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romania-brand

The new tourism brand of Romania has recently been launched in Shanghai. A sort of a scandal burst out a little before the actual launch, when bloggers and journalists started assuming the leaf symbol in the logo had been stolen. It was not stolen, but more likely bought from Shutterstock or a similar service.

Yes, my friends, the Spanish THR company used a stock image to create the touristic logo of a country or were inspired by it, because the chances of designers having separate ideas and reaching the same outcome without seeing each other’s work are almost zero.  The design claims the resemblance was accidental, as a child accidentally resembles a neighbor when the official father is unable to procreate.

Analysing the new logo and tagline “explore the Carpathian garden”, I have my objections. Yes, the Romanian mountains are a great asset and quite the resource for touristic development. But I have to agree with others, we’re not talking about the Alps here… Do you have any idea how many people would think “oh, that’s the mountains, right?” when hearing “Carpathian garden”? Yes, the focus on something other than the Danube Delta and the Romanian seaside, which have been pushed with no results in the past, might be a good idea. A good tagline is one that people can relate to emotionally, and they cannot relate to something they do not understand.

Leaf symbols

The stock images thought to have inspired Romania’s Touristic Logo

Why did they choose the leaf (granted, also used by two other companies…)? The leaf is an extremely powerful symbol in Romanian culture and folklore. Yes, it says almost nothing to other nations which we strive to attract and get to visit our natural treasures. But, it actually does mean something: leafs and the shade of green in the logo say eco. Eco-tourism if you’d like. Regretfully most accommodation options in the Carpathians are not green. Say agro-tourism, that might work better. Other than that, the logo makes an environmentally friendly claim the products behind it cannot fulfill.

Another huge aspect of the scandal was the price – THR is supposedly getting 900 000 Euros to develop Romania’s tourism brand strategy. There were many voices saying paying that much for a copied logo and weak tagline is too much. Most of them overlook that a brand and a brand strategy mean more than a logo and its tagline. A brand strategy involves aspects such as how and where to use the logo, how to communicate the message, which channels to reach, etc.

Paying a little under 1 million Euros for an effective brand strategy is not that much! The visual part we have been introduced to is just the beginning, and I agree it is not a promising one. Let’s wait and see what the actual strategy developed by THR implies before we start throwing too many stones.

The truth of the matter is the logo, the tagline, the strategy, these are not Romania’s biggest problem. The problem is not how, but what they promote through this brand. I for one believe the one million Euros is wasted anyway. All that money was better invested in actual touristic development. Better hotels, better services, and most of all, a way better infrastructure.

Yes, these are European Union funds dedicated to tourism branding and can’t be used for any other purpose. But, did we need to spend it now when we have bigger problems to worry about? Our mountain vacation packages are sometimes more expensive than those offered in Austria, Bulgaria and other nearby countries. Our seaside is a bad joke compared to Greece, Croatia or Turkey. It takes longer to get from Bucharest to the Hungarian border than it takes to cross Hungary and make it to Vienna (the capital of Austria).

There are many hidden inns and bed-and-breakfasts that people would kill to spend time in, but no one knows about them. There are historic, architectural, cultural landmarks that don’t even have a proper English description thrown on some random regional touristic website. We do have some pretty good travel blogs though, most of them in Romanian.

Bucharest, the capital city of Romania, will finally have ONE tourist information center. Strategically located downtown, with no counterpart at the airport…

Whether  the new logo and brand strategy are good enough for what money Romania has paid does not matter in the end. The entire campaign is bound to fail because the products and services supporting it are still missing from the picture. It’s truly a shame because the beauty, the hot spots, the breathtaking views are there.

Romania could have such flourishing tourism it would make it a top European destination! But unless you have a private helicopter, getting there is hell: stressful, time-consuming, too much for most people. A logo and some PR twist is not going to garner return visits or word of mouth advertising – at least not without roads to get to Eden.

Roman Temkin is a NYC based Real Estate developer and entrepreneur. Temkin is also a huge sports fan; he enjoys baseball and football.

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