Maldives considering reverting to “sunny side of life” branding

The Tourism Ministry has begun discussing whether to change the  recently branded ‘Maldives-Always Natural‘ slogan back to the previously slogan, ‘The sunny side of life’.

The Maldives Marketing and PR Corporation (MMPRC) re-branded the 11 year-old slogan with a US$100,000 design by Thailand-based global tourism consultancy QUO Keen in October 2011, which was met with mixed reviews from the industry and the public.

Toursim Minister Ahmed Adheeb has commenced discussions with industry representatives to decide on the change, according to local news paper Haveeru.

“Even yesterday we had discussions with various persons in the industry. Most were of the view to change it (the slogan and logo). That is why we are going to discuss this further today,” Adheeb was quoted as saying.

The idea of moving back to the old brand has been put forward as it had been used for a long time and had become familiar: “It would be easier to promote a slogan and logo familiar to a lot of people. That is the why we are determining the view of relevant people from the industry,” Adheeb said.

The new branding, including the slogan and a fingerprint logo consisting of islands, corals, turtles, sharks and herons that transitions from blue to green, was met with criticisms with some people drawing comparisons to the logo of Washington-based environmental advocacy group, Ocean Conservancy.

Speaking to Minivan News, Maldives Association of Travel Agents and Tour Operators (MATATO) Maleeh Jamal welcomed the talks on the reinstatement of old logo.

“We believe it is best for the destination to reinstate the sunny side of life logo,” Jamal observed.

He said that while the organisation was never against the rebranding, they had concerns over  whether it was the right time to rebrand,  whether enough research was done, or whether the ample budget required for a worldwide rebranding campaign was available. “These basic questions were not answered,” Jamal claimed.

“We noticed that the whole process was not carried out very well. Then we found out that the tourism marketing budget for this year was extremely small for running a new rebranding campaign worldwide,” he continued,“so I hope the change will happen because we need to restore the demand and maintain the occupancy and existing level of arrivals.”

Meanwhile, Simon Hawkins, who headed the 16 month rebranding process as the former Managing Director at the MMPRC, dismissed the move as “a rejection that spits on a democratic, multi-party decision” by committee compromising high stakeholders, including MATATO and Maldives Association of Tourism Industries (MATI).

“We followed a 16 month inclusive process with a cross section of all stake holders, including MATATO and MATI, and we also took the general public view also taken into consideration,” Hawkins observed.

“The reason it took over a year and half to rebrand was because the [former] President want the process to be democratic,” Hawkins added. “But today we are seeing the decisions changed.”

When asked whether the reinstatement of the old logo affect the toursim industry, Hawkins responded: “Slogans do not break or make an industry. This is a highly image sensitive business. Imagine a hotel where the room has not been changed for 12 years. I agree, ‘sunny side of life’ did well in its day. But we needed to change it for today’s market.”


Maldives rebranded as ‘always natural’

The Maldives has been officially rebranded with a new marketing slogan, ‘always natural’, and a fingerprint logo consisting of islands, corals, turtles, sharks and herons that transitions from blue to green.

The objective, said CEO David Keen of agency Quo, was to create a brand “in which Maldivians around the world can be proud.”

Speaking at the unveiling of the rebranding at the The Maldives Marketing and PR Corporation (MMPRC) today, Keen said the brand “should talk to the Maldivian people, about industry, sustainability and environmental challenges and successes the Maldives has had.”

“The slogan ‘always natural’ emphasises the huge influence the natural world has on the Maldives,” Keen added.

The new logo and slogan replace the Maldives’ existing 11 year-old branding, ‘The Sunny Side of Life’.

“The old tag line was more targeted towards the tourism industry,” said State Minister for Tourism, Thoyyib Mohamed Waheed, explaining that the new branding broadened the brand to attract investment in industries such as energy and fisheries.

The former national branding targeted tourism

“The last slogan was great for the European market,” added Managing Director of the MMPRC, Simon Hawkins, as visitors from countries such as the UK considered the sun a key drawcard. “But the number one market is now the Chinese, who don’t like the sun [as much]. We have to adapt to the market.”

Keen noted that the broader national branding would allow cross-marketing opportunities, such as stamping the logo on Maldivian products such as tins of tuna.

“A can of Maldivian tuna sold in Marks&Spencer or Waitrose is reaching exactly the market we need to reach for tourism,” added Hawkins.

The new branding was approved by the Cabinet today.

The Tourism Ministry has meanwhile published figures revealing an almost 15 percent increase in tourist arrivals in September 2011, compared to the previous year, and a 17.7 percent increase in arrivals for the first nine months of the year.

Tourist arrivals from traditional European tourism markets for the Maldives dropped in September, including the UK (10.3 percent) and Italty (16.6 percent). Chinese arrivals meanwhile increase 54 percent.

Visitors stayed an average seven nights in the country’s 24,480 beds, while the average occupancy rate was 71.5 percent across the country.