July 14, 2007

Brands Across The Water

In a recent Business Common Sense, Denny Hatch suggests that tourist boards should partner with overseas museums to promote tourism to their country. He thinks they should choose museums exhibiting related art or artifacts on the basis that "People that go to museums love art, have spare time and often plenty of spare cash. Many of them travel incessantly and are constantly on the prowl for ideas of new places to visit."

This is something I saw our own development agencies use to great effect in the '80's and '90's when Ireland was an economic backwater struggling to raise its profile. I'm not sure whether it was policy or not as arrangements seemed quite informal but it wasn't uncommon at the time to attend an Irish trade or enterprise event that had more going on from a cultural point of view than any other. Against a backdrop of Irish nostalgia for the 'old country', those first handshakes and 'what-are-you-havings?' set the scene for much of what followed.

Mind you, that same informality played sweetly to the brand Ireland values that our salesmen were plugging across the world. Once the link had been made, they could get down to the horse-trading of inward investment, joint venture or whatever.

I believe we often underestimate the social side of a brand when we go to market and I see those same salesmen as bold pioneers who played a much greater part in our economic success than we give them credit for. I think there's a lesson there for smaller brands who want to extend into new territories. A social route (which often crosses nicely with a sporting or cultural exchange) allows us to make much greater inroads than a more direct approach.

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