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Branding Bali – Show Me the Money!

Editorial: Cautious Optimism as Bali Awaits Launch of a 'Bali Brand.'

(6/20/2007) The visit of President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono to Bali to formally open the month-long 29th Bali Arts Festival on Saturday, June 16, 2007 [See: 29th Bali Arts Festival] is also being used to launch a "Bali Brand" - the culmination of a six-month long effort to devise an effective marketing identity for the Island's tourism.

The project, rumored to have been funded by a major national tobacco company, fuels long-thwarted hopes that Bali may slowly be moving towards a more professional and measured approach to the sales and marketing of its tourism products. At the same time, the somewhat closed-door way in which the branding strategy has been created and the guarded way in which it is being unvelied to the President and the world, have some concerned that the new brand, once announced, might join the growing stack of Bali tourism initiatives filed and forgotten under "NATO – No Action Talk Only."

We'll leave it to you to decide on the appropriateness of the new "Bali Branding" – details of which we'll share on balidiscovery.com shortly.

In the meantime, we beg forgiveness if, shell shocked following past tourism marketing initiatives, we offer some pre-emptive cautionary thoughts on the "new" Bali branding campaign:

• Let's pray that the experts have traveled to Indonesia's key overseas markets in gathering data and inputs in the process to design a proper brand. The branding of a destination should reflect an objective and realistic assessment of the destination in the eyes of its key customers, as opposed to potentially over-emotive local views of how we want to be seen by our guests.

Good branding has more to do with what we are and very little to do with what we want to be.

• Any branding program in the absence of a well-funded promotional campaign to secure that brand's position in the minds of Bali's key consumers is destined to failure. The harsh reality is that Malaysia would be less than "truly Asia"; there would be nothing "surprising" about Singapore; and we would all be hardly "amazed" by Thailand - if each of those destinations had not spent heavily on international media to establish their brandings.

The prognosis for Bali's new branding program remain dismal when policymakers, both in Jakarta and Bali, remain steadfast in their refusal to fund tourism promotion on a level equivalent to competing destinations in the region. That this situation is unlikely to change anytime soon was proven once again just last week when Indonesian legislators refused to provide requested funding proposals from the Culture and Tourism Minister to finance the launch of "Visit Indonesia Year 2008."

• And, that Bali Tourism Board (BTB) still remains without a Chief Executive Officer some four months after its latest reorganization suggests those who hope for the imminent emergence of a professional and dynamically managed professional body charged with Bali tourism's promotion and, by extension, branding the destination may be sorely disappointed.

No matter how brilliantly conceived the new Branding program for Bali proves to be, it is destined to be little more than a self-adoring navel-gazing exercise of little consequence unless its launch includes a sizeable and carefully-managed promotional budget aimed at Bali's key source markets.

While we continue to hope for the best and eagerly await the unveiling of Bali's new branding, we also hear in the distance the echo of the line from Jerry Maquire who screamed: "Show me the money!"

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