Saturday, December 17, 2016


by Roger Pe
December 12, 2016 issue
Business Mirror

 There are many products that do not become brands and eventually become failures. Blame it on hit-and-miss marketers who do not begin with the basic: Market Research.

Market Research has been called the bedrock of brand success. When companies ignore it for new product development or testing new advertising campaigns, the result often becomes disastrous. Millions of pesos are wasted from failed new product launches, precisely because consumer research was not done, improperly executed or results were ignored.

Market Research veteran and broadcast industry icon Nic Gabunada has seen it all. Afterall, he was General Manager of Media Pulse (predecessor of AC Nielsen), former head of ABS-CBN Research and Business Analysis, eventually Senior Vice President of the same network’s Integrated Sales and Marketing. He was also CEO of Omnicom Media Group, driving the group's media brands like OMD, PHD and M2M, as well as its ideation, digital and brand-engagement specialized units to profitability.

Let’s take a look how he landed in Research and Broadcast Media. Gabunada begins by saying, “I call it “Serendepity. It was not planned.”

The year was 1984. Gabunada was then a Research Tutor at Center For Research and Communication (CRC), now University of Asia-Pacific). Back then, he was also a teacher at University of the Philippines College of Manila, and part of the anti-Marcos movement.

He remembers the crisis the country was going through. The economy was spinning downwards after Ninoy Aquino’s assassination. The anti-Marcos movement was gaining momentum, and he, a year earlier, finished graduate studies in Industrial Economics.

“That was a period in my life that I built a network of connections within the marketing and research industry. I met the country’s top marketing, advertising and research practitioners and learned from them. I was surprised to hear them admit that they also learned something from me,” he reminisces.

It was a time that sharpened his leadership and organizational skills, providing him a good laboratory to craft his communication (anti-Martial Law propaganda) strategies. He implemented them and made sure these were cascaded to help mobilize people into action. The same experience may have also developed his preference to stay in the background.

“My first job (at around 11 years old) was a shoeshine boy and a farm goods trader at our town market. I made shoes glisten and on the side, bought farm livestock from farmers and resold them to buyer-consolidators. Strictly speaking, I was not buying but simply facilitating the exchange.”

Gabunada earned more than enough for his school allowance. He gave the rest to his parents and shared it with his siblings. In college, he was a scholar and earned extra by giving tutorial lessons to students who were having difficulties coping up with their academic requirements.

He taught Mathematics at Ateneo de Davao University after college but was detained because of his anti-Martial Law activities. To “cool off”, he transferred to Manila and took graduate studies at CRC, an Opus Dei institution, perfect training ground for those who wanted a career in economics.

A Hans Seidel Foundation scholarship would fall on his lap, in exchange for working with CRC for 3 years after graduation. He became an economist at the center’s Industry Monitoring Unit, assigned to cover all consumer industries such as fast moving consumer goods, pharmaceuticals, QSR (quick service restaurants), among others. 

He eventually became the point person for CRC’s economics of marketing seminars where he worked with industry icons in marketing, advertising, sales and distribution. They were the rock stars of the marketing industry whom he invited as trainors: Among them were JJ Calero, Minyong Ordonez, Jess Dinglasan, Ely Santos, Benjamin Dy, etc.

“It was in this phase of my career (from 1983 to 1985, yes, I was 25 year old in 1984) when I started to like marketing and its various components, media research included,” he says.

He then joined Pulse Research Group under Rosario Chiew, known to be the doyen of market research in the Philippines. He was appointed General Manager of Media Pulse, the arm doing research on media habits of consumers. That exposed him to network executives and advertising agencies and had an inside track of what they were doing, type of information they needed and their decision-making processes.

The company provided audience research studies and measurements to advertisers, ad agencies and media suppliers (radio and TV networks and print publications). Gabunada helped set up what became popularly known as the TV people meter, a first in the country.

“I was challenged and got excited with the task of providing the industry a concrete basis for their advertising and media planning,” he says. It was a more accurate way of reading TV viewing habits. In his job, Gabunada had the chance to go around the country doing studies on media habits of regional consumers as well as familiarized himself with media facilities outside of Manila.

