Posts Tagged ‘World Expo’

$61 Million Branding Disaster, Made in the USA

May 13th, 2010

(Note: this post is a follow-up to the last post on the branding of the Bund Bull).

The World Expo probably isn’t the first event you think of for international branding opportunities.  Compare the Olympics, World Cup and Davos, for example.  Still, that didn’t stop China from pulling out all stops with this year’s World Expo in Shanghai – the country spent more on the event than it did hosting the Beijing Olympics.

Why did the Chinese want to make such a big splash with the World Expo?  Simple – they realized this is a major branding platform, with journalists and influentials from all over the world in attendance.  More importantly, it offered a chance to dwarf previous Expos and show how China does international events.

Of course, we must remember that it’s not the “China Expo” but rather the “World Expo” – which means each country gets to participate by building a pavilion that represents cultural contribution.  Think of it as “international day” at your kid’s elementary school, on steroids.  Companies from each country usually sponsor the pavilion and the multi-media presentations.  There are some stunning entries this year with regard to design.  We think England wins for most, ah, angular.  The Dutch pavilion looks like something out of a Tim Burton film.

And then there’s the USA, which assembled a $61 million corrugated tin monstrosity meant to represent … America’s tool sheds?  More depressing than the woeful design outside are the overpriced and underwhelming productions taking place inside.  Contracted to BRC Imagination Arts, reports show $23 million spent on the inside presentation and on three five-minute movies that have questionable production quality and messaging.  The Hurt Locker was cheaper to make per minute and won the Oscar for Best Picture.  Sadly, this pavilion is meant to “showcase the best America has to offer.”

The lesson: even for a nation, branding is important.  While outsourcing your national brand to a conglomeration is fiscally prudent, it also inhibits the element of oversight and accountability for the final product.  Allowing unsupervised vendors to run the show and present what they perceive as “the USA” to the world can have disastrous results.

Similarly, companies and organizations must always make sure to work with marketing and PR teams when managing their own brands.  If you skimp on either the time or expense associated with amassing brand equity, you’ll end up with scraps … maybe of discarded tin that you too can use to build an unattractive pavilion.  Just sayin’…

Next Expo, the US should hire PR specialists with brand experience to oversee the project.  When you have the chance to present yourself on the global stage, there’s no room for error – shine, and the whole world shines with you!