Philip Kotler, in his visit to Vietnam, suggested that Vietnam should be called as “the world’s kitchen” while China has become “the world’s factory” and India has become “the world’s office”.
This is a concept of nation brand positioning from point of view of the Father of modern Marketing.
Come on, Sir Philip Kotler! Does Vietnam, a country of long rich history, have nothing to promote but cuisine? And the word “kitchen” does not sound very up-class, gentleman. There is a common saying in Vietnamese like this: that it is much better and more valuable to have a piece of food at the public than a big tray of foods at the corner of the kitchen.
The country girl Vietnam wants to promote herself as a more attractive image to tourists. She has made several greetings to the modern world like these:
2011 – 2004: Vietnam – A destination for the new millennium
2004 – 2005: Welcome to Vietnam
2006 – 2011: Vietnam – The hidden charm
2012 – 2015: Vietnam – Timeless Charm
Just imagine you’re a foreign tourist who knows very little about Vietnam. Can you understand or perceive the attraction of Vietnam via such messages?
These slogans have the same voice that is quite vague and generic. What do “hidden charm” or “timeless charm” stand for? Well, you have to experience to learn it! That sounds provocative already, ladies and gentlemen. You do not need an bloody explicit expression to understand.
Don’t be hurry in your critique, please. This is a trend of conveying a communication message. Let’s take a look at some similar tourism promotion messages:
Australia: “We can’t wait to say G’day”
Switzerlands: “Get natural”
“Malaysia, Truly Asia”
The country girl Vietnam, in a face of Western guys with deep, blue eyes and stylish Asian guys from Japan, Korea, chose to talk by halves to evoke mixed feelings of the audiences.
Great! What a trendy personal brand positioning strategy!
However, tourists only get excited with such vague talking way if it reveals “hints” matching with what they already knew about Vietnam before.
Switzerlands: “Get natural”
Fantastic! It’s a common knowledge that Switzerland is famous for their peaceful, natural and beautiful landscapes.
Australia : We can wait to see G’day
True! Australia is well-known for their beautiful nature and friendly people. Getting excited at traveling to Australia is absolutely a bingo.
“Malaysia, Truly Asia”
Exactly! Visitors know that Malaysia is crowded with various Asia peoples: Chinese, Indian, Malaysian. Come to Malaysia, you will see a true Asia. How appropriate “Truly Asia” message is!
How about “Vietnam – Timeless Charm”?
Is Vietnam famous for natural beauty? The “timeless” beauty that you can explore the whole day. The country girl Vietnam seems to say “by halves” about the attraction that she hasn’t have. Or she has it but it’s not the strength (at least more outstanding than her neighbours) enough to appeal to foreign tourists.
Stephen Leacock, one of the greatest Canadian humorist, said “A half truth, like half a brick, is always more forcible as an argument than a whole one. It carries better.”
Don’t throw “half a brick” to the media while we are not clear about it. Be careful, half a brick can be easier to hold than a brick, so what if the competitor holds it to throw back to you?
Vietnam suffered from wars in centuries. War is perhaps the strongest association with Vietnam in the mind of foreigners. It turns out to the biggest obstacle for this country in its nation positioning. Therefore, it’s essential to have a smarter way of thinking and doing to “re-position” Vietnam as a nation brand.
Instead of “saying by halves” as “half a brick” in Stephen Leacock’s comparison, why don’t we talk about an outstanding strength_ in more straightway direction?
Like “Vietnam is the kitchen of the world” as Philip Kotler’s suggestion.
Below is examples of successful national tourism promotion slogans:
“100% pure New Zealand”
New Zealand is a natural country with peaceful and pure meadows. The word “pure” perfectly describes new Zealand’s valuable DNA (Thanks to the natural advantage, New Zealand is also known as the No.1 diary manufacturer).
“Spain. Everything under the sun”
Think about Spain, what do tourists expect? Spain is the country in the South Europe which is famous for all-year sunny beaches. “Everything under the sun” certainly is a great “selling point” of Spain.
What are you waiting for, Vietnam?
Is there any special specialty in Vietnam? Just tell tourists clearly. Country girls or city girls have their own attraction. You cannot win the guy’s heart when talking by halves on a character that he’s impossible to guest.
The kitchen of the world?
Why not? Cuisine is one of the biggest attractions for tourists, especially men. People say that the road to the man’s heart goes through his stomach. There is a wide range of specialty in every city in Vietnam. The essence is to claim whether Vietnam’s cuisine is more attractive than other Asian countries (especially Sout East Asia).
Stating the outstanding advantage directly, Vietnam at least does not follow the commonplace of neighbors: “Incredible India”, “Amazing Thailand”, “Malaysia Truly Asia” or “Uniquely Singapore”.
And when foreign tourists seeking information about Vietnam, they would spend little time self-questioning “What is hidden charm?” or “What is timeless charm?”
For foreign tourists, Vietnam is not well-known for fabulous and mysterious nature. This character is likely to belong to other neighboring countries.
So, why don’t use a simple and modest story in your communication, the country girl Vietnam? Perhaps, both Western and Asian men come to flirt around then.
Nguyễn Đức Sơn
Giám đốc chiến lược thương hiệu – Richard Moore Associates