White Paper on Branding the Philippines: Championing the Filipino

This is the working draft of a white paper resulting from a recently held Forum on Branding the Philippines led by EON The Stakeholders Relations Firm and ECCP and attended by representatives from Management Association of the Philippines (MAP), Makati Business Club (MBC), -Australia-New Zealand Chamber of Commerce (ANZCHAM), American Chamber of Commerce (AMCHAM) ECCP, Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Industries of the Philippines ( JCCIP), Canadian Chamber of Commerce (CANCHAM), Business Processing Association of the Philippines (BPAP), -Sycip, Gorres and Velayo Accounting Firm (SGV), and the Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office.

After consolidating the views and insights from the various stakeholder groups for consultation, the current working draft will be finalized for a presentation to President Aquino by February.

Tell us what you think about the White Paper Branding the Philippines: Championing the Filipino. Post your comments below or share it on your blog. The contents of the white paper is originally posted at the EON website . You may also submit your comments directly to EON.

Here is the PDF file . Below it is the text version.

Branding the Philippines- Championing the Filipino

Here is the text version if you can’t view it:

Branding the Philippines:
Championing the Filipino

A White Paper prepared by EON Inc.
January 2011
[Working Draft]


Branding the Philippines: Championing the Filipino is a White Paper developed by EON as part of its advocacy to create a positive and compelling brand for the country. EON believes there is no other time than today to brand the Philippines. In light of the optimism that every new beginning brings – a relatively new administration, as well as the support expressed by several stakeholders—EON is hopeful the advocacy can soon be presented to the Office of the President, for approval and appropriate action.

The Philippines: Realities and perceptions

The Philippines suffers from negative perception on the global stage. Its image as a corrupt, uncompetitive, disorderly, and unsafe third world country remains. It ranks poorly in global ratings, barely inching its way up the score ladder every year, if not declining. The country’s place in the world continues to be unfounded. Yet, since decades ago, the Philippines’ vast potentials and the wonderful things it offers are no secrets.

It is a land blessed with rich natural resources. Each of its 7,100 islands is a captivating destination. Its colorful history and diverse culture fascinate many.

It is home to world-class talents like Manny Pacquiao, Charice Pempengco, renowned marine biologist Lourdes Cruz, among others. Its brilliant and diligent workforce impresses businessmen and investors. Its sincerity and cheerfulness inspire people of other nations.

It is ironic that despite this, the country still falls behind most of its Asian neighbors. People’s amazing encounters with the country and its people ripple but create no strong impact. World views about the Philippines linger in a negative light. The positive aspects of the Philippines and perceptions of it are sadly unaligned.

The huge gap is a vacuum created by several factors, critical of which is the Philippines’ lack of one, singular, powerful identity as a nation. Outsiders have no single thing to connect to their positive experiences of the Philippines. Their memories, and the sights, sounds, feelings, scents, tastes of the Philippines are like thin fibers unwoven. On its own, each is weak and easily diluted. Unless these are woven into a common shape, like rose petals tied by a core, it creates no distinctive picture or image.

Need for a Philippine country brand

As the world becomes more competitive, people, organizations, companies, and countries become more interconnected than ever. Economies battle to gain a bigger share of investments, tourism, consumers, trade, and power. A country cannot leave its reputation to chance. It must endeavor to develop itself into a country brand. Because when all else is equal, a strong country brand makes the difference.

The Philippines must be able to identify its key competitive advantage and leverage on it. What differentiates it from the rest of the world? How does it want to be known? What does it hope to be associated with? What would make its endeavors recognizable and appreciated?

The answer to these is a positive and compelling brand image for the Philippines, a country brand that works like a magnet which aligns various messages that every city or region sends out into the world (Simon Anholt, 2005). The key is coherence. Messages have to be inter-related, aligned and supportive of the mother brand.

Unfortunately, some recent initiatives of the Philippines in promoting itself for investments or tourism have failed to recognize the critical need for alignment and consistency. Observers remarked how members of Philippine contingent during international conventions or exhibits develop information materials and design booths as if they are from separate countries. At home, no common design element and message is present in government agency websites or in the multitude of brochures were printed about the Philippines.

While some Philippine promotional efforts resulted in isolated successes, it has not generated a substantial and holistic impact given its sector-independent approach. Tourism stakeholders and industry leaders come up with their own colorful logos and promotional taglines. Exporters strategize their sales roadshows without coordinating with trade and investment boards. There has been no attempt to consolidate the initiatives, or at the very least, align each sector’s key messages.

Branding is about everything and anything that can be associated with the country. It is not about tourism alone, nor is it just about attracting investors. It is not about a witty tagline or a creatively designed logo. It should go beyond promotion, advertising, marketing or public relations.

In branding a country, one should look at various components including tourism, quality of people’s life, exports and products, foreign policy, investment, and arts and heritage. The fusion of this is what makes the country brand – its national identity and competitive advantage. It is only when these are all considered that the real country branding happens.

