Monday, August 3, 2009

Branding India

I have been writing for travel websites for more than a year now and the way I see it, each city is a brand. Each country needs to be placed right, much like a product. Tourism is an industry which needs to be promoted, much like a service.

Often what bothers me is how India is misrepresented time and again. The poverty is highlighted, women are shown as helpless or oppressed and everthing somehow points at some kind of slum tourism. Any trace of luxury or well-being is strictly avoided.

In a recent World Hum article, I came upon the sentence "In all my train rides so far, she was the first Indian woman I’d seen traveling solo; the first who wasn’t dressed in traditional clothing, and herding children around the train." Well, in all my years in India I have had plenty of opportunity to see women travelling solo, mostly for work and obviously not "herding" children.

The only time I saw the true flavor of an Indian city captured was when I caught an episode of Anthony Bourdain's "No Reservations" on the Travel Channel.

I believe that the right advertising can make or break a brand so I thank the makers of the Incredible India Ad (see video above). It tries to give the right picture of India and succeeds beautifully. The ad portrays the country's diversity without resorting to visuals of the underbelly. Yes, every country has a seedier side to it but why would anybody want to use that to attact tourists beats me.

If we want to brand India, let's do it right.

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