As a new branding strategy, “Turkey, discover the potential” implies that there is ‘half-tapped’ potential in the country and thus, provides a win-win to both Turks as well as those who come to explore the opportunities, says Mehmet Büyükekşi of the Turkish Exporters Assemby. “Turkey is a brand itself,” he addsTurkey’s new branding strategy does not only focus on tourism, but also aims to explain to the world Turkey’s economic progress over the course of the last decade, said Mehmet Büyükekşi, chair of Turkish Exporters Assemby (TİM). While “Turkey, discover the potential,” was endorsed as the official motto, the brand idea was inspired from Turks’ ability to master change, said the TİM chair, who lead the work in designing the new strategy.
Tell us about the campaign. What makes it different?
This is a first. The purpose here is about Turkey’s perception abroad. Previously, campaigns were rather organized by culture and tourism ministries. When we set on the road, we took under consideration the progress registered in the last decade. Turkey has increased its exports five-fold, the number of tourists is nearing 40 million, etc. But on our studies revealed that there are still negative perceptions, like the one created by the movie “Midnight Express,” or that Turkey is about döner kebap.
Although when we set on the road to see what needs to be done to change those perceptions, we decided to base our work on promoting and strengthening Turkey’s image based on its performance, like the increase in foreign direct investment or the national gross product. We also sought to emphasize what differentiates us from the others. Turkey’s logo was similar to the other countries’ logos; it was not something that could be truly differentiated from others. Also, all the PR organizations undertaken by different institutions were not uniform at all; we thought there needed to be an orchestration. After the Economy Ministry approved our approach and told us to proceed, we organized meetings with several NGOs like Turkish Industrialists’ and Businessmen’s Association (TÜSİAD), Turkish Union of Chambers and Commodities Exchanges (TOBB), Independent Industrialists’ and Businessmen’s Association (MÜSİAD), the CEOs of important companies and PR strategists. So this was not a concept work that was done solely by TİM. We just lead the work.
So in a way you set on the road saying that Turkey was not successful in explaining to the world its accomplishments?
Yes. And we wanted direct investment, brand export, tourism and public diplomacy to be influential in the brand idea.
Actually before shaping the brand idea, we asked ourselves who we are. And the answer that came revealed that we are sitting on a 10,000-year-old civilization. And according to the answers we got, what makes us special is the fact that we are bold, entrepreneurial, highly adaptable and practical. We experienced changes during all periods and thus we became the masters of change. The land we live on and the extraordinary history made us masters of change.
And also in the past, some said we are the West while some said we are the East; we said we are both East and West.
The logo is inspired by the kufi designs, the figures found on traditional rugs. We attributed a meaning to figures, like growth, innovation, synergy, unity, world, harmony. With eight graphic designs, we now have a logo that does not resemble any other countries’ logos.
And we make a call to the world saying come and discover the power and potential of Turkey.
Our aim was to address everybody.
So you wanted to make an appeal to people from all walks of life.
To tourists, we are telling them to come and discover Turkey’s historical beauties; to the investor, we are broadcasting Turkey’s investment opportunities. We call on the trade world to come and discover the quality of our products. And there is also the dimension of public diplomacy. Turkey is the only democratic country in its region but we are still perceived as people wearing fezzes riding camels. When we ask businessmen who come to Turkey for the first time, they tell us they never thought to find a modern country.
We have prepared a guide for all the stakeholders to use. As such, we will maintain uniformity both inside and outside, in national and international fairs, etc.
So this is Turkey’s new offer to the world. And actually, we are not creating a brand but using Turkey itself as a brand. Now it is time to tell our story to the world.
The first part of our communications strategy is believing in ourselves. We are telling the nation to believe in its potential. We are selling the world’s best quality products to Europe; half of our exports are for Europe. So in a way we are telling our own nation to use products that are made in Turkey. There is this admiration in Turkey for imported products.
Is it like a “use local products” campaign?
No, we don’t say it like that. That’s an old concept. We are exporting international products so our own people should explore these products as well. So to make this call based on “we are powerful, we can do it,” we have been running adds on TV stations and newspapers. The logo will be placed on buses; it is already on a Turkish Airlines plane.
The second phase will address Turks living abroad. We will have meetings with the representatives of Turks living abroad. And the third phase will be to tell the story to the world. The Economy Ministry has started campaigns in eight countries. We have already reached 19 million people. We ran advertorials in Russian, French, German and British media.
So in short are you telling the world that there is an untapped potential in Turkey?
Let’s say not untapped but “half-tapped.” We are offering a win-win situation. Discovering the potential will be beneficial both for us and or those whom we are calling to: that is the case in investment, that is the case in production.
But it seems you have set upon this road at an uneasy conjuncture. There are difficulties inside Turkey with the conflict with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). The Syrian war is on our border. Lately, we have been witnessing a controversy over certain academics. Isn’t it challenging in terms of internal and external conjuncture?
On the contrary; it is now that we need to set on this road. Imagine a situation where your product is sold out; you won’t even earmark a budget for promotion. But you need it when your products are waiting in the shelves and no customer is coming.
While Turkey has performed impressively, perceptions have changed positively. Don’t you think there has been some regress in that perception, which has necessitated this campaign?
No. When we set on the road we said we had not explained our progress to the world on time. And we set on the road three years ago.
And all countries are doing that. One of our aims is to make the campaign sustainable, not just a one-time thing. We want to address not just a few countries but the whole world. We want to reach to more, different markets and increase our share in the world’s trade.
Indeed, Turkey is different compared to three years ago. Won’t there be a problem of credibility when bombs are exploding all over Turkey? An investor might even say, “You want me to invest but it seems you have not even decided on whether your regime is going to be parliamentary or presidential system.”
I don’t think like that. We have not chosen our neighbors and today the country that gets the most investment is China. There are these kinds of incidents in China. Can you compare Turkey and China in terms of democracy? Only a short while ago it was banned in China to have a second child.