19 Jan, 2016
Manila — The marketing of ASEAN as a single tourism destination has been under way for 24 years, with the original designation of 1992 as Visit ASEAN Year, to mark the 25th anniversary of the founding of the regional grouping.
In spite of that long-standing effort, the ASEAN tourism sector still cannot find common ground on some of the most crucial fundamentals of a marketing campaign – the ASEAN logo and the ASEAN brand-name, and how and where they should be displayed.
In November 2015, just one month before the start of ASEAN integration, the ASEAN heads of state met for their annual summit in Kuala Lumpur and issued a Declaration called “ASEAN 2025: Forging Ahead Together.” Under that broad declaration comes one of its three pillars, the ASEAN Socio-Cultural Blueprint.
Clause E.1.10. of that ASEAN Socio-Cultural Blueprint mandates the member states to “Project ASEAN’s visibility through comprehensive, multi-stakeholder branding efforts, which are represented by common ASEAN identifiers, such as ASEAN Day, ASEAN Flag, ASEAN Anthem and ASEAN Emblem.”
Note the very important reference to “common ASEAN identifiers” and the naming of the ASEAN emblem as one such identifier. It’s not just an ordinary branding logo, but an emblem, because it has a deeper significance: The pursuit of a ASEAN as a united grouping of One Vision, One Identity, One Community.
The travel & tourism industry is obviously having great difficulty understanding that. The 2016 ATF in the Philippines is a clear example of this continuing confusion, which is proven in the pictures below.
If the ASEAN heads of state want to “Project ASEAN’s visibility through comprehensive, multi-stakeholder branding efforts, which are represented by common ASEAN identifiers, such as ASEAN Day, ASEAN Flag, ASEAN Anthem and ASEAN Emblem,” that is clearly not happening in the tourism case.
In fact, the tourism sector is contributing to the confusion with the totally unnecessary “Southeast Asia — Feel the Warmth” campaign, itself the product of discredited American-Australian consultants under an aborted project funded by US Agency for International Development.
The result is plain to see.
Solving the problem is easy: All powerful marketing messages have one logo, one name, one tagline. All that needs to be done is to make usage of the lone ASEAN emblem ubiquitous, and add the full name of ASEAN under it (Association of Southeast Asian Nations). That way, the world will know there is such a grouping in the first place, geographically located in Southeast Asia. It also harmonises usage of the “common ASEAN identifiers” right across the ASEAN tourism sector, including the private sector, which can follow suit, without any confusion.
Promoting ASEAN as a single destination as part of a broader vision to create “One Vision, One Identity, One Community” requires only one common identifier. ASEAN and the ASEAN emblem fit the bill perfectly.