Racheal Lee
Sep 3, 2013

Country branding: Malaysia's slogan not plagiarized, just too obvious

SINGAPORE - When Malaysia's tourism slogan, 'Endless possibilities', was allegedly plagiarised by Israel recently, the incident said far more about the lack of imagination applied to country branding than it did about ethical failures.

Country branding: Malaysia's slogan not plagiarized, just too obvious

Malaysia's ruling political party claimed that its latest global nation-branding concept ‘Endless possibilties’ had been copied by Israel, which unveiled a similar tagline four months after Malaysia launched its in January. Later it came to light that Mongolia also used the same phrase to promote itself more than a year ago.

Malaysia is hardly alone in choosing a popular phrase. “Incidentally at least six nations claim to be ‘The heart of Europe’, and many more all over the world offer themselves up as ‘The Land of Contrasts’,” Wally Olins, chairman at Saffron Brand Consultants, told Campaign Asia-Pacific.

Country branding should be so much more than just a campaign and a slogan. It should be about the core idea of the nation and expressing it through everything the nation does, Olins said.

“Look at Italy––Armani, Prada, Ferrari, Venice, Florence, Verdi, Reno Piano the architect and even Berlusconi––none of that needs a slogan,” he said. “It is just Italy with all its strengths and weaknesses.”

Three drivers––purpose, values and innovation––characterise all brands, including country brands, according to Joseph Baladi, head of consulting at Leo Burnett Institute of Behaviour.

“The first two define why a brand exists and what it believes in,” he said. “The last demonstrates its ability to recognise the changing world around itself and respond in a manner that reinforces not only its core identity but its ongoing relevance.”

Baladi added that brand Malaysia will only resonate more with the people, be it Malaysians or outsiders, when its declared purpose is seen to be aligned with what these people perceive the country actually and consistently does.

“Nothing magical or new about the equation: matching words with deeds,” he added. “The real value in ‘endless possibilities’ would lie in the brand’s ability to reflect this in both literal and multi-dimensional ways. If this was the case, people would more likely relate and engage than debate and argue.”

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