Who is really interested about Romania?

(Excerpt from the doctoral thesis “Visual identity sources for Romania’s country brand,” author Bogdan Brînzaș)

What is certain is that you cannot change the image of a place (city, region, country) without changing the way it behaves. Communication will never be able to replace real attributes and changes. Changes and real facts, however, will always have an echo if they are accompanied by adequate communication. Romania must know itself as it is, recognizes what it has found, and gradually move on to what it wants to become. It is counterproductive to import landmarks from countries whose histories, cultures, levels of wealth, and social development differ; therefore, Romania must find its own identity that it can accept. As long as there is no trust and no credibility, any positive image that Romania can draw and project will be blocked by the collective subconscious. “Romanians continue to vilify themselves; we still haven’t realized the change in the way we talk about ourselves, an attitude not appreciated by foreigners” (Andreea Sepi, “Brief History And Possible Reasons For Failure”). Trust is built on two levels: the individual level and the systemic level where government, private sector, and NGOs must cooperate and synchronize. Whatever strategy Romania ultimately has, it will need to achieve at least two things: motivating its citizens and creating relevance for the foreign audience it wants, if it wants it. And creating relevance means, first and foremost, making the product.

Romania’s task of shaping its identity and promoting its image is more difficult as the old marketing paradigm shows signs of fatigue. Consumers are tired, immunized, and no longer willing to react to slogans and advertising campaigns. The ongoing avalanche of them acted as an immunizing agent. The notion of campaigning and implicit actions is demonetized, sometimes even demonized. Products and services end up being demonized due to negative examples in the market. People begin to want transparency and complex communication, to be more deeply interested in information about the product or service, features, comparisons, value for money, whether it is healthy or not, whether it is environmentally friendly or not, where it is produced, and how, etc. The product or service itself is of more interest if it meets a wider set of conditions and characteristics than the few that market research usually takes into account. The rise of these people’s desire for real information implicitly leads to a paradigm shift in marketing, which is not an exact science anyway. Today, the classic marketing treatises remain only partially valid. The notion of the consumer seems to be dying out in its traditional meaning, deeply rooted in corporate culture.
Information taken from a market study on the consumption habits of commercial brands can be very easily translated in the case of Romania. The results of studies carried out by the agency WiedenKennedy Amsterdam, summarized in a brief presentation on public preferences attributed to Martin Wiegel, show that:
“We are all prisoners of metaphors. And victims of vanity. Assume they (consumers) are interested, and you will fail. 72% of Pepsi drinkers also buy Coke. 80% of brand buyers know little or nothing about those brands. Duplication of buying brands is inevitable”.

In reality, let’s accept that no one is interested in Romania in particular unless they are told or offered an advantage or if there are concrete elements of attraction. There is a multitude of tourist destinations, business and investments are made wherever there are opportunities, tourist transit, and city breaks can be done anywhere in Europe, and rafting, skiing, and experiencing traditional products can also happen in Bulgaria or Turkey; the uncivilized countryside can be found in Albania, Greece or Turkey or even further afield in Asia. What really emerges from the WiedenKennedy study with applicability in Romania is that the probability of being desirable as a tourist and investment destination is directly proportional to the degree of interest we can arouse, or this is achieved both through the attractiveness of the product and through the approach strategy of its communication.