to use a budget of Euro 75M to promote Romania. Also, the Romanian advertising organizations got involved in helping the Tourism Ministry to write the brief for “Romania’s tourism brand” international pitch. Originally, the pitch should have started in 2008 but it was postponed until the start of 2009.
After the pitch that took place in 2009, Romanian Tourism Ministry selected THR-Asesores en Turismo, Hoteleria y Recreatcion SA – Taylor Nelson Sofres to realize Romania’s tourism brand, a project estimated at Euro 2M. The tourism brand isn’t equal to Romania’s country brand, but a way to communicate Romania as a touristic destination.
In March 2009, the pitch start asked the participants to have experience in realizing similar project, fact that excluded from the start the participation of Romanian agencies in the pitch on their own. At that moment, an official in the Tourism Ministry was referring to future pitch, in 2009’s autumn, to designate the agency that will promote Romania’s tourism brand.
Although a pitch was started, the Tourism Ministry launched, in April 2009, an intermediary slogan – “Romania, land of choice” – to be used until the new brand was ready to enter the market. Before that, Romania was promoted abroad under the slogan “Simply surprising”.
The Romanian Ministry received 13 offers for the pitch and continued meanwhile its promotional actions under “Romania, land of choice” slogan, involving in the actions well known Romanian sport people such as Nadia Comaneci, known abroad for “the perfect 10” at Montreal Olympics, Ilie Nastase, known for his tennis play, and Gheorghe Hagi, one of the best Romanian football players.
In June last year, there were announced the 3 consortium that qualified for the last stage of the pitch: TBWA Bucharest – GfK Romania, Saffron Brand Consultants – Brandient Consult – Acacia Avenue and THR- Taylor Nelson Sofres. Five months later, the winner was announced, the criteria of selection – the lowest price – being fulfilled by THR.
At the beginning of this year, THR started an Euro 400,000 quantitative research to find out how people from a series of countries perceive Romania. After the study, the conclusion was that 80% of the foreign tourists have no idea what Romania can offer them and they were exposed to 100% negative news about the country. Conclusion? “If we don’t find an element to differentiate Romania’s brand from other countries, we must invent one. Urgently”, as Eulogio Bordas, THS consultant, said after the release of the study’s conclusions.
The study also found out that Romania can be interesting for tourist for cultural circuits, green tourism, country side tourism, City Break, adventure tourism and wellness tourism.
The selected consortium came up with its version for Romania’s tourism brand. Today, at World Expo in Shanghai, the new Romania’s tourism brand was officially revealed.
Shortly after making public the new brand, the controversies appeared, THR being accused of taking from Romanian Tourism Ministry almost Euro 1M to use as logo a stock image.
More than likely, the story will continue in the following days. The brand will probably stay. Or not.
Romanian branding specialists or ad men already expressed their opinion related to the new brand, most of them considering the message and the composition irrelevant for Romania.
Speaking for Money.ro, Bogdan Naumovici, the most known Romanian creative, said that he has no idea if the new brand is good. “If they are gonna invent something named Carpathian Garden, maybe it will work. I don’t know what that could be – maybe wellness tourism, bio crops or maybe they will invent a touristic area to promote. I would do that. Anyway, I hope it’s not just a metaphor for Romania. It would be inappropriate”, he said.