Turkey: Home of Absurd Promotion Posters

Turkey unveiled its new promotion posters for 2014, with the theme “Home of [insert (sometimes proper) noun here]”. When I first saw some of the posters, I really was not sure whether this was an official campaign or a spoof. As various news outlets reported the event as such, I assume it is an official campaign – though the content of the posters make it very difficult to believe that.

Nope, that is not Virgin Mary in the picture.

Nope, that is not Virgin Mary in the picture. Just a random lady.

You don't know what simit is? Well, google it!

You don’t know what simit is? Well, google it!

Basically, Turkey wants to be one of the top 5 touristic destinations by 2023. Given the fact that the country currently ranks 6th, it is not an unrealistic objective. Turkey has also been spending considerable amounts of money on various advertising campaigns that do not necessarily mean anything for target audiences (-who can forget the beautiful “Unlimited Turkey” campaign?). Turkey indeed solely wants to increase the number of tourists coming into the country, and place/nation branding is not the only way to attract tourists. A well-run marketing campaign, together with clever use of advertising, is likely to attract more people to the country – though even then, I am not sure whether the “Home of” campaign is a good advertising campaign. Seriously, Home of Simit? Simit is indeed a great conversation starter on Turkey but is it a good selling point? Does your audience have any familiarity with it? International marketing of “soft” values, services, and experiences is a little bit more complicated than advertising. You are expected to sell an abstract value, an idea to the general public. As I (and many others) have argued elsewhere, the job is not necessarily about the logo or messages but is about how you get to create them and how people interact with your logos/messages.

I think the copywriters just ran out of ideas here. Turkey: Home of Turkey!

I think the copywriters just ran out of ideas here. Turkey: Home of Turkey!

This fact is acknowledged even by Emrah Yucel – the person who is behind these projects – as well. I practically share all his views he presents during the first half of the video – branding is about how people see us, branding is not about the logo, branding is not marketing. However, when it comes to the application of his ideas in the second half of the video, I find it more difficult to support him. I still argue that branding is inherently a political process in the case of nations and places. Therefore, it is not about sales or added value but is more about positioning, and identity formation. “Home of” campaign does not introduce an aspect of Turkish identity that might be interesting to target populations. If Turkey is solely after tourists numbers – there is no need for branding. A good mix of advertising and sales (maybe a little bit of competitive pricing) will bring in the tourists. Yet, if Turkey wants to be known as an important touristic destination – if Turkey wants to have a strong brand image in the minds of foreign publics -, it is time to change the strategies. In summary:

  1. No matter how good your ad agency is (and I don’t think you can get anybody better than Mr. Yucel and his team),  a nation brand cannot be created by an advertising mindset.
  2. Marketing, advertising, branding, and place/nation branding are different fields of practice and study.
  3. A nation brand cannot be created with solely tourism in mind.
  4. There is no need for a brand if the country has short term quantifiable outcome expectations.

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