It’s More THAN Fun in the Philippines: It’s the Republic of HappinessPosted on March 27th, 2012 under Inspirational Views
By: Willy E. Arcilla
Now that Filipinos here and overseas have embraced the new DOT slogan “It’s More Fun in the Philippines”, allow me to offer some comments and suggestions possibly to enhance the campaign.
First of all, I join the entire nationhood in congratulating DOT Sec. Hon. Ramon Jimenez (“Mon J” to friends) for his leadership role in guiding BBDO Guerrero’s Tony Harris to craft a very promising slogan.
At the same time, I wish to offer the following with the intention of helping strengthen its effectiveness.
- Test before launching. While the response has been overwhelmingly enthusiastic, it would not hurt to test the slogan using the appropriate methods of marketing and advertising research among the prospective target market of foreign tourists – excluding Filipinos who have a built-in bias for our country. In a sense, we are already “hard-core loyal users” who will patronize the Philippines with or without a slogan. We may exult over the way the slogan spread like wildfire on the internet – mostly among overseas Filipinos, but once again, let us remind ourselves gently, that’s “just us talking”.
Test it also vs. other competitors’ advertising campaigns and comparative costs of a vacation. Testing will validate, or show areas of improvement. If we worry about costs, let us remind ourselves of the words by educator Derek Bok, “if you think education is expensive, try ignorance.”
- Credibility. Being a claim of superiority, the slogan does sound competitive, but we need to ensure it is supportable. In all honesty, I’m not sure we can claim absolute superiority. To illustrate, can we really claim “It’s more fun in the Philippines (IMF PH)” than a family vacation in Disneyland, a trip to New York, a night in Las Vegas, admiring the Grand Canyon or cruising beneath Niagara Falls? Can we claim IMF PH versus surfing in Hawaii, skiing in Aspen or exploring the Rockies? These are just North America. How about IMF PH than visiting the Eifel Tower, the Roman Coliseum, the Pyramids of Gaza, the Risen Christ in Rio, the Great Wall of China and the Taj Mahal in India? Or IMF PH than watching lions in an African Safari, polar bears in Alaska or feeding kangaroo and koala in Australia?
- Self-Awareness. Could it really be true that IMF PH, even with 12 Million compatriots working overseas for a better future for their families and enduring long-term separation? Surely, if it’s true, then we wouldn’t even need to coax our overseas Filipinos to promote the country’s tourism efforts through word-of-mouth (WOM) marketing because the essence of WOM is it is purely voluntary. Shouldn’t the question be, why aren’t our 12 M compatriots overseas bringing in 12 M foreigners?
- Avoid antagonizing. Let us gently remind ourselves that the business of tourism is different from marketing soap and shampoo, toothpaste and detergents where we can compare performance side-by-side in a TV commercial. Why? Because in tourism, our very own target “customers” of foreign tourists are also our “competitors”. How do our own foreign friends end a visit to the Philippines? “Thank you for your hospitality. Please come visit us in our own country someday.” This reminds me of what an old and seasoned traveler once shared, “Willy, we do not travel to other countries because they are better, but because they are different.” Over the years, I have come to appreciate the uniqueness of each country-city-town I have visited – not one’s superiority. Imagine how our neighboring countries might feel when we suggest our “country is more fun than theirs”? Conversely, imagine how we would feel if presented a superiority claim by a neighboring country?
This begs a question, “Do we really need to claim superiority vs. others to promote tourism?” The Top 10 countries by destination are France (77M), USA (60M), China (56M), Spain (53M), Italy (44M), UK (28M), Turkey (27M), Germany (27M), Malaysia (25M) and Mexico (22M). I don’t recall any one of them claiming superiority over the rest of the world in attracting those millions annually. Even our more successful neighboring countries never claimed “More Amazing Thailand”, “More Incredible India”, “More Remarkable Indonesia”, or “Kingdom of More Wonders” for Cambodia. In translating IMF PH into a domestic campaign, how can we now claim “IMF Cebu” vs. “IMF Bohol”? “IMF Boracay” vs. “IMF Palawan”? “IMF Banawe” vs. “IMF Taal”? without sparking regional conflict?
As the saying goes, there’s no place like home, so no home – nor country – is better than one’s own.
- Creative and Effective. Personally, I love the slogan “IMF PH” because it’s fun and even funny. It gets funnier. But let us gently remind ourselves there have been countless advertising executions that were adjudged creative, entertaining even hilarious, albeit not compelling nor effective. Advertising campaigns need to be BOTH creative and compelling; BOTH entertaining and effective. Advertising is NOT Entertainment, but a tool. We cannot only sell the ad, but the product via the ad.
