Branding Crete

Sorry but I’ll need a long intro to get to the point of this post… If you haven’t got the time now, come back later.

Peter Economides presentation on Branding GreeceI have mentioned Peter Economides on one or two occasions in this blog. He is a Greek brand strategist that recently designed the ads of the “Give Greece a chance” campaign.
If you haven’t seen it yet, take half an hour to watch the presentation he gave on Rebranding Greece in November 2011 at EEDE’s 11th “Aristoteli” Conference in Thessaloniki. Don’t be put off by the Greek introduction, his presentation is in English.
I saw it at the time and it was like “Wow! This guy is really approaching Greece’s problems from a different and positive angle”.

The idea is quite simple: Greece can escape this crippling crisis by first solving the crisis of image, reputation, and perception. “Greece is one of the greatest brands thatʼs never been branded,” explains Economides.
He calls upon Greeks to reclaim their profound heritage. “Greece has richer DNA than any nation on earth. Greece is the heart, the soul, and the spirit of the Mediterranean. Greece needs to own this. Greece needs to express it. Greece needs to inspire and be inspired by this.”

But go look at the video and get back to this paragraph when you have seen it.

OK, now you have a sense of the importance of branding (or re-branding) Greece. Did you notice his mention of EOT (that’s the Greek National Tourist Office) redesigning its logo 14 times since 1990 and revamping its branding campaign 16 times? Something that professionals would NEVER do, at least not without a very pressing need. But then nobody ever claimed that EOT was run by  professionals, even though they were probably being paid well enough.
Peter Economides’ original presentation has gone viral in the right circles and the concept of “Branding Greece” is now on the lips of many people (probably not EOT) who realize how important it is.

But there is a twist starting to happen to the concept though: Greece is a place of such diversity that it might be easier and more productive to brand places in Greece rather than Greece as a whole. You can extol the qualities of an island or a place in ways that are more closely related to these places and you will still inherently promote the whole country along with the region.
Should things go wrong (demonstrations in Athens for example) you can also keep a clear message that Athens is not Greece, nor is it an island and therefore negative publicity in one place will not automatically mean branding all Greece as bad.

And that takes me to my point in this post and in effect a question to those who read this blog. You are not that many but you know Crete from a variety of angles.

What would you brand about Crete? Let’s do a bit of crowd sourcing here. Let me know what aspects of Crete are worth putting to the fore, displaying to others in order to make them want to come and visit Crete.

Please answer in the comments section. No need for long lectures (unless you feel like it), just short concepts of what is special about Crete, what defines it, what Crete is about. And let’s see if we get somewhere on the way to Branding Crete.


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16 Responses to Branding Crete

  1. Nancy says:

    Great blog entry! When I think of Crete, I think of wild remote countrysides; of archeological wonders and rich history; and of the famous Cretan diet. Also…. environmental attractions like birds, flowers, clean beaches….abundant and good simple healthy food (organic please!) , beautiful vistas, unspoiled countryside, and fascinating towns and cities.
    My friends who know I spend much of the year here are always asking me about the horrible things they see on the news; they say I am “brave” to still travel here which always makes me laugh at their ignorance.

    We need to differentiate Crete from a few blocks in Athens. Crete is no more like Athens than a Los Angeles gang neighbourhood is like a village in Maine.

    • Jan says:

      People with a real sense of and respect for their own history, culture and identity.

      Crete has so many other ‘virtues’ but many/most of these aren’t unique to the island (there are mountains, beaches, wildlife etc elsewhere in Greece). There may be other people like the Cretans but I haven’t encountered them yet.

      • Jean says:

        Jan, this is not about Unique Selling Point so we are not looking for only “unique”. Defining points maybe but not unique.

  2. Jack Schwarz says:

    I can only talk about Western Crete as I have only travelled round this area. I have always found the Cretan people to be very friendly and generous and welcoming. The scenery is fantastic and a lovely place for walking wnen the weather is cooler.Lovely wild flowers as are the birds (when you get the chance to see them). The sea, in the Autumn, when I come to Crete is generally crystal clear and a great place for swimming. It is also very laid back sort of place. All in all a great island to spend some time on. I would love to be able to spend more time in Crete if I did not need to work.
    I could write more but have to return to my work.

  3. Angela Jones says:

    What I love about Crete is the fact that Cretans live each day to extract as much enjoyment out of it as is possible, life is to be lived and enjoyed and they get it. The fact that it is such a beautiful and blessed island helps of course, but that they take the time to appreciate their luck and share their passion is it’s unique quality to me.