The benefits of country branding

Marketing gurus have underscored the impact of a country’s image on almost everything that it does and it is associated with. When positive, it adds value to local products and services. Agricultural products can command greater prices abroad while iconic crafts can gain preference over premium brands in the markets.

Human resources also benefit. According to Henry Schumacher, executive director of European Chamber of Commerce in the Philippines (ECCP), “country branding will help earn recognition for qualified Filipino professionals and workers.” Filipinos working overseas can have better pay and demand better working terms and conditions. When sustained, a strong brand can also help retain qualified manpower or attract those abroad to come back home.

Branding accelerates growth in key industries like tourism. Small island nation Mauritius, which topped the list of Futurebrand’s Top 25 Country Brands for Tourism, successfully leveraged on its beautiful beaches and world-class resorts and accommodations, resulting in increased tourist visits and positive publicity as a premium destination for honeymooners.

Branding encourages local and foreign investments. Confidence in the business environment will yield an increase in resources allocated in key industries such as business process outsourcing (BPOs), mining, agribusiness, creative industries, infrastructure, and manufacturing.

A strong brand improves the country’s credibility, stimulating international/ regional partnerships. It fosters better performance and stronger competitive spirit. In times of crisis, it can act as a reputational shield. The Philippines, for lack of a strong country brand, suffered tremendously in local and international stages as a result of the tragic Hong Kong tourist bus siege in Manila in 2010.

Beyond rising in competitive ladders, a strongly-branded country enhances nation-building. One of the best intangible results that branding offers is that it brings pride in people’s unique identity. It gives unparalleled joy and contentment for the citizenry to talk about who they are, learn more about their heritage, and educate younger generations about it. Dr. Federico Macaranas of the Asian Institute of Management pointed out that “branding can serve as a rallying point and help focus the energies of all stakeholders towards a common goal. It serves as an anchor that pulls a nation together and for us Filipinos to see more of the best in us.”

The country branding process

The array of components that define a country brand requires not just consistency and coherence in the branding process but also patience and persistence. It is not an initiative that could spell out major results overnight. Brand messages seep slowly, subconsciously, into the minds and hearts of target audiences. It needs continuous improvement and feedback given the ever-changing global landscape in which the audiences are part of.

Country branding is a strategic process with six important steps.

1. Research. Data, information, and insights on the current perception on the Philippines, the quality of relationship of different markets and stakeholders towards the country, and relevant initiatives of other markets have to be identified and studied.
2. Positioning. Identify the core identity of the Philippines and its competitive advantage.
3. Validation. Conduct research and consultations to see if the positioning resonates with key stakeholders among various sectors.
4. Planning. Develop a national brand road map that will enumerate the specific strategies, policies, plans, and tactics to develop, promote, and nurture a strong country brand. An integration framework that will glue all country initiatives towards the brand has to be agreed upon and institutionalized.
5. Activation. Roll-out/ implement the national brand road map.
6. Monitoring. Check if the key performance indicators and key targets are met. Evaluate the initiative and gather feedback for improvement.

Filipinos: The country brand. The Philippines’ competitive advantage.

Many European countries’ brands center on a highly competitive industry or astonishing architecture and world-renowned arts. Egypt positioned itself as the country where civilization started. Japan is proud to carry leading brands in electronics while New Zealand has leveraged on the ‘pureness’ of its resources.

What about the Philippines? Would its long stretch of white sand beaches and colorful marine resources differentiate it from others? How about its harvest – mangoes, coffee, or bananas? Has it established world-class consumer brands?

In determining the country’s competitive advantage, Filipinos do not need to look too far. Filipinos are the brand. The Filipino is the Philippines’ best asset which can compete with any value proposition of other countries.

Time has perfectly molded Filipinos. From the pre-colonization period until the post World War II era, Filipinos have proven their courage, resilience, faith and revolutionary character. Filipinos have shown the world the kind of people they are when they peacefully and successful ly staged People Power in EDSA. This also happens when they bear the hardships of working in foreign lands for the sake of their family, or when they outshine others in competitions be it in sports, arts, music, science, or even beauty pageants.

Today, Filipinos captivate the world through the simplest things that they do. Peoples of other nations are amazed at how Filipinos can sincerely care for strangers in UK hospitals, professionally take the calls of agitated consumers, smile and welcome tourists with all their hearts, laugh and beam with hope even during the most difficult times, or share even the simplest triumphs with their families and friends.

Filipinos and the 4Cs

The Filipinos’ characteristics can be summarized into the fours Cs, which every Juan Dela Cruz can identify himself with.

• Filipinos are caring. Medical professionals, wherever they are in the world—teachers in remote public schools, public servants, advocates from NGOs, and every family member—mirror the caring qualities of Filipinos. They care for their parents, siblings, relatives, friends, colleagues, neighbors, communities and sometimes, even strangers. They empathize with others and sincerely help in any way they can.

• Filipinos are creative. Graphics and 3D creations of animators, masterpieces of Filipino artists, innovative ideas of Filipino scientists, ingenious products, Philippine films and literature – these are some of the many proof points of Filipino creativity.

