Najib Razak / Politics in general / Umno & Barisan Nasional

How to make the Malaysia Nation Brand strategy successful

Let’s get something straight. A catchy tagline, symbolic logo, pretty colours that symbolize the ‘personality’ of the brand and a custom designed font are not Nation Branding.

Glossy advertisements that push the creative envelope and consist of content that is impossible for stakeholders to buy into or live up to, is not Nation Branding.

Expensive brochures and other marketing collateral that use light gray colours on white backgrounds and font sizes impossible to read is not Nation Branding.

Hugely expensive billboards that create awareness but do little else and are soon lost in the fog of the tens of thousands of messages consumers are exposed to every day is not Nation Branding.

It might have been possible to use such creative-driven branding to build a Nation Brand in the 1960s – 1990s, when countries and their advertising agencies focused more on getting attention than getting results.

But this is a different era. There are now so many channels to consumers, so many competitors all with a similar offering and so many distractions that it is no longer possible to build a Nation Brand in this way.

Furthermore, too many taglines have made promises the Nation couldn’t possibly keep or their marketing or PR collateral has left potential customers underwhelmed. This may not have been the fault of the Nation or it may be the result of poor internal implementation but it has resulted in a delivery failure that has negatively impacted all efforts till then. A case in point is the Incredible India campaign and the multiple attacks on women over the last year.

Moreover, engaging (not reaching) target markets through traditional channels with traditional tools is virtually impossible today. Especially in the digital age when consumers are more knowledgeable, have more choice and are more demanding.

So how do we make the Malaysia Nation Brand successful?


So how do we make it successful?


19 thoughts on “How to make the Malaysia Nation Brand strategy successful

  1. I assume paid hashtags in twitter is a futile effort in nation branding since pmo is investing heavily on twitter accounts to promote this endless possibility crap..


  2. Well, creative branding if used at the right pace can be very effective. In my opinion, one of the most successful catchy word ever created is “Malaysia truly Asia”. To us, it means nothing, but if you ask many of the Arabs that visited our country, they will tell you, “Malaysia truly Asia”. This is what I experienced after spending six years in Arab Saudi. Many Arabs that I met, some does not even speak good English knows the catchy word of Malaysia truly asia. Today, the success in influx of Arab tourist is the result of advert campaign in the Arab country.


    • Agree that “Malaysia truly Asia” had been successful.

      Meant for local consumption, “Malaysia Boleh” had also been adopted by the rakyat. What is pleasantly surprising is that the catchy phrase had impacted neighbouring citizens too, such that they had latched on with their own version.

      Personal ownership is the key to a successful branding.


    • Malaysia Truly Asia is a great tagline. But what does it mean to stakeholders and does Malaysia live up to the promise? And just because people are aware of it doesn’t mean they are going to come to visit Malaysia.

      Here are a couple of stories related to this. I project managed a comprehensive global brand audit of tourism Malaysia a few years ago and you are right, the Arabs did love the tagline. But more Arabs go to Thailand, Singapore and the Philippines than come here.

      We did a focus group in New York and an American sang the song but she had never been to Malaysia and for certain reasons would never come however she often went to Thailand.

      In Vietnam we did a focus group and every participant was upset and angry that Malaysia was trying to sell itself as truly Asia. Once participant said, “In Vietnam we have over 4,000 years of history, what can Malaysia tell us about being Asian?”

      A one size fits all tagline pushed out to every country is not the way to build a nation brand, as I hope I have explained in my article.


  3. All the catchy branding will come to nothing if the product is faulty.
    Countries considered as best places to live does not pay consultants to enhance their image. Yet thousands of immigrants are willing to die with their family in tow just to into it.
    Instead of paying consultants,why don’t we
    a) remove all forms of discrimination
    b) endorse UN declaration of human rights whereby civil liberties overrides communal feelings.
    c) improve our education system by giving more autonomy to schools and individuals. Schools should be allowed to use any syllabus within time zone. Schools that implements english can use western australia or Singapore examination board, malay, either our malaysian or indonesian examination syndicate, chinese can use our own or china exams or hong kong for cantonese speakers. This will provide variety and free students and parents from being impinged by lethargic and arrogant bureaucrats.


    • tempawan,

      The country’s image will go bunkum if there are many with your kind of thinking. You are not even naming the countries and you probably have in mind countries which should not be compared with Malaysia.

      The discrimination you mentioned probably refers to that perceived as connected with the Special Position of the Malays and the Bumiputeras of Sabah and Sarawak. If so, you appear not accepting the Constitution of the country and the history of this country where the pendatangs were Stateless for 150 years until the Malays agreed to their citizenship right which is also enshrined in the Constitution. If you don’t respect the Constitution, you should give up your citizenship right which is also protected by the Constitution.

