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Image source: logolounge.com
By Beni Bevly
The government of Indonesia plans to create national branding that will be used nationally as one of the efforts to develop tourism, investment and trading sectors. The Minister of Trade, Mari Elka Pangestu said, “For Indonesia, the branding issue must start from changing the bad perceptions about the people of Indonesia, safety, and natural disasters” (Antara.co.id, June 4, 2007). The question is what is actually national branding? What are the obstacles to promote Indonesia’s new branding? How to change the bad perceptions that mentioned by Pangestu?
The terminology of branding originally was derived from business or management discipline. Management and business guru Philip Kotler in his B2B Brand Management mentioned branding is about promising that the company’s offering will create and deliver a certain level of performance. The promise behind the brand becomes the motivating force for all the activities of the company and its partners. Furthermore he said, thus branding is the road that a company must travel to define what it wants to be excellent at and how its offerings differ from competitors.
In other words, if we put it in a nation context, national branding is about promising that the nation’s offering will create and deliver a certain level of performance. It is the road that a nation must travel to define what it wants to be excellent at and how its offerings differ from others.
In the case of national branding for Indonesia, the government needs to define what they want Indonesia to be excellent at. Despite of what the government would say about it, it is easier for us to discover what we, as the people of Indonesia do not want Indonesia to be.
Do we want to be a barbaric and be one of the most unstable nation in the world? This question is asked because Indonesian government never solves the barbaric actions that conducted by New Order under Soeharto who killed more than one million people in his anti-communist political campaign in 1965-1966. The government also never punishes the actors behind May 1998 riot that caused at least 1,000 people died, 168 cases of rape, destroyed an estimated Rp. 3,200 billion in stock and property. There were civil wars between tribes and different religion practitioners that caused more than 1,000 people died in late 1999 and early 2000s. It was reported that one fourth of East Timor population (200,000 people) were eliminated by Indonesian army or died because of starvation, but there was no consequence for the commander in chief who involved (etan.org, February 18, 1999)
Do we want to be a nation that easily destroyed and has difficulty to recover from natural disasters? The Asian tsunami of December 26, 2004; a magnitude-8.7 earthquake on Nias Island in March 2005; the Yogyakarta earthquake; a mud volcano in East Java in May 2006; a magnitude-7.7 quake and tsunami along the southern coast of Java in 2006; flooding and mudslides in North Sumatra and Aceh provinces in December; flooding in Jakarta in February; and a magnitude-6.3 earthquake and magnitude-6.1 aftershock in West Sumatra in March stroke Indonesia. Indonesia was just like a tiny puppet that had lost its effort to survive and recover.
In the Asian tsunami itself, Indonesia suffered 4.45 billion dollar AS (ADPC, 2005). The main problem is about how Indonesian government responds to these disasters? Compared to Thai government, Indonesia was far left behind. Now there is almost no sign seen if there was a disaster in Thailand, while we still see a lot of people are suffering in Indonesia because of that disaster (beritaiptek.com, December 26, 2006).
Do we want to be portrayed as a nation that is ranked as the most corrupt country in Asia by foreign businessmen? (tvnz.co.nz , March 8, 2005). In my previous article, I identified that there was Rp. 2,100 trillion had been corrupted for the last 30 years.
Do we want to be perceived as one of the nests of terrorists just because the minority Muslim fundamentalists’ actions? Kim Barker from chicagotribune.com described, “Extremist groups have recruited new members, fought a jihad, or holy war, on one of the country’s islands, and staged three major terrorist attacks against Western targets, including one in October 2002 at two nightclubs on the island of Bali that killed 202 people, mostly foreign tourists.” (chicagotribune.com, December 15, 2004). This statement even scares more westerns by looking at the fact that Indonesia has the largest Muslim population in the world, i.e. 90 percent of the 238 million people in Indonesia say they are Muslim.
The above questions become the bad perceptions and finally they also become Indonesia government’s obstacles and challenges to create a new national branding.
Regardless what kind of national branding that government will promote, these obstacles and bad perceptions have to be changed or removed. Firstly and foremost, we need to change the character of our people and the government officials. The purpose of changing the character is to eliminate and prove that the above incidents, such as the barbaric and immoral actions will not be repeated again, the corruptions will be treated as infidel, and Indonesia will be more moderate and ready to cooperate with the international society.
Secondly, to meet our new national branding, the people need to be trained in line with the message in the new national branding. It would be impossible to promote the new national branding without supported by Indonesians’ new behaviors.
With the government’s plan to create the new national branding, will the new Indonesia emerge in international forum? Will it benefit its people? Let’s wait and see.
*Beni Bevly holds BA in Political Science, MBA in Marketing, and is a DBA (Doctor of Business Administration) candidate. He is the founder of Overseas Think Tank for Indonesia.