• Filipinos are collaborative. Events and incidents have shown how collaborative Filipinos are. At the height of the tragic Ondoy , the world saw how Filipinos and communities came together to help one another. Amidst challenges during economic crises, stakeholders of affected industries worked together and triumphed. And the miracle of people power led to democratic reforms in the Philippines.

• Filipinos are colorful. No day in the Philippines is dull and boring. There is color in every endeavor, task, or celebrations. It is made exciting by the country’s rich biodiversity, indigenous products, flavorful cuisines and wealth of stories. Colors of joy and cheer adorn Filipino festivals and traditions. There’s also life and color in every parties, sports, or youth activities.

The Filipino essence

How does one position the Philippines? What can the country brand promise?

To understand a country brand is to know its culture – the country’s true spirit. For the Philippines, it means a deeper understanding of the Filipino 4Cs. Why are they caring, creative, collaborative and colorful? It requires a closer look of how Filipinos live. It means dissecting the Filipinos from within so one can see the truest sense of the Filipino identity.

Filipinos are relationship-oriented.

Reflecting on Filipino core values utang na loob (returning a favor to show deep gratitude) pakikipagkapwa-tao (treating and respecting others as persons), pagmamalasakit, (genuine stewardship), and pakikipagbayanihan (collective effort of everyone to contribute), one realizes the Filipino DNA.

For Filipinos, their essence is the kind of relationships they have. They live not for themselves but for others. They are relationship-oriented – whether the kinship is borne out of blood, law, or friendship. They value relations, no matter how far-off it may be (i.e., we’re relatives since he is the son of my father’s cousin; they are kababayans because one is from Sorsogon while the other hails from Camarines Norte; she’s my kinakapatid, we are like sisters).

Filipinos values home.

Filipinos’ essence is about having a home. The saying “there’s no place like home” has never been truer for them. Filipino diaspora shows how Filipinos, no matter how successful they are abroad, would always long to retire in their homeland. While Filipino immigrants are naturally adaptable, easily assimilating themselves to the ways of their receiving countries, they never fail to connect with their roots. Successes outside the Philippines are not worthwhile if these are not shared with and appreciated at home.

Filipino diaspora also reveals how the definition of “home” has evolved. Home for Filipinos is not confined to a house in the Philippines. Beyond being a physical structure, a home for Filipinos is that which makes them connect to their roots. A home is where they feel the love of families. A home is where their heart is.

Filipinos are celebratory.

Filipinos love gatherings, socials, festivals, events. They find reason to celebrate small or big successes. They find time to sit down with friends and families to mark special milestones in life. It is through these celebrations that they are able to nurture their relationships and feel the goodness of “home.”


Filipinos as brand ambassadors

Unlike a product or an organization, the Philippines is not owned by a single person or a group of investors. It is a country of more than 90 million Filipinos. Thus, every Filipino, whether in or outside the Philippines, has a stake in the brand. Each has a responsibility towards it. This makes branding participatory, consultative, and inclusive.

Key members of the society must partner and work together in developing the brand that they desire for the Philippines. Engaging representatives from the government, private sector, and civil society, including the media, in the branding process cannot be overemphasized. Keith Dinnie (Nation Branding) remarked “without engagement, no basis exists for country branding and no resonance for the brand throughout the wider society.”

Branding must start from within. For it to succeed, internal stakeholders must agree on and support it. It should resonate within the heart of every Filipino and ignite a deep sense of pride in their country. Each one must be convinced of the messages espoused by the brand that they would say, act and live it. A substantial number of the population, if not everyone, must get behind the brand and mirror it in their daily dealings.

Filipino diaspora makes a huge difference in building the Philippines’ country-brand. No one can refute the significant impact of transforming each of the nearly 10 million Filipinos in more than 180 countries worldwide as ambassadors of their own country. Beyond advertising and marketing, Filipino brand ambassadors can be the country’s most valuable tool in the branding endeavor.

Policy Recommendations

1. The Philippine government must establish a body under the Office of the President whose mandate is to establish a compelling Philippine brand that will effectively ignite pride among Filipinos and position the country’s investment and tourism potentials, export capabilities, credit worthiness, and international diplomacy and relations, and to secure funds for the effort.

2. The presidential body will be responsible for laying out a strategy in branding the Philippines. The strategy will involve the following components:

a. Developing the Philippine brand (and sub-brands);
b. Building the organizational structure that will facilitate, consolidate and coordinate public messages and all the efforts of the public and private sectors, including the civil society, in promoting the Philippines;
c. Formulating the national brand road map; and
d. Monitoring, auditing, and reviewing progress in this effort.

3. The body will be established as a tripartite collaboration that is inclusive in approach to attain optimal advantage. It will be headed by the Secretary for Communications (Messaging) with membership on the government side from the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), Department of Tourism (DOT), Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), and other agencies upon determination of the Communications Secretary. The private sector and civil society will participate in the presidential body through the leadership of selected industry and society groups and organizations, with the approval of the Communications Secretary.

4. The presidential body will be established through an Executive Order to be funded by the Office of the President.