A creative conversation on the biggest story on earth between Laura Ries (pictured) - President of Atlanta-based Ries&Ries, the world's best-known marketing strategy firm, and Alan 'Brand' Williamson, Destination Brand Developer.
Alan: The Boxing Day Tsunami was a human tragedy of mind-blowing proportions. But such is the power of the human spirit, that Travel Impact Newswire reported that the Tourist Authority of Thailand (TAT) has recently announced a global marketing programme to achieve its ambitious target: 20 million visitors by 2006.
For the first time, the coastal regions of the affected countries have been indelibly linked together in the universal collective consciousness. From the Maldives, Sri Lanka and India's Tamilnadu in the West, to the coastal regions of Thailand, Indonesia and the Andaman/Nicoba islands in the East.
Q: Is there a potential virtual brand development opportunity? An Asian Mediterranean? If so, a new brand name is needed pronto!
Laura: Having been on vacation in Thailand and seen that part of the world, I know first hand the tremendous opportunity for tourism. It is beautiful. There are so many wonderful places to visit. But you are right, the area has lacked a specific brand identity. There is no real term for the area. The Asian Mediterranean correctly describes what it has the potential to be, but they need a new word.
Alan: Here are some of the more obvious words:
'Indian Ocean' has two strikes against it: (1) The name favours India and (2) The ocean covers a much wider area including Africa and Australia.
- 'Bay of Bengal' also has two strikes against it. (1) It favours the former Indian state of Bengal now split into two - West Bengal and Bangladesh and (2) The area it covers doesn't stretch enough south.
- 'South Asia' and 'Southeast Asia' are ambiguous compass names that cover more than the affected coastal regions.
- 'Baydian' (Bay/Indian) and 'Bendian' (Bengal/Indian) are coined names but are not very elegant.
- 'Baycean' or 'Baysian' (Bay/Ocean) are also coined names but sound more like an Asian destination. Witness Malaysian. Unfortunately it also sounds like the capital of China: Beijing.
Laura: None of these is quite right. The real names are too country specific and the coined names sound too contrived.
Alan: A new destination/tourism category in the making then? Let's call it 'Baysian Cruises'.
Q: But can the new 'Baysian' brand become the next Mediterranean or Caribbean?
Laura: The area has great potential, but a new branding effort would have to wait at least six months until the Tsunami PR subsides. No one is going to want to book a trip to the area at the moment. Just like when an airline has a crash. They halt all advertising. Eventually people will come back, but they need time to forget and not have the images so fresh in their memory.
I would love to hear if anyone can come up with a Mediterranean or Caribbean-like name for the area. Having a great brand name is always the first step of a successful strategy execution.
Alan: Calling all place pioneers in the blogosphere. Here's your chance to take up Laura's name challenge and create some history - or should I say geography! Here are a couple of starter ideas:
Search the historical and mythological websites relating to the Bay of Bengal and the Indian Ocean. Happy Surfing!
Hunt down local fishermen, historians and storytellers and extract their pearls of wisdom. Happy Hunting!