He joined ABS in 1990 as Head of Research and Business Analysis, and was in that post till 1997. He transformed the unit into a group that is responsive to the strategic and operational requirements of the network.
I only “left” Research, when to my surprise, I was called by Freddie Garcia to his office in 1997 and was instructed that from that point, I was to take the role of Head of Sales and Marketing of ABS-CBN. I asked if I have a choice and he said “No” but assured me that he will teach me the tricks of the trade, which he thought I still have to learn. More importantly, will personally call his close friends in the industry to also mentor me,” he proudly relates.

At the time of his appointment, the network was facing an advertiser/ad agency boycott, a full steam test for his negotiation skills to resolve critical issues. Despite losing more than two months of revenues because of the boycott, his team ended the year hitting the company's revenue targets.

As head of Sales and Marketing head of ABS-CBN, his key achievements were: Quadrupled company revenues from P266M/month in 1996 to more than P1B/month in 2005 and never missed hitting revenue targets during his stint.

He also institutionalized the use of program intrusions, events and other below the line activities in order to generate audience and customer affinity to the various channels offered by ABS-CBN as well as designed and implemented a competitive commercial spots monitoring system.

Why is consumer research important in developing a media strategy? Gabunada says, ”You have to understand your target market in order to best craft your message, what to communicate, how to communicate, which geographic unit to target, which medium/media is best for your message,” he says.

He stresses that one must also know where the audience is and what time of day/week it is best to hit him with your message. “You also have to know what is the best and the most cost-efficient medium available to air/print/show your messages. All these require research, and having said that, you also need to be able to make decisions even without the benefit of full information,” he adds.

Can social media drive a country to be great and move forward? Gabunada says, social media is a great amplifier of messages. “Great campaigns that will help this country move forward and its people to feel great and proud of being Filipinos can use social media as the vehicle for doing these campaigns. It is proven it can be an effective tool. It is there for the taking.”

What does he think advertisers should do and shouldn’t do on social media? “In social media and in any communications plan, for that matter, “Content is King. Distribution is Queen. Engagement builds and expands the Kingdom.”

A great social media content he says engages the target audience, evokes emotions and/or prods them to take action. Social media posts could be heart touching, funny; may “hugot” and “kilig” or one that makes people angry. No rules as to the format that would make for good content. It could just be a 25-word tweet, a photograph, a very well designed meme or a simple video.”

What kind of a manager is he? “I prefer to be in the background and enjoy seeing how my campaigns have helped a brand, a person and/or a cause succeeds. His work philosophy: Do your best.

On the explosion of mobile apps: “They can only go upwards. New apps are introduced everyday. New advertising tools are now available to practitioners. If only our Internet speed in the country could be made faster, in less than five years, almost mobile app usage among Filipinos should be at 100% or double the levels now,” he says.

The man who has come full circle from the heyday of traditional media to digital and ever-changing media has organized Gabunada and Associates, which puts together experts whenever there is somebody who needs help in mounting a communications and/or marketing campaign via online platforms.

He plans to drive around the country, from Manila to Ilocos to Cagayan and back and drive from Manila to Davao and back. “This I have not done and I really love to this with friends and social media volunteers to document the beauty of the Philippines<” he says. Wanna join him as soon as he can organize one?

Gabunada just finished a successful stint as the lead person in executing the above the line (TV/Radio) strategy of the Duterte Presidential campaign and also strategizing and managing the campaign’s social media component. A strong strategic thinker and team builder, he is a data driven executive but can make effective decisions even without the benefit of full information.

Thursday, December 8, 2016


by Roger Pe
December 8, 2016 issue
Business Mirror

When asked on how the Philippines is preparing for its sixth, seventh or eighth million foreign visitor, Department of Tourism Secretary Wanda Tulfo-Teo gave a visionary answer: “I want to compete with Bangkok and the best of Asia. I want to take the Philippines to where it has never been.”

Teo spoke in a press conference and thanksgiving dinner for all tourism supporters in Region 9 in Zamboanga City over the weekend. She said people should see the big picture and not take tourism on a piecemeal or per million basis.

In order to be competitive, she wants the Philippines to be ready, regardless of the number, and that means, meeting global standards and continuously improving our tourism product.

Thailand and Malaysia are currently locked in the battle for number one ranking in Asean tourist arrival ranking while China is way, way ahead of the pack taking the world’s No. 2 position behind France.

