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I (HEART) Brand Bangkok



QUO global founder David Keen argues for a stronger identity for Thailand’s capital city and top regional destinations

I (HEART) Brand Bangkok

After embarking on his career in London and the United States, David Keen ventured to Asia as a writer and editor, travelling widely in the region before settling in Bangkok during 1997. It was here that he founded QUO, a brand strategy and integrated communications agency. Today, the agency’s portfolio spans five continents and includes many of the world’s most venerated hotels and resorts, tourism destinations, United Nation's agencies and international organisations.

Early this year, Keen called for Thailand's private sector to create distinct regional brands. Addressing an audience of over 500 industry stakeholders at the annual Thailand Tourism Forum 2015, Keen expressed concern that regional destinations in Thailand were suffering from a lack of focused, well-defined identities.

He reasoned that by marketing an independent local brand, private operators across the country could take better ownership of their image. Failure to do so, he warned, would result in a misunderstood identity and put regional destinations at the mercy of market forces.

Living in Bangkok for 20 years, it’s fair to say Keen believes wholeheartedly in the creative independence of Thailand. He says the fact the country was never colonized means the Thai psyche is not biased or fundamentally influenced by an old occupying power.

“It might sound odd, but when you compare Thailand to so many other Asian nations you can see that the freedom of thought empowers the Thais and really drives creativity and speaks volumes to the overall power of Thailand,” he said.

Holding the stout belief that a destination without a brand has no real substance, he says the result does a disservice to the ingenuity, culture and myriad of assets that the people of that destination represent.

“If the actual region understands its assets and its power, it brings multidimensional benefits to local enterprise and to the people.”

In his opinion, New Zealand is an example of brand perception done at its best, with cities such as Wellington, Queenstown and Auckland having successfully differentiated their offerings but still working together towards the same goal.

“Whether you’re visiting from Northern Europe or the UK, there is the perception of real transparency, clarity and a warm simplicity to the NZ psyche – it’s driven into the region, its people, the food and the overall value of it. The bold simplicity to “brand Kiwi” is what makes people from far away want to go there, and this fantastic tourism industry adds amazing benefits to this country’s economy.”

And the same could be done for regional Thai markets, says Keen, providing Hua Hin, Chiang Mai and Pattaya as examples.

“Northern Thailand has its own colour and its own brand that is harnessed by the backpackers and by its geography to the raw beauty that is endemic to the region.”

Bangkok’s assets are also far beyond what’s expected and provide way more than shopping sites and entertainment; with great food, people, a thriving film industry, parks and museums on offer.

In fact, Bangkok was recently named as one of the top ten cities in the world for visitors by travel publication Travel + Leisure. Bangkok took the sixth spot overall and third in Asia in a list that included some of the world’s most culturally rich destinations.

The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) has long promoted Bangkok as a destination in its own right for long-haul and regional travellers seeking cultural experiences with world-class dining.

Juthaporn Rerngronasa, TAT acting governor and deputy governor for international marketing (Europe, Africa, Middle East and Americas) said: “Because Bangkok keeps winning such accolades year after year and is rated so highly by tourists is testament to the excitement, warm hospitality and unique Thai experiences the city can offer. There is so much to do here, in terms of food and entertainment, not to mention some of the world’s best hotels. Bangkok is a great destination for travellers of all ages.”

This is not the first time Bangkok has been listed in the top ten cities having held the number one spot from 2010 to 2013. Its reappearance in the list shows the renewed confidence in Bangkok as a quality destination with a myriad of activities to enjoy.

According to Keen, Phuket should also be celebrated for more than just its beaches. With a burgeoning rubber plantation industry, lush jungles, hills, lively outdoors and interesting food, the diversity of the region is undervalued. Because Phuket is driven by mass tourism, it’s perceived as the “costa bravo” of Thailand, and it’s not. If it were to properly harness its brand, it could easily offset this perception.

“We have to differentiate. We need to understand our customers, their motivations and desires, and create a brand with true vision that communicates who we are and what makes us unique. We can’t leave our destiny to chance.”

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LBB Editorial, Tue, 11 Aug 2015 14:58:11 GMT