Creating a destination brand for a city or nation can be complicated, overwhelming and emotional. How do you apply a singular brand strategy to an entire population? Trying to be fair and balanced is a tricky task, and condensing the rich and complex history, culture and character of an entire society is intimidating to say the least.
David Ogilvy famously said: “Advertising for countries should be designed to plant a long-term image in the reader’s mind. Illustrate things that are unique to the country and never something people can do at home.” All this was too expected and typical (not to go against the Great Ogilvy but times have changed!). We weren’t simply designing a generic tourism campaign, we were branding a destination.
Jezzine: Ancient, beautiful and forgotten.
After decades of occupation, the historic Jezzine region of Lebanon was finally vacated by armed forces and returned under Lebanon’s sovereignty, yet it faced serious challenges because not only had many inhabitants moved away but the perception of the area was regarded with caution, nervousness and even sadness. On top of that, there was a steady brain-drain due to a young population moving to larger cities which left the region sparsely populated and primarily inhabited by an aging agricultural community.
But the silver lining was that Jezzine remained one of the most lush and pristine regions relatively untouched by modernity and gentrification. One of the last remaining forested areas in the Middle East with breathtaking views, de facto organic farms and ancient historical sites, it was perfectly positioned as a green tourism destination.
A consortium made up of The Union of Municipalities of Jezzine, which encompasses the 45 towns and villages that make up the region, along with USAID and DAI joined forces with Blackink to jumpstart the region with a compelling tourism positioning campaign aimed to attract crowds within the context of agro- and eco-tourism.
Branding a Culture
We started our research and got to know the beautiful and serene Jezzine, visiting its plethora of towns and villages, hiking deep within its forest and valleys and immersing ourselves into its history and people. What we found was a rich and authentic culture that has been uniquely preserved, allowing us to experience how Lebanon and the Mediterranean once was.
We were intoxicated by the scent of fresh pines and mesmerized by a carpet of stars glittering the night sky. We camped and played guitar, rode on horseback, cycled along ancient trails and joyfully picked juicy tangerines at an organic farm. All this became the foundation of our strategy.
Jezzine. “It’s in our nature.”
Our core strategy was to remind people that Jezzine Region IS its nature, its people, culture, society, values, behaviors – all stem from the nature that surrounds it. Even the name Jezzine is derived from the Aramaic word “Gazine”, meaning “depot” or “store” because the region was the granary of the Phoenicians and later a food storage location because of its strategic location on the caravan routes that connected the ancient Mediterranean to Syria, Mesopotamia and beyond.
The nature of Jezzine was our primary selling point, from the breathtaking photography of epic views to the advertising campaign “It’s in Our Nature”, we designed a comprehensive branding and advertising system that was meant to compel people to leave the big noisy cities and escape to the serene forests and hills of the region.
We designed a modern Arabic typographic identity system and campaign included script writing and storyboarding, photo and video shoot direction, tour bus wraps, tourism souvenirs, trail maps, guidebooks, above the line advertising campaigns, website, brochures and other branded collateral.
The campaign was successfully launched at The Garden Show & Spring Festival at the Hippodrome on May 2018 with speeches and presentations to an excited crowd. Souvenirs and postcards were handed out while the main TVC was played to an excited audience.
As with most projects, once the brand is launched and campaigns are out, our job is done. Now we can be simple tourists in Jezzine, quietly beaming with pride at what we accomplished, and humbly doing our part as regular citizens contributing to their economy.