According MasterCard's 2015 Asia Pacific Destinations Index, Thailand dominated as the most popular regional travel destination last year, with three of its cities making the Top 10. Bangkok was the most popular city by arrivals, total nights stayed and total amount spent, based on findings sourced primarily from national tourism boards.

The survey was based on 167 destinations from 22 countries across Asia Pacific, and represent 90.1 percent of all international overnight arrivals in the region, MasterCard said. The Thai capital saw 21.9 million international overnight visitors in 2015, a 28.6 percent increase from the previous year.

China, on the other hand, is the top travel destination in Asia for world's tourists, according to the latest figures published by the World Bank. 83 million tourists visited China in 2014, making the country the first among 10 most visited countries in Asia. Since the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, tourism has become a national priority in China and the country acknowledges its importance as a driving force for economic development.

The World Bank ranked Malaysia as second most visited country in Asia with 29,437,000 tourists. “Malaysia has identified tourism as a key growth area to transform the country into a high-income nation by targeting of 36 million tourist arrivals in 2020,” it said. Thailand is third with almost the same figure as that of Malaysia, generating around 31.2 billion US dollars in 2014. South Korea is 4th with 14 million, Japan is 5th with 13 million, Singapore is 6th with 11 million, Indonesia is 7th with 9 million and Vietnam 8th with 7.8 million.

Spread the good news

Tourism now is like a Facebook relationship, according to Teo. “It has become complicated and the world instantaneously knows an experience, good or bad. That impacts any place in the world. We should all be purveyors of good news about our country’s tourism attractions,” she said.

Teo said tourism has also become a channel for peace and removing barriers that set people and countries apart. “We should remove all these barriers,” she said.

Born in Kidapawan, Cotabato and graduated with a Business Administration degree from Saint Theresa’s College Quezon City, the pride of Mindanao Teo knows what she is talking about. Afterall, she spent most of her professional life in the country’s tourism industry - first, as a stewardess of Filipinas Orient Airways, PAL’s main competitor a couple of years back, and Air Niugini, (Papua New Guinea’s national airline), and second, as a travel operator herself.

As President and CEO of her own company (Mt. Apo Travel and Tours Inc.), Teo pioneered in promoting Davao City as a leading tourist attraction, eventually becoming President of Davao Association of Tour Operators (DATO) and Davao Travel Agencies Association (DTAA).

An achievement-laden career followed, among them as President of National Association of Independent Travel Agencies (NAITAS), the biggest travel agency organization in the Philippines with more than 400 members and 13 chapters, Chairman, Network of Independent Travel Agencies, Davao, and 2nd Vice President of National Association of Travel Agents.

Teo was the brains behind the NAITAS Travel and Trade Show, still considered today as the Philippines’ liveliest travel, tourism technology and trade fair.

She also participated in various tourism conferences abroad like the CTW (Corporate Travel World) Asia-Pacific in Bangkok, ITB (Internationale Tourismusborse) in Berlin and the BIMP-EAGA (Brunei Darussalam-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines East Asean Growth Area) Trade Tourism and Investment Forum in Malaysia.

Teo flew to Zamboanga to personally show to everyone that it is safe just like any peace-loving city in the world. More than that, she pitched for Zamboanga and encouraged people to dwell on its beauty and undiscovered places rather than talk about things that well not enhance our country’s tourism growth.

She likewise mentioned Zamboanga’s historic and culturally rich Spanish and American heritage that should never be forgotten by new generation of Filipinos, a cultural heirloom that is heartening just as it is enriching.

She called Zamboanga “my home” (she lived in the city for over 5 years) and was happy to announce that DOT, in cooperation with TIEZA (Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority) will help improve one of its star attractions - Sta. Cruz Island.

“Tourism facilities will have to be upgraded here to make them attractive and on par with more developed tourist destinations. Part of scaling up is improving these facilities to ensure that tourism activities are also managed sustainably,” she said.

Sta. Cruz Island is a Zamboanga gem, just a 20-minute native speedboat ride from the city proper. It boasts of a long stretch of white beach, sprinkled by nature with red grains of sand. It appears pink under the glistening sun, a natural phenomenon and reputedly one of only three of its kind in the world.

