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‘A Perfect Balance’ – Myanmar’s Inle lake’s new brand launch

Andrew King The Myanmar Times  15, Nov 2019

Inthar fishermen, taking it easy on the lake. Photos – Andrew King

The day began beside the famous lake, with a mug of Genius Shan Highlands Coffee. A tiger-striped dragonfly landed next to my bowl of mohinga, before flying off with drone-like precision to a nearby clump of lily pads.

Its flutter broke the morning silence, as the fog began to lift and a butterfish surfaced to take lazy bites at a pond skater.

Importantly, there were no hawkers selling packets of fish pellets. Neither were there any plastic cups, beer cans or polystyrene containers floating in the pristine water beneath our holiday chalets.

The three final logo designs.

This was the serene Royal Nadi Resort, and the launch of a new destination brand campaign for Inle Lake.

The tagline for the campaign, which has been developed by the International Finance Corporation (IFC), in partnership with Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and the UK’s Department for International Development, is simply: “A Perfect Balance.”

The launch took place inside the old community lodge which, with its traditional Shan drums and fishing baskets hanging on the teak walls, embodied the campaign’s values perfectly.

The Brand Launch

Myanmar has a very short history of tourism marketing, with only two official national campaigns since 2013. Both featured lots of familiar images – temples and pagodas, monks and smiling children with thanaka-painted faces. Last year’s ‘Myanmar, Be Enchanted’ campaign featured more landscapes than people, with lots of iconic shots of Inle’s famous one-legged fishermen.

But this year’s destination branding campaign was different, focusing on the theme of sustainability – in terms of tourism, agriculture and private business – to attract more visitors to the lake.

The brand launch included a discussion of logo, research into the perceptions of the campaign, and speeches by local and IFC spokespeople about the values of sustainability.

“Today’s event aligns with IFC’s mission on alleviating poverty as tourism not only enhances green living, but it also leads to job creation, hence more social mobility,” said Ashani Alles, Country Manager of IFC Myanmar.

Sustainable initiatives

The IFC is one of the largest foreign investors in Myanmar, having leveraged over $1.6 Billion in investments across the country. The Inle brand launch was the latest example, following a number of recent programs targeting tourism and agriculture in the region.

Two years ago Inle’s Professional Women’s Network (IPNET) was formed as an IFC-led initiative. The organisation hosts educational and training programs, as a means of supporting women to make the most of their skills and networks as entrepreneurs.

IPNET has been busy this past year supporting organic-produce shops, restaurants and clean-up operations around the lake. The knock-on effect is impressive, with local markets and shops avoiding plastic in favour of hessian bags, and businesses turning to local produce like wines and bread over imported ones.

In 2017 a community of tomato farmers on the lake were also the beneficiaries of micro-finance loans facilitated by the IFC. The financing arrangements helped some 70 farmers bypass higher interest loans in Nyaung Shwe, which were conditional on purchasing higher-potency chemicals for their crops.

With an educational program in place, the new microfinance loans became a way to incentivise better rationing of fertilisers on the farmers’ floating plantations. By purchasing less, and understanding how pesticides and fertilisers work, the farmers were not only able to save money, but also produced higher yields over the long term.

Sections of the lake have also been designated chemical-free, and plans are in place to expand the program to other villages.

Brand Inle – “A Perfect Balance”

Destination branding seeks to identify a destination’s most appealing characteristics – whether it be the people, social or historical features, or the environment – to build a coherent story, which can be marketed to potential visitors.

U Thitsar, private sector specialist with the IFC, spoke about the importance of the new logo for communicating Inle’s story to local and international travelers. The logo was developed in consultation with marketing specialists, as well as through focus groups and in-depth interviews.

Four taglines were proposed during the initial phase which, in their different ways, communicate a sense of affinity travelers said they felt with the lake. The taglines were: ‘The Lake of Wonders’, ‘Welcome to the wonder lake’, ‘Inle. In Love’ and ‘Inle – A Perfect Balance’.

‘Inle – A Perfect Balance’ was the winning tagline, for a number of reasons. “Travelers talked about the importance of balance when riding the boats. The word ‘balance’ also signifies harmony, the sense of equilibrium between culture and nature,” U Thitsar said.

These values also needed to be reflected in the logo design, the colours and font. After almost a year of consultation and voting, three final designs were uploaded to the campaign’s Facebook page, and the voting began.

All three designs featured the one-legged rowing fisherman, a famous symbol of the lake. Two of the designs also included secondary iconic signifiers like mountains, trees and water lily flowers. These designs were busier, and positioned within circular and rectangular frames. Looking more officious than recreational, they bring to mind insignia from a Canadian or Australian national park.

Over 3,400 Facebook users voted on the designs, and unanimously chose the third logo – a dark green silhouetted Inthar fisherman, positioned to the left on his boat, with the outline of the mountain peaks framing the brand name and tagline from above. Simplicity of design, through a powerful signifier of the lake and its people, won the day.

The logo design is intended for all tourism stakeholders, from government departments to private businesses. “It can be used on websites, social media and printed materials such as business cards or brochures. The important thing is that everyone works within the branding guidelines to ensure the logo is used consistently and the destination is presented in a unified way,” Ashani Alles said.

Inle tourism

Myanmar has suffered a significant drop in tourist numbers over the past two years, with international publicity surrounding the conflict in Rakhine state. Places like Inle typically attract more Western than Asian tourists, and it is this demographic that is also important to the lake.

“Inle is a world away from the conflict,” said Dr Tun Hlaing, Inthar Minister for the Shan State Goverment, after the conference. “People come here because it’s so peaceful, and it offers a lifestyle and tradition like no other place.”

Looking out across the water I noticed a heron circle above. It was hard to disagree.

From: THE MYANMAR TIMES (MYANMAR) November 15, 2019

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