Thursday, July 18, 2013

Europe: a beautiful brand

I am very proud of being a European. I had countless arguments with British friends that could not imagine considering themselves European before British (or actually English, Scottish, Welsh but that is a different story). I do (certainly before British, way, way before!).

There must be something of a European identity since I feel it, and I am sure I am not alone. It's not easy to explain; I guess it's not the same for everyone and I think one feels it more on some occasions than others. But it's there. This video could just be one possible way to look at it, but certainly it shows that brand "Europe" can be very attractive indeed.

Whenever you are ready: more than one meaning in this title.


Monday, July 15, 2013

Lower roaming charges? Don't thank the Commission!

Will go back to country branding soon, but now I need to talk about something that really pissed me off.

As well reported by the EU media - and by some European broadsheets - roaming charges (and especially the ones for data download) have gone down, again, the 1st of July; this is because the European Commission has reviewed once again the rules about European mobile charges and has achieved further price reductions. Data roaming is now 91% (yes 91%!) cheaper than it was five years ago.

You should be happy, not pissed off, you will say! Yes, I am super happy about the reduction. I always found roaming charges in Europe quite ludicrous. What I am really NOT happy about is the fact that the way most people heard about this news across Europe is through commercials of their mobile company announcing some incredibly generous new tariffs that would allow everyone to roam cheaply in the old continent. AAAAHH! Most companies have been opposing and lobbying against changes in roaming tariffs for years! They have lost their battle and now.....what do they do? They take all the credit!  Mind you, of course they would do that! They are smart!

Here are just a couple of ads - not really edifying - to show you what I mean:

But where is the big across-Europe campaign that says that it was actually the EU that forced them to do so? One of the few understandable and incredibly appreciated new pieces of legislation; a rare piece of good news; one that should have been used as an example of what the EU does for its citizens; certainly one which was worth investing or re-directing some money to communicate, maybe producing an ad that could set the record straight; but no, instead... it's down to mobile companies!! Give me a break! Even excluding the big spender idea of making a TV ad, how about the online presence? There are some news reports, documents, a press release and yes, a couple of videos.

 A weird video of a cartoon strip and a grandmother (453 views):

And the unmissable commissioner (I guess the slight resemblance to the grandmother of the previous video is purely coincidental!) in one of her many talk to camera interviews – in fact the video is one year old, after the first reductions - (1959 views):


 The impact? You be the judge.

 What a missed opportunity. Better go back to country branding!

Friday, July 12, 2013

Videos as a tool for country branding: two case studies (Belgium and .... Switzerland!)

It finally feels like summer and I will soon go off on holiday. The few posts before my departure will focus on a slightly different theme. Don't worry, it's still all about Europe, communications and videos; but the summer weather made me want to leave the European quarter of Brussels just for a while and look at...the whole of Belgium! And beyond! I want to look into European country branding! Why? Mainly because of a new video made to promote Belgium. The video, two actually, have been heavily criticised as they are considered too old fashioned, full of clichés and badly executed.

Here they are. One is aimed at potential tourists, or, as they say, at the general public:


And the other at potential business investors:


I am not sure whether the criticism was the same for both videos. I can certainly understand it for the first one. But understanding does not mean agreeing. Old fashioned? A bit maybe. Clichés? Yes for sure, but frankly this type of videos will almost inevitably contain clichés because they are trying to attract tourists - i.e. people who do not know much about Belgium. So, any surprise that all the famous sites are on show? Where should they have filmed? In Charleroi? And of course there will be chocolate, beer, frites and mussels: what else? Pizza? As for the execution, it is indeed a bit conventional (and quite long actually) but, again, you need to think at the target audience: non Belgians, and not necessarily social media, computer or animation buffs, which means a totally different group of people from the one criticising it this much. Maybe they should have chosen a different name (it is not exactly beyond expectations) and the music is pretty bad. Independent of the target.

Having said this, I really don't understand nor agree with the criticism if applied to the second video. True, it's quite straight forward but, unlike for the first one, the title is more appropriate because it told me interesting things I did not know; and I live here.

But talking more generally, are these videos effective? Is this a successful way to do country branding? What are the key ingredients? Is it necessary to stereotype? Do you need to be controversial? Remember the Danish one that was so criticised that had to be pulled? That one too played heavily on stereotypes and it went viral only because people thought it was a true story.

Can you afford in this day and age to be 'conservative' as the Belgians have done? And how would you measure success? An increase in country visits or high levels of criticism hence notoriety?

Let's look at a successful country - I guess in more ways than one. Last year, Switzerland was number one on the Country Brand Index. So, where are the effective Swiss videos? I found two that can be compared to the Belgian ones. The first is well filmed, although, as clichés goes, we are up there with the Belgians.

 But the second that looks at the business side of tourism is just so fantastically Swiss.

It's a spoof of a news coverage of an important tourism fair. The thought that not all the people interviewed probably understood they were being made fun of, cracks me up. So does the fact that they had to write 'funny' above the title on the video page of the Swiss tourism website, just in case someone took it seriously and thought they were being slightly unprofessional, to say the least. Unprofessional in Switzerland? NEVER!

But it's more than 9 minutes long  and I am afraid it's too much. Ironically both videos are trying to be funny which is not necessarily what you would expect or associated with the Swiss. So, I guess they should be praised for it. But does it work?

My feeling is that Switzerland is number one because it is Switzerland, not because of its more or less successful attempts at being funny. What do you think?

And this only got me started on country branding!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Welcome Croatia and the missing commissioner..

I am not particularly proud of it, but will confess nonetheless.

I like the simple and rather cheesy video that welcomes Croatia in the European Union.

I said it.

What else can I add? I am a total sucker for videos of people saying the same thing in different languages. Why? I guess it's Jeux Sans Frontières nostalgia (was it 'Games without Borders' or 'It's a Knockout' in English?). Or my deeply rooted internationalism; or perhaps it's just that I am still moved at the thought of Europeans getting together and speaking as 'one voice' (or actually 'many voices but the same two words'). Actually the Happy Commission Family is not complete. Someone is missing.  

Start counting:

What do you think: too busy to bother or still implementing the self-boycott strategy?