Nature lovers would definitely love the island’s raw beauty. On a boat trip around the island’s vast mangrove forests, one would see century-old trees, covering a beautiful lagoon that is home to migratory birds, teeming marine life and edible “Lato” seaweeds that carpet the seabed.

As you paddle along and snake through the winding brackish water vegetation, look under. See those little creatures escorting your fluvial trip? They are thousands and thousands of stingless jellyfish, as if saying, “Bienvenido de Zamboanga, buen dia.” (Chavacano for “Welcome to Zamboanga and have a nice day”).

How is Teo tackling threats to tourism, especially modern-day hazards like security?

She emphasized that even the world’s most visited city, Paris, has encountered real threats, but one thing is sure - the government is very much aware of it and is working for peace. She reiterated that the Philippines should be promoted properly and we should do it aggressively in order to increase our country’s tourist number at a faster rate.”

Blooming Zamboanga
One could see that urban developments are sprouting beautifully around the City of Flowers, adding colors to the city’s “Zamboanga Hermosa” brand name. The new ones are a joy to see - clean, better designed and with emphasis on the aesthetics. It is also heritage conscious, notably, when you stroll back in time along historic Calle Madrid, now Valderosa Street.

Assistant DOT Tourism Secretary Ricky Alegre, amplified Teo’s sentiments. “The best way to neautralize negative stories is to positivize.
Why would the best people in the country’s tourism industry want to promote Zamboanga? Because of many wrong perceptions,” he said.
“There are many good stories about Zamboanga than bad stories. We should be focusing on them rather than trying to bring them back,” Alegre said.

For one, he mentioned the spirit of the Filipino, which is also the spirit of the Zamboanguenos.
That spirit makes us different compared to other Asians. We are one of the world’s friendliest and welcoming people. We are the most hospitable, even smiling during difficult times. That spirit, we hope to capture when we launch the new Philippine tourism campaign in the coming Miss Universe Beauty Pageant,” he said.

At the center of it all will be the Filipino, Alegre added. “It will not be biased to a particular destination but will sell the whole Philippines with an emotional hug.”

When asked if the Level 3 alert will affect tourism traffic, Alegre took it as a very positive sign for the tourism industry. “It means tourists are secured and peace and order is in place. Then, we have nothing to fear,” he said.

At the Region 9 Stakeholder’s Meeting and Forum, Alegre made an impassioned appeal: “We are all stakeholders of this country. We have a stake in promoting it, including those that are not too familiar. We are all ambassadors of the Philippines. We all have to work together.”

Alegre noted that, while Thailand is a borderless country like Malaysia, Vietnam and, in a way, Singapore, (tourists can easily pass through in and out by land), 99% of tourists come to the Philippines by air.

“It poses a great challenge to us, but then, again, we need to positivize. All it takes is to promote strategically, aggressively and put in the best advertising - more good stories about the Philippines,” he said.

Rich history of Zamboanga*

Zamboanga was a settlement established by the Subanon ethic group before the Spanish came. The peninsula that it belonged to was also the homeland of the ancestors of Yakans, Balangguinguis and Sama-Badjaos. The Tausogs from Sulu and islands further south started migrating to Zamboanga at the beginning of the 13th century. They became the dominant ethnic group after they were Islamized in 14th century.

The name Zamboanga came from two theories: The Spanish pronunciation and spelling of the word “Sinama” ("mooring place") and what etymologists say that it came from the word “samboangan” (from the word jambangan, a metaphor for a "place of flowers" that also means a melting pot for all ethnic Malay groups).

Spanish explorers arrived in Zamboanga in 1569 after discovering the archipelago in 1521. It served as a military outpost against foreign invaders and Moro pirates. Latin American armies from Peru and Mexico, as well as recruited troops from Pampanga, Bohol, Cebu and Iloilo protected the area.

Upon the declaration of King Philip IV of Spain,
Zamboanga rose as the main headquarters of Spain in Mindanao on June 23, 1635, subsequently emerging as one of the Philippines’ main trading ports to most of Europe, Southeast Asia and Latin America for centuries.

After that, more Spanish troops came, headed by a governor general from Spain, and built the first Zamboanga fortress (now called Fort Pilar). The fortress witnessed a number of battles between Moros and Spanish soldiers while Spain ruled the region from 16th to 18th centuries.

