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KL’s new branding: Not as “exciting” and “enticing” as it hopes to be?

Kuala Lumpur city has a new branding initiative to position the city as a destination of choice. The new tagline reads: “Kuala Lumpur: Exciting. surprising. enticing. A city of contrasts & diversity.”

The new branding tagline will be planted across various parts of the city.

Take a look:

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Mayor of the city, Datuk Seri Mohd Amin Nordin, said at a press conference the new rebranding will look to stimulate growth in tourism numbers, investment, job opportunities, business development and the city will also now play host to major events.

According to a report on The Star, Datuk Amin was quoted saying that the branding is aimed to bring the city “to the forefront of the region’s most popular destinations for business and leisure” which will in turn “promote strengthening of infrastructure, preservation of  heritage and lead to higher returns.” He added that the rebranding looks to differentiate the city from other Malaysian cities not only regionally but globally and create “a brand that speaks of the city’s intrinsic character.”

In recent times competition for the tourism industry has intensified drastically. Just yesterday, the Singapore government made an announcement to inject SG$700 million into the tourism industry and build up data capabilities to better engage with visitors.

Meanwhile the tourism board in Indonesia is also ramping up its efforts and offering investment opportunities to the Chinese to grow tourism business. Hence the move to position KL as a major Asian city comes as no surprise. While it might be too soon to say whether or not the new branding will work, not all branding leads in the market are happy with the result.

Zayn Khan, Southeast Asia CEO of Dragon Rouge said the problem with the new Kuala Lumpur city brand is that it is not single-minded, and there is no creative idea to hold the branding it together.

“Did they need to say both ‘Contrasts and Diversity’? Isn’t contrast inherent in diversity?” he asks.

Khan added that the new branding lists out all the “rather generic” brand attributes (exciting, surprising, enticing) and questions if it is really necessary. After all, these attributes should be used to build the character of the identity and shape the launch activities. It should not have been stuck on as a meaningless tagline, he explains.

In terms of the design elements,  Khan said it was not modern, innovative or vibrant.

“The three incongruous fonts, old-fashioned drop shadow, no colour usage (KL is actually a very colourful city) and no memorable icon that could have become a shorthand for the brand,” he said, adding:

Greater Kuala Lumpur is a large, international city with a relatively affluent tax base. You would think that they would have had the budget and the mindset to hire real professionals to build a brand that would stand out in the region and do KL justice

As an advice to clients looking to embark on destination marketing or rebranding, Khan said:

“Own one proposition, one idea, and imply a benefit to tourists, investors, residents and local businesses. Express it creatively and build a whole identity, not just a logo and a tagline. And of course examine all the ways you can bring it to life and deliver on it credibly.”

Nick Foley, president of the Southeast Asia and Pacific regions and managing director of Landor added destination branding at its best heralds significant change for a nation or a city.  At its worst, it can be perceived as window dressing and a diversion.  He said:

It is not clear as to what else is being associated with KL’s new branding.

“When embarking on a refreshed brand for a city, one must remember that it is tax payers funds that are being used to pay for the project. It is is imperative that the residents of a city feel any funds spent on a new identity can be the impetus for positive change,” Foley added.

Graham Hitchmough,  CEO of Brand Union South & Southeast Asia said the new KL branding exemplifies some of the challenges and complexities of contemporary destination branding – the temptation to try and be all things to all people. He said:

Overall there is also a feeling that the contemporary nature of KL is not reflected as strongly as it could be. With one of the most memorable and consistent country branding propositions behind it, the KL city branding must aspire to similar levels of recall and familiarity.

However, in trying to satisfy such a diverse range of audiences, in this case  domestic, international, leisure, business, investors, there is often a danger that the proposition over-stretches itself. It may struggle to deliver the single cut-through message that has made ‘Malaysia, Truly Asia’ such a durable platform.

Hitchmough added however, these are early days and the tide could turn.

“A destination brand platform does not live or die on the basis of a launch and a logo, but on how effectively it is activated and sustained across a multiplicity of brand experience touch points over time.”

(Photo courtesy: Shutterstock)

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