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Thursday , June 24 , 2010
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Brand Bengal a tourist hub

The man responsible for positioning London for the 2012 Olympics, if given a chance, would brand Bengal as a “marvellous tourist destination”. One of the leading brand professionals in the world, Wally Olins will be in the city on Thursday to talk about branding and its importance.

The 79-year-old, adviser to giant global companies, is as interested in places as things. If he has branded Prudential, BT, Forte Hotels, Coca-Cola, Renault, Volkswagen or Tata over five decades, he has also branded Poland, Rio de Janeiro, Northern Ireland Tourist Board, Lithuania and the Cat Ba region in Vietnam.

How does one brand a nation?

“It’s much harder than branding a cellphone or a motor car,” he says, speaking to Metro over the phone from London. “A product is rationally similar (to another) but emotionally different. Also it’s about profit and pushing up its share margin. It has to be effective immediately.” A nation on the other hand has an audience — both internal and external, he says. “There’s tourism involved as well as investment. You have to gauge if you can be effective over 25 years.”

His company Saffron is currently working on branding London, “whose character is a lot like New York yet very different,” says Olins.

It’s not possible to brand Bengal in two minutes over the phone, he says. But tries nevertheless. “What I find fascinating is that it’s an intellectual powerhouse and has creative potential far greater than anywhere else in the country. Secondly, right from the Sunderbans all the way up to the Himalayas is an amazing area for tourism.”

Then the European colonial aspect. “Calcutta continues to remain a British imperial city, with places (around it) steeped in history like Chandernagore. I think the place has marvellous tourism possibilities. Unfortunately it is one of those areas that are least known and least understood both within and outside its own country.”

His first big job was in India when he spent five years in Mumbai as head of Ogilvy, Benson & Mather, which became Ogilvy and Mather. “I’ve been to Calcutta a lot of times but the first time I came here more than 20 years ago the city had been losing its significance. Compared to the way the other cities were growing, Calcutta was becoming a difficult place to do business in. I’m looking forward to being back to the city, which I believe in many respects is becoming more welcoming to industry now,” said Wally.

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