When the Chinese Koxinga army threatened to invade the Philippines in 1662, Spain was forced to temporarily abandon Zamboanga, withdrew its soldiers and retreated to Manila.

As the region was being drawn to Catholicism, Muslims kept its struggle against Spanish colonizers. More foreign invaders likewise came, a British naval squadron among them. It raided the settlement in 1798 but was driven off by Zamboanga’s strong army resistance.

By 1831, Zamboanga was an established port and became an important center for direct communication and trading hub to most of Europe, Southeast Asia and Latin America.

American Rule

After Spain ceded the Philippines to the US in 1898, Americans started arriving in Zamboanga. It found a “Republic of Zamboanga” established by General Vicente Alvarez in 1899. It was a shortlived government, however and dissolved in 1903 as authorized by Governor William Howard Taft, leading to the creation of Moro Province (whole of Mindanao, except Palawan and eastern portion of the northwest peninsula of the island).

Zamboanga hosted a number of American regional governors during this period, including the famous General John Pershing. By 1913, Pershing advised that the Moro Province needed to transition to civil government (until 1911, every district governor and secretary had been a military officer).

On July 23, 1914, the Moro Province was officially replaced by an agency named Department of Mindanao and Sulu. It was dissolved in 1920 and Zamboanga became an independent province, and the town center inaugurated as a city in 1936.

Asia’s only Latin City

There are hundreds of things to see and enjoy in Zamboanga. Here are a few:

Fort Pilar. Founded in 1635 as a garrison during the Spanish era and now serves as a shrine, an important historical landmark in Zamboanga City. Houses a National Museum branch that represents the bygone era of Zamboanga as a Spanish City.

Pasonanca Park. A botanical park built in 1912 by the order of Mindanao Governor John J. Pershing and completed under the administration of Governor Frank W. Carpenter.

Zamboanga City Hall. A 100-year old seat of government built in 1905 by the Federal Government of the United States for the then American Governors.

Cawa-Cawa Boulevard. A scenic place to visit, early in the morning for a quick walk or jog, also a wonderful place to drop by for watching a glorious sunset.

Sta. Cruz Islands. Known for its pink sand beaches. Its adjacent little sister island has a typical white beach. There is a diving site and a lagoon full of thousands and thousand of jellyfish and crunchy “Agar-Agar Lato” (edible sea weed).

Zamboanga Golf Course and Beach. Oldest Golf Course in the Philippines, designed during the American rule.

Old Normal School Building. Built during the American era, now known as the Western Mindanao State University (WMSU), also houses a museum.

Serenity Falls. Located at the foot of EcoZone’s south entrance, very invigorating and worth the trip.

La Vista del Mar and Honorory Consulate of Spain. A beach resort with a restaurant that serves fresh seafood that includes the “Curacha”, has a beautiful view of the sea and home of the Honorary Consulate of Spain.

Passionate tourism ambassadors

Zamboanga has a vibrant local tourism industry. Zamboangenos innate welcoming nature can be felt the moment you step into the city. Tourism foot soldiers abound, proud about its history, culture, food, people, natural beauty and many more. Perhaps no one can be as passionate as Errold Bayona, our tourist guide, who, at some point in our trip, literally walked us through fascinating places in the city.

There is no day that Bayona does not enrich visitors with knowledge about Zamboanga and Mindanao. Seeing visitors enjoy a wonderful Zamboanga experience already makes his day.

The founding president of AGTZ (Associacion del Guia Turistico del Zamboanga, (association of tour guides of Zamboanga) faced a tough and lonely challenge when he was starting to make a name in Zamboanga’s tourism firmament.

“I want to help change the outside world’s perception of Zamboanga. I don’t want my children to entertain negative thoughts about my city. There’s no reason to fear because my home is just as safe as the safest place in the world,” he said. No wonder he has received a number of token of appreciation, among them from Zamboanga’s provincial government (Zamboanga del Sur and Zamboanga Sibugay).

Being a wide reader, Bayona once found myself looking at the Philippine map and asked, “Where am I and how will I impact and inspire my young generation?” He found Zamboanga and told himself: “Information is vital to education, and education is the answer to ignorance.”

