For all intents and purposes of bias, I like the idea of having an ad man as the Tourism Secretary. In Philippine advertising circles, no one has credentials like Ramon Jimenez. True to form, Mon Jimenez says that the Philippines should be as easy to sell as Chickenjoy. But before this is construed as a hectoring tirade against the idea of selling (on social media), this is more of an insighting exercise/mindfuck on how to sell.
I like – no, love – Chickenjoy. Yet my love for Chickenjoy is not born completely from advertising and marketing (and um-ee-oooh-ah-ah jingles, or commercials featuring Aga Muhlach). Someone out there took the time to develop the best damn fried chicken in this side of the globe. I believe that the success of Chickenjoy is not solely the doing of advertising, but the doing of product development. I don’t know if they have chicken-testing laboratories at Jollibee Foods Corporation to scientifically determine “Crispylicious” and “Juicylicious,” but they succeeded because of damn good fried chicken.
I’m sure that if you got every Filipino on the Internet to Tweet about the good stuff the Philippines has to offer once every hour, you would be trending enough to attract tourists. However, it cannot end there. People may be aware, but they won’t be coming back for the lack of clean comfort rooms in a beach, or lousy service in restaurants, or an aging airpor,t or roads impossible to drive in. Or scenes of poverty and daily news items on corrupt officials. Tourism – and Chickenjoy – doesn’t succeed off the consequences of advertising alone. Tourism – like Chickenjoy – is also a business model.
For Philippine tourism to succeed, it needs a good business model. Investing in the Philippines as a business means to improve the tourism infrastructure: paving the roads, making the parks look pretty, and providing adequate salaries for people to actually be seen with smiles on their faces when they go about and around the Philippines. In short, tourism cannot be divorced from the essentials of good governance and social justice. We may have nice beaches and awesome natural wonders, but if you surround these areas with rural poverty and the lack of public works, you’ll never get people in those places.
Advertising is just one part of the equation. Truth in advertising is one thing, but experience is another. Chickenjoy is not fondly remembered, craved for, and lusted upon (okay…) because of the catchy commercials and the cute fat bee that is the mascot of the company, but because it’s damn good fried chicken. They call it “Crispylicious” because it is. They call it “Juicylicious” because it is. And it helps that every street corner in the Philippines where you can build a Jollibee has a Jollibee.
We all know how the previous DOT management was lynched over a bad slogan, but again, it can’t end in slogans. If every Filipino is to be a tour guide he or she must have the right appreciation of history and national identity, which the Department of Education is tasked with. If every Filipino is encouraged to explore the country, he or she must have the right roads and planes and boats to get there, which is the task of the Department of Public Works and Highways, the Department of Transportation and Communication, and so on. The list goes on for everything remotely related to the tourist experience: the wages needed to have money to go on vacation, the cleanliness of vacation venues, and even symbols of national pride. For the DOT to become a good ambassador, it has to have a great relationship with every other branch of government.
Which brings me to the crux of the matter: no amount of great, well-financed advertising will be able to sell ill-conceived products and services that are not maintained well. Advertising cannot be divorced from other realities of marketing: everything from conceptualization to product development to marketing to customer satisfaction has a direct effect on whatever consequences or intentions the ad may have in the end. For the Philippines to be awesome, it has to be awesome in every sense of the word. Which means that the good experience of tourism is not the sole and total responsibility of the DOT on the basis of catchy slogans, but everyone from the local government and even the national government.
If anything I believe that the DOT should not be shoehorned into the role of the national slogan board, but the many departments and agencies that keep this country running should help it live up to whatever plans Mon Jimenez and Co. may have for Philippine tourism in general. Instead of an effort of a department in a particular silo, it is the effort of everyone that has something to do with it.
In a way, that’s how you can sell Philippines like Chickenjoy.