      Are you suggesting Malaysia should have anarchy as far as schools are concerned? 100 kinds of schools in the multifarious languages of every race, sub-race, every clan, sub-clan, sub-sub clan etc? Are you crazy? Ever heard of the need for unity and unity through single-stream schooling, standard syllabus etc? Which planet do you come from?

      What about schools using the exam board of Buduko Buraba Lusatania? Heard about that country? Chissssh!


    • Actually that’s not true. The top destinations in the world – France, the UK and the US all use consultants. They just use the right consultants and allow those consultants to uncover the truth however painful and critical and then let them show the country how to fix the problems. Interestingly, all of those 3 countries have discrimination, questionable human rights records (not always in their own countries) and education systems that are at breaking point.


      • Good of you to weigh in, brandconsultantasia.

        Many French during Sarkozi’s Presidency were reported as not liking the Jews and the Muslims wearing headscarves. In the US, the remnants of White supremacy under the Ku Klux Klan still linger in different forms. British PM David Cameron not long ago said, “Multi-culturalism is dead”, echoed by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and 2 other EU leaders.

        Guys like tempawan are a minority in this country. They are of the Democratic Action Party variety that has often betrayed that part of their name on democracy. Very often they make wild and unsubstantiated allegations and need to be counter-commented for the sake of setting the records straight. That the Opposition obtained more of the popular votes in the last elections is not proof of the correctness and reliability of their statements.

        I often wonder how this multi-racial country can achieve unity and what brand there can be to market that need for unity effectively. Perhaps you would like to give some ideas. I will not hesitate to add my opinion that this blog is read by the higher ups in our society, including – I’d dare suggest – those in the Prime Ministers’ Department.


      • @ brainconsultasia
        Are you joking. Comparing our indoctrination system to the western education system. Nobody will get intimidated in western education. But over here,we have issues with regards to race and religion. Almost all queries will end up being labelled a traitor,treacherous or seditious.
        While it is true that children learn best in their mother tongue, that option is denied to 20% of the english speakers.
        If you enter chinese primary school,you will realise that most uses english as their first language.
        I dunno about you guys,but the health authorities should have closed down sri pristina school for allowing food to be eaten in inappropriate places. If a restaurant had done the same thing,their license would be revoked.
        David cameron is doing the right thing by giving schools autonomy.
        Unfortunately for us, its going in reverse. All powers now lie in the PM’s department.


        • Why do you make sweeping statements all over the place? Using hardly thought-out words many of which you appear not to know the meaning of. And not justifying or even explaining what you meant.
          For example: indoctrination, intimidated, traitor, treacherous or seditious. Be responsible, man.

          Do say what “our indoctrination system” is – the Chinese schools? At least give examples of the instances where “queries will end up being labelled a traitor,treacherous or seditious.”

          And who says “.. children learn best in their mother tongue”? And what do you mean by “that option is denied to 20% of the english speakers”? And you have no regard at all about what the Constitution of the country says about the language of the country? And about the need for unity? Are you Malaysian?

          And you making fun of people’s brand name or trade name by addressing brandconsultantasia as “brainconsultasia”? Do you habitually offend and insult people for no rhyme or reason? What kind of a bloke are you? How to have a glorious morning with people like you around?


  4. A very good example of hp6 bureaucrats in charge of a supposedly first class asset is KLIA. It was built in the middle of nowhere and the gomen made it difficult and expensive for passengers to get to it.No amount of catchy phrases will cover up this incompetency.
    Taxi problems tackled 15 years after airport completed. If this had been Stalin russia or nazi germany, those persons in charge will be required to shoot themselves in the head.
    If KLIA had been managed by swiss or japanese, rail link would have been implemented to surrounding areas like putra heights and shah alam, kajang, seremban, kuala selangor,rawang and malacca. The ERL express should depart every ten minutes. But because our administrators are the 3rd graders med school dropouts, i doubt if they even bother to improve on he facility because most of them are brain dead and are actually zombies.


    • tempawan,

      Do you have any clue about what you are talking about? Do you always ramble out everything that flashes across your mind, though not your brain, which should be processing it before you utter it?

      Do you know what “bureaucrats in charge of .. KLIA .. built in the middle of nowhere”? Do you know who were involved in the decision making, the number of consultants and experts involved in the deliberations on where to locate the KLIA? You don’t have a clue that international airports of big cities the world over have for decades been built some 40 miles out of major cities? You are talking from your arsehole again, Anwar-style, aren’t you? Or Lim Guan Eng gangster style ha? Made “counting mistakes” but keep wanting to fight the RoS.

      What the hell do you mean saying “.. the gomen made it difficult and expensive for passengers to get to it”?You want KLIA to be at the back of your house so that pax can see you shitting in the backyard, eh?