Bayona hated everything that was not being taught in school. He was young and ambitious at the same time called himself, a patriot. He often asked himself, “How can I make this work?”
In wanting to make a difference and for people to have a better perception of Zamboanga, he found his calling. He found Tourism.

“I write my citizenship in every document as a Filipino. Though I sometimes feel otherwise, it does not stop me from believing that I am. I was born a Filipino, and inbv my own little way, as long as I live, and as much as I can, I will pursue that path to be a Filipino, and make Zamboanga part of me. Tourism is my key to that,” he confided.

Only Spanish-speaking people in Asia
People of Zamboanga speak Chavacano, a language that is 70% Spanish and 30% Ilonggo, Cebuano and Tagalog. The only Spanish-based creole language in Asia, it is one of the oldest creole languages in the world.

Chavacano is based on Mexican, Spanish and Portuguese languages. Most words are common with those spoken in Andalucia, Spain but there are many words borrowed from Nahuati, a language native to Central Mexico.

Although the vocabulary is largely Mexican, its grammar is mostly based on other Philippine languages. Chavacano is also spoken in the town of Semporna, eastern coast of Sabah, Malaysia, not surprising because it is close to Sulu and Zamboanga Peninsula.

Ateneo de Zamboanga University

The school began in 1912 as Escuela Catolica, a parochial school run by Spanish Jesuits. It expanded in 1916 and became Ateneo Elementary School and renamed Ateneo de Zamboanga when its high school opened in 1928. The first high school students graduated from Ateneo in 1932, among them Roseller T. Lim, who would become the first ZamboangueƱo senator of the Philippines. It was officially declared a university on August 20, 2001 and granted autonomous status.

Pacman as tourism ambassador

Meanwhile, DOT welcomes the offer of Senator Manny Pacquiao as Philippine tourism ambassador to help boost international visitor arrivals in the country.

“Pacquiao is a living hero who has earned the world’s admiration and given honor to the country. He personifies the Filipino’s resiliency and our people’s genuine hospitality,” DOT Secretary Teo said. She lauded Pacquiao and encouraged every Filipino, especially the youth, to emulate the boxing icon’s sense of volunteerism in promoting our world-class destinations.
“This is a great Christmas gift to DOT, especially as preparations are now in full swing for the country’s hosting of the 2016 Miss Universe Pageant,” Teo said.

The DOT head said she foresees a knockout win with Pacquiao and Miss Universe Pia Wurtzbach leading as Philippine tourism ambassadors to the world. "We can probably triple our visitor arrivals!," Teo exclaimed in jest.

Pacquiao, among other lawmakers, reportedly noted that DOT has had a significantly low budget for tourism promotion compared to neighboring countries like Thailand, Singapore, Hong Kong and even Vietnam.

*Source: Zamboanga DOT Tourism Office

Sunday, December 4, 2016


by Roger Pe
Business Mirror
Headline, December 4, 2016

A good product will sell by itself through sheer word-of-mouth. An even greater one, reinforced by great advertising, channeled strategically, as in “The Art Of War”, through innovative media is a winning combination.

A kick-ass product delivers an unmet need experientially, unforgettably. The market feels it, the core target experiences it, and almost everyone feels the love down to his spine.

An awesome product makes a promise that cannot be disputed. Aspirational or transformational, it lives up to what it is claiming in the marketplace. A truthful product does not overpromise because when it does, it easily loses its presence in the consumer’s radar.

An excellent product is not a clone of its competitor. It stands out and packs a wallop by delivering very relevant benefits. It is a product of long research and market study probing into the consumer’s wants and needs.

A great product does not lose its appeal to its audience. It continues to be desirable even in a sea of multiple brands in its category. It continues to innovate and improves its value to millions of consumers. When you have these, you also get these: Top-of-mind awareness, preference and enduring loyalty.

Having said that, it pays to check if the product is ready to take the advertising plunge. Have you done your homework, taken the SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis? Did you scrutinize the competitive landscape?

If you have, then you are ripe. Like thousands of other brands that had been launched, you are ready to conquer the market. But it is not easy: You have to make your creative execution stand out. Don’t say what has already been said. Be refreshing. Use a slogan to boost brand retention and never be afraid to change it when market environment changes (Coke, the world’s most famous brand changed its slogan 46 times from 1896 to 2016).

