A few weeks ago, if you asked me to pinpoint the heart of Asia, I would probably tell you it is either Hong Kong or Singapore, given their economic importance to the region and convenient geographic locations. But now, a new campaign launched last month by the Taiwan Tourism Board is asking me to re-consider my answer. After all, the campaign’s theme, “Taiwan, the Heart of Asia” would have the world believe something else in 2011.
In full disclosure, I am Taiwanese. So you might think I would know why Taiwan is the heart of Asia. Unfortunately, you’ll have to excuse me, because I am just as clueless as you—and the campaign does not really tell me much about it, either.
The newly unveiled tourism campaign features a 30-second animation, dubbed with light-hearted music and no lyrics or voice-over. While the creative approach cuts through the media clutter, and is very different from those cheesy tourism ads full of beautiful yet undifferentiated scenes, it fails to articulate why Taiwan is now the new heart of Asia. Any good brand, tourism or otherwise, needs to give audiences a reason to believe, especially in today’s world, where credibility is the ultimate commodity.
I must point out that the campaign is somewhat geared to western travelers. I ran the brand idea by my friends around the world, and unsurprisingly, most of my Asian friends, including those who were Taiwanese, tend to think it is a bit of a stretch for Taiwan to say it is the heart of Asia, while Westerners seem more open to it.
For those who do know the region, the common belief is that Taiwan lacks the legitimacy to make this claim—not to mention the fact that some of Taiwan’s neighbor countries also make an effort to obtain the same position in the region (for example, the Philippines). In the end, the campaign underestimates the sophistication of travelers, who expect to understand the uniqueness of Taiwan and are looking for a good explanation as to why they should visit the island.
Successful tourism branding is really about bringing out the most unique travel experience a destination has to offer. As a person who is from Taiwan, I sincerely hope Taiwan will become the heart of Asia. But before it comes true, the Taiwan Tourism Bureau needs to work harder to show the world the real charm of “Ilha Formosa*.”
(*The historical name for Taiwan)