      You would like it if this had been Stalin russia or nazi germany, do you? But you won’t even have the luxury of shooting your own head, stupid – some guy will simply wring your neck the moment you utter stupid remarks like the above.

      Have you ever heard yourself saying. or read back what you are writing, and seen how stupid you are saying “.. administrators are the 3rd graders med school dropouts .. brain dead and .. zombies.” If you had, would probably realize that you don’t have any brain at all in the first place.


  5. ko pernah naik ERL?!

    kalau belum dipersilakan dan tengok sbb ERL tak expanded..

    satu lagi aku setuju in some way, harga tiket ERL mahal la, kalau di rendahkan lagi besar kemungkinan volume meningkat..


  6. After reading the above, it seems to me that nation branding is an involved, complicated affair. If there is no transparency, no information on what the RM30 mill fee is for, what scope of work, what terms of reference, it may be a secret affair. Between the consultants and the paymasters.

    I doubt if under those circumstances the brand will be effective. There is resistance right from the start – suspicion on the very basis of the brand formulating.


  7. I am a layman, no special knowledge or experience in public relations, brand promotion and the like. But I want to express some views on branding the country, as this subject appears to be. Branding of course involves marketing and product promotion.

    A lot can be said of the product called the Federation of Malaya manufactured in 1957 under a Constitution that was revised in 1963 when Malaysia was formed. 56 years later, that Constitution itself has not been fully accepted by a certain sector of the population. Made worse by what has been called the PRU13 Chinese tsunami.

    It seems to me that the Malaysia product brand must cater for both the Malaysian as well as the overseas market. For the local market, unity, respect for the Constitution, loyalty and patriotism to country are the ingredients necessary for the formulation of a really effective brand. Otherwise “Malaysia Boleh” becomes “Tak Boleh” or “Cakap Tak Serupa Bikin”. And, they say “Endless Possibilities” can also refer to the adverse possibilities.

    The brand conceived of must be realistic, not prone to be made fun of, or disrespected. I was told Tun A Razak then in London, was in consultation with Tun Dr Ismail in KL, on the proposed name Malaysian Airlines, but decided to use the name Malaysian Airlines System, to avoid the short form MAL, short for MALfunction, be shouted by passengers when irate over flight delays etc. Thank God, MAS did not have too many unjustifiable delays and that brand lasts. Alas, the brand did not have a problem over flight operations efficiency, but with profit-making ability. It seems to me that internationally, there has been no problem with the MAS brand name. Yet, arguments have been put out that however good the MAS brand may be, the problem will always be profitability. They say, it’s the Managers, those who run the airline. A lot of truth in that.

    I suppose the same applies to branding the country. If the Managers are wanting, however good the brand name may be, it may turn out to be short on “profitability”. I have always been told that investors always look for political stability, an atmosphere of long-term peace and order. But are the Managers of our country now managing political stability, peace and order satisfactorily? Discarding badly needed laws that for decades have been the necessary tools for the maintenance of peace and order and political stability?

    It seems to me that finding a brand that’ll be effective for both the local and the international audience must pose a huge challenge to the genuine and conscientious brand consultants. For a country that seems to lack cohesion and unity. Where people have laughed off such phrases as unity in diversity.


    • Yes, it’ll be difficult to find an effective brand for Malaysia when considering lack of unity and stability.

      When asked for his Merdeka Day message, Tun Dr Mahathir said,

      “We are seeing a trend that is not healthy because races today are much more divided than before. Malaysia started off with an agreement to share power and wealth. That is not happening to day.

      “If we destabilise the country, everyone will lose.”


    • New Straits Times says Malaysia hosts the presidents of “the world’s current two top powers”, the United States and China, almost back-to-back, this coming October.

      I don’t think it’s the effect of the “Endless Possibilities” brand. These are one-off visits by politicians, not a steady stream of investors coming in droves that’ll help the country’s economy grow.

      It crosses my mind if it’s playing one against the other to get the most out of both. This has been suggested in comments that I read in connection with the TPPA trade arrangement being pursued by US.

      But China a current “top power”? Certainly not a Super Power – the Chinese Ambassador to the US himself told CNN a few weeks ago that they don’t consider themselves so, that they are a developing country. But surely not a developing country like we are – they have sent manned rockets to outer space, surely have secret military satellites in space designed to control guided missiles etc, and are putting a huge aircraft carrier they built on a trial run.

      China does not need a national brand any more, do they? But maybe yes, because a BBC report about a week ago said the Chinese Communist Party controls all the Police, the Prosecution agency and the Courts in China. .


  8. In my opinion, we already have a brand. It’s the motto written on our coat of arms – Bersekutu Bertambah Mutu (Unity is Strength). Short and sweet, yet powerful and robust. Govt should play this up, it’ll teach young ppl the importance of national symbols & the motto, increase patriotism and sense of respect.


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