But do know one important thing: Advertising cannot mask a product flaw. It will be uncovered. No amount of gimmickry, even digital razzle-dazzle can fool a smart consumer. As Bill Bernbach says, “No amount of advertising can sell a bad product. It will only hasten its demise.”

Inspite of advancement in technology, some marketers think advertising will do all the work for them. They concoct catchy lines, expecting them to deliver the results. They do not realize that advertising is just one aspect of the whole marketing mix.

“It is not mere sloganeering that sells a product. At the end of the day, it goes back to what you are selling. Something that is relevant and beneficial to the consumer, and how truthful you say it,” a prominent marketing man says.

Savvy marketer

A great marketer starts on the inside developing his product and works his way out to capture insights relevant to his consumers. He begins with his product and perfects it before making noise in the media universe.

Nowadays, we see a great deal of advertising that is much better developed than the product itself, a sad scenario that has put many reckless marketers out of business. We see advertisers that are more excited in developing their slogans rather than improving the product they are selling.

Here are a few of the biggest slogan mistakes in the history of international marketing as compiled by Mike Fromowitz, a long-time Asia-Pacific adman, a friend and currently Chief Creative Officer of Ethnicity Multicultural Marketing in Toronto:

Electrolux. A memorable Swedish campaign in the 1960s claiming 'Nothing sucks like an Electrolux'.
Pepsi. Pepsi's 'Come alive with the Pepsi Generation' in Taiwan meant 'Pepsi will bring your ancestors back from the dead'.
KFC. The finger-licking good' slogan meant 'Eat your fingers off' in China.

Schweppes. It meant 'Toilet Water' in Italy, making its popularity in the country to dive.

Mercedes Benz. Launched under brand name 'Bensi' in China was a bad call as the name meant 'rush to die'.

Ford. Ford didn’t realize that 'Pinto', meant 'tiny male genitals' in Portuguese when it launched the brand in Brazil.

Parker. In Mexico, Parker Pens promise 'not to leak in your pocket and impregnate you'.

Colgate introduced a toothpaste in France called “Cue”, the name of a notorious porno magazine.

In his “Book of Brand Blunders, author Robert Gray says, “Slogans that do not help the market understand what companies do or what makes them unique are largely ineffective and they can cause prospective buyers not to trust the company. Once trust is gone, sales and profits spiral downwards. The bottom line is, meaningless slogans are like a virus that is undermining the world of marketing.”

A slogan alone cannot sell a product, a service or a destination. In the Philippines, we refuse to change a slogan for tourism because it has won awards overseas. We keep a blind eye on real effectivity results done by a reputable research organization.

According to a study made by AGB Nielsen among foreign tourists from March to April this year, majority of the respondents liked the slogan “It’s More Fun In The Philippines” but only a few were interested to visit the country.

The study noted that 65 percent of European respondents liked the campaign but only 26 percent had the intent to visit the Philippines. Likewise, 72 percent of North American respondents liked the slogan but only 45 percent wanted to visit the country.

While 67 percent of respondents from Japan, Saudi Arabia, India and Australia thought the campaign was good, only 40 percent had plans to see the Philippines. In Southeast Asia, 59 percent of the respondents liked the campaign but only 36 percent wished to come to the country.

Is it time to create a more focused, better positioning, less generic and original slogan? Some people say yes. At the end of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s term, our tourist arrival number was 3,520,471 million. At the end of Benigno Aquino’s term over a six-year period, it jumped to 5,600,000 million, or an increase of 65%. Some say, the increase could have been bigger because DOT had a budget much bigger than the previous administration.
 Tourism slogans worldwide

There are many memorable slogans that have built great brands all over the world. A number of them still stick but a few proved disastrous to advertisers.

The iconic "I Heart New York", seduced millions to the city that never sleeps and kept hundreds of NYC T-shirt vendors in business for the past 30 years. In a recent article published by Time Magazine, it said that others were not so effective. Andalucia’s "There’s Only One" and New South Wales’ "There’s No Place Like It", could both be “easily applied to Changi Prison or a toxic rubbish dump in Nigeria.”

Tourism Australia had the infamous "Where the Bloody Hell Are You?" campaign. It garnered a lot of publicity but was banned in England.

