A difference of opinion

Vietnam is about to select a new slogan and logo to spearhead its international tourism promotion campaign from now until 2015, but not everyone is convinced by the winning bid.

>> Tourism sector has new logo

The winner of the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism’s (VNAT) recently organised competition to select a new slogan and logo for the tourism industry is Vietnam – A Different Orient (Viet Nam – Su khac biet A Dong in Vietnamese). Coined by an Australian branding company Cowan Vietnam, the slogan is intended to brand the country as a unique and different travel destination in Asia until 2015.

However, nothing is set in stone just yet. The slogan and accompanying logo, which will replace the old Vietnam -The Hidden Charm campaign, now await official approval before being launched. In the meantime, there are plenty of critics who believe the winning bid is not the best choice for Vietnam.

According to Cowan, Vietnam’s symbolic five pointed star – inspired by, and drawn directly from the national flag – has been stylised and re-energised for the new logo. The star’s upward flight denotes friendliness, while its animated leaping form represents youthfulness and in turn, engagement. The mix of rich colours represents Vietnam’s visual diversity and in particular the country’s natural beauty, all incorporated to exemplify vivid, captivating experiences.

Second prize was awarded to the HTM Management Consultancy, an international tourism and hospitality advisory firm, providing professional services to the industry in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia since 1998, and the Monotone company, a leading Vietnamese branding and graphic design firm specialised in the travel industry.

Their brand concept Vietnam – Country of Smiles (Vietnam – Dat Nuoc cua Nhung Nu Cuoi) with plenty of smiles and eye-catching colours, each of which stood for a specific product of the tourism in Vietnam, certainly impressed the jury – just not enough. Meanwhile, Thong Nhat Company took third place with Vietnam – The Pride of Asia (Vietnam – Niem tu hao Chau A).

The inevitable controversies…

Some observers have grumbled about the winning slogan. Critics claim it’s a bit of a mouthful compared to more succinct, sharper slogans, like Malaysia – Truly Asia, Your Singapore, Amazing Thailand, Incredible India, Heart of Asia (Hong Kong) and WOW Philippines. Some critics also argued that the word “different” was ambiguous and could easily be misinterpreted.

“The logo-slogan has failed to represent the role of the sea, which plays a very important role in Vietnam’s tourism promotion and development,” said one representative from Hanoi-based Nam Phuc Travel Company.

“I think that this slogan cannot help Vietnam develop its sea-based tourism, and even its sea-based economy,” added the company’s director Nguyen Van Tuan.

Kai Marcus Schröter, founder and chief executive officer of HTM, which earned second prize, also had some frank opinions about the winning slogan.

“It represents a significant improvement to the previous logo Vietnam – The Hidden Charm, in terms of design and brand message,” said Schröter.

“[But] we believe that there are certain restraints with the new logo and slogan. Firstly, we feel that the designer comes from a ‘product branding’ background, rather than having experience in ‘tourism/ service branding’. This shows in the logo and slogan, not having a real understanding, depth and richness of a simple, yet compelling, emotional and confident tourism brand message, which we think Vietnam needs right now.”

He believes Vietnam requires a simple, outgoing, emotional and positive brand, with an almost “aggressive” marketing appeal, in order to counter the image of Vietnam as a war-torn country in the minds of so many foreigners.

Careful consideration needed

According to Paul Stoll, chief executive officer of Ho Chi Minh City-based Celadon International Group, a tourism slogan represents an image a country wants to project in the worldwide travel markets. The slogan has to hook the travellers and consequently make them travel to Vietnam. Hence, careful consideration has to be given to the creation of such a slogan, which should be developed and executed by a professional image branding and communication company.

“The slogan has to allow Vietnam to open the doors and step into the travel markets with an impressive promotion package. This promotion package highlights the tourism product of Vietnam which will be displayed in millions of travel brochures, media publicity and advertising, during international tradeshows and other image communication tools,” said Stoll, who admits he has reservations about the winning slogan selected by VNAT.

“Vietnam – A Different Orient doesn’t show the difference, it just mentions it and is locating Vietnam in the Orient, a term which has a negative connotation from colonial times when the Orient was pushed by colonial powers to the Pacific Ocean including Vietnam,” said Stoll.

“Vietnam has developed its own identity, which the slogan should express. I believe there are more appropriate slogans – [for example] Vietnam – Embrace the New or Visit Vietnam Now because the “now” is changing and travellers should not miss Vietnam as it is today [while it is undergoing such] rapid change.”

Regarding HTM’s logo and slogan Vietnam – Country of Smiles, Schröter says that he simply wants to turn the one defining quality which has remained a constant in the turbulent and changing history of the country – the optimism, friendliness and open smiles of the Vietnamese - into a unique, fresh, emotional and universally appealing tourism brand of Vietnam.

“We figured, the world is unstable and sad enough, travelling to Vietnam and enjoying peace, happiness and amazing people would be great for marketing the country as a diverse and unique tourism destination,” he says.

Devil is in the details

Schröter believes that any new logo and slogan must be supported by a detailed marketing communication plan and tourism promotion campaign. Without this, the development of Vietnam as a tourism brand will fail and substantial increases in tourist figures will not materialise.

The VNAT said recently that it will consider retaining Cowan to devise a comprehensive marketing plan for Vietnam’s tourism industry between 2011-2015.

However, VNAT is now seeking opinions from experts, travel agencies, ministries, and the mass media about the winning logo and slogan Vietnam – A Different Orient. If there is no turnaround, VNAT will then submit the winning bid to the government for approval.

Thanh Thu (vir.com.vn)