- Charity Before Hospitality. While I agree that tourism can help alleviate poverty, I believe more in the practice of charity before extending hospitality. I doubt whether the world’s top tourist destinations relied mainly on foreign guests to alleviate their own economic conditions. I believe we Filipinos need to first collectively address our internal problems of poverty and destitution, hunger and malnutrition, joblessness and homelessness, illness and illiteracy. Doing so will address what is anathema to foreign tourists and investors — crime and violence, graft and corruption, kidnapping and terrorism, gambling and prostitution, alcoholism and drug abuse, anarchy and lawlessness. Even the winning campaign slogan of the incumbent “Pag walang korap, walang mahirap” may need revisiting. With corruption already being addressed yet poverty still on the rise, perhaps it should be relaunched as “Pag walang suwapang, walang mahirap,” because greed is the root of poverty.
- Back to Basics. In the world of business, it is conventional wisdom to fix a product before promoting. In the world of advertising, it has been proven that “a good product can sell itself, while the best way to kill a bad product is to advertise it”. A good slogan like IMF PH must not distract us from the hard work of nation-rebuilding. Let us relaunch the country, then relaunch the campaign.
- It’s MORE than Fun. Could it be that the word “FUN” is somewhat shallow and superficial, and may therefore fail to capture the core essence or DNA of our country? If we trace the etymology of FUN, Wikipedia states, “the original meaning of “fun” relates to a hoax or practical joke, a meaning still retained in the phrase “to poke fun at”. Other related meanings are “diversion, amusement, cheat, trick, befool” which gave rise to synonyms and homonyms like “funny”, “frolic”, “foolish”, “folly”.
Could this be why IMF PH has also been a subject of “cynical fun” in executions showing kidnap victims under “Vacations”, hostage-taking under “Pictorials”, massacres under “Elections”, and even colonies of illegal settlers built on stilts by the coastline under “Waterfront Properties” as IMF PH?
- It’s MORE Faith. In reading commentaries supporting IMF PH, it’s interesting to note most pertain to our people’s natural warmth and hospitality, resilience and optimism, despite economic hardships and natural calamities. Let’s probe deeper — Is it More Fun or is it More Faith – in the Philippines?
Perhaps we can also ask in the research study even more fundamental questions like, “Is FUN the only thing prospective foreign tourists are looking for in tourism?” “Is FUN all that Filipinos can offer foreign tourists?” “How do they/we define FUN?” “ Is FUN all that we want PH to be known for?” “Are tourists willing to pay several thousand dollars to experience ‘More Fun’ than other choices?”
- Happiness > Fun. Many psychologists and experts in human behavior have come to the conclusion that “fun” tends to be external and fleeting, while “happiness” is internal and enduring. In fact, “fun” is associated with “false happiness” as in the parable of the Prodigal Son, who squandered his inheritance in search of a life of “fun and debauchery”, until he spent all his resources and famine struck the land. Gripped with remorse, the Prodigal Son returned to the loving arms of his father who saw him from afar, and thereafter rediscovered the meaning of true and everlasting happiness.
In contrast to “fun”, the word “happiness” traces its etymology and shares a similarity with “good fortune, luck, being blessed, prosperous and contented”. Perhaps what we need is to use a word like “happiness” that is “superior to fun” instead of claiming “superior fun” vs. other countries.
- Republic of Happiness. If we accept “Happiness” as a superior word to “Fun”, how can we promote it without bravado that may risk antagonizing others? How about “Come to the Philippines, the Republic of Happiness?” To vivify and “own” this benefit, imagine substituting the yellow sun emblazoned on the Philippine flag with the universal symbol of happiness? That’s right. Good ol’ Smiley. This is inspired by the words that a holy priest whispered to my ailing father’s ears in a moment of grave illness which he survived, “Behind the darkest clouds, the sun continues to shine.” Similarly, behind the most difficult circumstances, the Filipino spirit remains resilient and optimistic.
- The Promised Islands. It is also noteworthy that the photographs used in the official DOT campaign invariably allude to the beauty of our land and the bounty of our seas (“Status Updates” – Butanding; “Getting Upstairs – Banawe Rice Terraces; “Commuting” – Outrigger Canoe in Palawan). Shouldn’t we share the credit with God, the Creator of heaven and earth, including our islands, specially if we have no world-class manmade monuments to boast of? If Canaan is the Promised Land, we must be the “Promised Islands”. After all, where else can you find a “land as beautiful as its people and a people as warm as its climate”? The Philippine Islands – The Promised Islands.
The author is an independent consultant in Marketing and Advertising, Leadership and Strategy, with over 30 years of experience working for top MNCs and regional conglomerates around the Asia-Pacific region. Known as the “Brand Healer”, his mission is to help Filipino companies grow and Filipino brands compete in the global marketplace. He has published his first book entitled, “Marketing and Advertising with a Conscience” where he argues that “since no one can serve two masters, we can and ought to use mammon to serve God.” Comments at email@example.com.