“The problem with many slogans is that regardless of whether they strike a chord or not, they’re not always accurate when describing the destination they’re promoting. Some bend the truth a little, while others just blatantly lie about their destination to get you to come,” Time said.

The magazine also cited London’s “See the world. Visit London” slogan. While it meant a city with cultural diversity and you can rub shoulders with people from all around the world, the problem is, “it is expensive and costs as much as travelling to some countries in the world.”

On France’s “Rendezvous en France”, Time said: “The problem with this is that if you don’t understand French, you’re not going to go. Worse still, the prospective tourist might think "rendezvous" is some kind of communicable disease, which is rampant in France and choose to go to Italy instead,” it said.

A few Asian countries seemed to have followed a two-word template: “Amazing Thailand”, “Incredible India”, “Wonderful Indonesia”, “Truly Asia”, “Your Singapore”. We could have belonged to the club had we stuck to “Wow, Philippines”.

Wait, the Top 5 most visited countries in the world don’t even flaunt their slogans. So when was the last time we saw commercials for Brand France, China, US, Spain? Nobody even remembers their current slogans nor people even care if they have one at all. Don’t we only remember beautiful experiences and memories?

To drive tourist traffic, US cities regularly create new logos, slogans and marketing campaigns. Time said, however, “Locals tend to view the efforts largely as nonsense, or worse, a big waste of taxpayers’ dollars.”

It cited the Indiana Office of Tourism Development, which unveiled a new slogan for state tourism marketing, “Honest to Goodness Indiana” which was replacing the previous slogan, “Restart Your Engines.” It responded to criticism that the new “slogan doesn’t have anything to do with travel or tourism and reinforces stereotypes of Indiana residents as “unsophisticated bumpkins.”

It also highlighted the insights of tourism and community development expert Roger Brooks, who had said that people don’t decide to go somewhere just because of a slogan. “Do you go to Disneyland or Disney World because their slogan is ‘The Happiest Place on Earth?’ Of course not, we go there because of our perception of it,” he said.

Time also mentioned Colorado’s newly launched slogan (“It’s Our Nature”) and published a comment made by professor at a university: “It looks like something my students could have put together in five minutes. It’s very weak and has non-creative effort.”

Slogans come and go. Some will resonate and be successful, some will be remembered and some will be forgettable or worse, bashed. We asked some people about their comments on how to make the Philippines more attractive to foreign tourists. Here they are:

Suzette Defensor, Creative Director and Consultant for Expat Magazine: “Different tourists, different strokes. Backpapckers and beachbuds are ok with reasonably equipped lodgings. Upscale tourists are more demanding and exacting. The latter have purchasing power, including Chinese and Japanese, who come here for the casinos and golf. A tagline is just a tagline, DOT can splurge on roadshows but effect will not be significant if the basics are not in place. Peace and order, Internet, transportation problems should be addressed. We need to focus and own a specific
advertising proposition, “yung atin lang talaga, like Singapore girl of the airline, which became a symbol of the country. Bring back Manila International Airport. The world knows Manila. Sell the place, not a person the world is not familiar with.

Adrian Williams, Filipino-British entrepreneur: “Our infrastructure is not great. Efficiency and clarity needs to be improved to help people get around easily. We need to agree on and implement a global set of Filipino brand principles. We don't have one. We have everything China, Thailand, Japan have, yet we Americanize everything.”

Toti Soliongco, Veteran advertising man, Professor of Advertising at University of Asia-Pacific: “But for the attraction part, in a way, we are coming from a negative space- brought about by negative reports around the world about the issue of extra judicial killings, and all. This is something that may have to be neutralized. Take the conversation away from our political figures. That's why I think it needs to go back on a "charm offensive"- highlight the Filipino's natural asset, and that is hospitality.

Tell the world that we are sincerely desiring their presence. Pinoys are known as good people, people who care a lot, (that's why domestic helpers all over the world are known as indispensable members of their households). Bring the communication back to honest to goodness, sincere "come and visit us".

Feature our young people, young, good, people. I think we need a whole lot of "good citizenship" programs for all. Go back to reinforcing virtues and values among our people, the culture of self entitlement is such that it has affected all sectors of society. We need a strong campaign for this. It’s easier said than done. But I think people need to start seeing and believing that we have become a flawed and bad society in many aspects. We need to address this, and the private sector has to take the lead.”