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Thailand Needs to Get its Brand Image Right

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Does Thailand's brand, "Amazing Thailand" still cut it in the international marketplace? David Keen, CEO of KEEN, a Bangkok-based global branding agency, told travel industry leaders that "Amazing Thailand", first announced in 1997, needs to change.

Addressing the PATA Thailand Chapter AGM last week in Bangkok, he cited dynamic campaigns such as "Inspired by Iceland", "Incredible India", "100% Pure New Zealand", "I Love NY", "Egypt Where It All Begins", and Queensland's "Island Caretaker -- Best Job in the World" as brilliant branding campaigns.

"Amazing Thailand has been eclipsed and is now out of date compared to other destination brands that are changing all the time," said Keen. "The current 'Amazing' campaign doesn't reflect the future of Thailand. It is also driving [tourism] prices down. 'Amazing' is now a misunderstood brand in the international market."

Keen told the PATA Thailand Chapter that Thailand has to face up to the challenge. "The branding of Thailand and Thai institutions should be done in Thailand. It should be done with multi-dimensional thought and the interests of the Thai people at heart," he said.

The CEO of KEEN, which has 90 staff at its Bangkok head office, told the audience: "We have a responsibility to define ourselves with truth. We cannot let people misconstrue our country, our people and values."

Commenting on the presentation, PATA Thailand Chapter Chairman, Mr Bert van Walbeek, said, "Inspirational branding is of paramount importance for a country's success in tourism and business. Thailand needs to be at the forefront of people's minds in a positive way. We can't rest on past triumphs."

Keen told the audience that a successful brand encapsulates the soul, spirit and aspirations of a people as well as vital aspects of a country such as its attractions, charm, history, music, language and culture. "When creating a successful brand, the forces that are at stake are considerable. The aim is to get to the core and represent it truthfully," he said.

There was an additional cautionary note for Thailand, which has experienced political instability for five years. "When the quality of a brand drops, the quality of the tourists that visit your country also drops," said Keen. "It is Thailand's responsibility to uphold and keep up its brand. Otherwise it will find itself in a downward spiral."

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