  4. Sybille Copp says:

    Love this blog entry. We have been visiting Crete for the last 7 years or so and also been to a few other Greek Islands. We did hope to move to Crete but things did not work out (re sale of our house ) so the only thing we can do is visit as often as possible. We mainly know the west side of Crete and Rethymnon, and stayed in Kalives a few times and got to know one of the Taverna owners there. This time we will be visiting over the Easter period and are really looking forward to this as we know Easter is a special time there.No matter what doom and gloom there is in Greece at the moment, we will continue to visit our favorite place and already booked flights for September into Chania. This time we are hiring a car and plan to see some of the South side of Crete which we briefly saw some years ago and looking at the beautiful scenery and villages.

  5. DavidA says:

    Something has to be done about the EOT. I have been visiting their office/showroom in London for over 50 years. 50 years ago they were helpful, since getting to Greece was then more of an adventure than it is these days (we had to chage planes …and once one could not get all the way without refuelling in Bari…and there was the time when we had to go round the Eiger mountain as the old propellor driven plane could not get high enough to fly over it…and the captain did not help matters by pointing out that it was on the left hand side of the plane and when folk went over to have a look, the plane lurched horribly and we were all urged to return to our seats. However. Irrelevant.
    For many years the Greek National Tourist office in London was in Regent Street, one of the most expensive addresses in the West End of London: I suppose it must be at least 25 years ago that they moved just off Regent Street into Conduit Street. It looks like a small shop and for decades on looking in you saw a rather dirty cast of the Venus de Milo and a scrawny poster. If you ventured in, there was a corridor to the back of the shop where there were a few desks with usually one or at most two people were working. Scattered everywhere were ancient leaflets . However, if you asked nicely you could get quite good books and calendars as well as up to date leaflets – though the maps were always a work of fiction when it came to showing where roads went – like the one from Anopolis to Aghia Roumeli. Whenever I suggested to a member of staff – who, once they knew you were genuinely interested in Greece and had been to places they had not, always become animated and friendly – that the place looked uninviting they would shrug and say it was the way in which the head of the place wanted it to appear and function.
    About five or so years ago the place was given a makeover. Poor old Venus has gone and now if you look in you see a table with a very few leaflets and an unclutted corridor to the back – not a sign of a leaflet. If you venture in and walk to the back you usually find a member of staff who will open various cupboard doors and give you the specific leaflet you have asked for – if they have it in stock. However, to atone for this efficiency, the office is now only open to the public from 10a.m. to 3 p.m. Mondays to Fridays. Unbelievable – in a shopping area where their neighbours are open from 9 a.m. at the latest until 7, 8 or 9 night.
    I went there the other day to pick up their latest stuff on Crete – and some very glossy and over-produced booklets came my way. But although the photographs are often excellent, they have no captions for the most part and anyone not familiar with Crete or Greece would have no idea that the full page picture on the left hand page was Chora Sfakion and the mountains to its west just after sunset or what relationship it had, if any, with the picture of the Naval Museum end of the harbour at Chania which appears on the facing page.
    Above all, I wish they would employ a native English speaker to cut out the rubbish from their high-flown prose which accompanies some of the photographs. Can you guess where is being described in the following extract?
    “This monumental town, which displays a cosmopolitan western flair without betraying its Greek character and preserves its oriental origin while maintaining a purely Cretan soul, justifiably fascinates the visitor and creats a sense of singularity.” After this tosh , a clue comes in the next sentence. “Not tantalizing or intrusive, elegant and subtle, Chania simply exists with a humble introversion that makes it unique….” (sic)
    This drivel will have cost a lot to have had composed. I note that the booklet is copyright 2010 the Prefecture of Heraklion and the Deputy Prefect, no less, coordinated its production. So he was responsible for such a gem as “Man, who chose to live close to nature and laud the Creator, is an integral part of the Cretan land”….”Small or larger tabernacles, scattered all over the island, often like inaccessible aeries, are touching testimonies of religious faith and devotion”.

    My favourite of all is ” Crete is an island to flavour and experience…” I love Crete but I have never thought of putting salt on it . Presumably they meant “Savour” rather than “flavour”…but really!

    The folk who read this blog are unlikely to be those who frequent the “resorts” on the north coast where holiday makers from the UK often give the UK a bad name by their excessively drunken behaviour. Presumably there is money to be made from these sorts of tourist and presumably the Greek authorities will wish not to discourage anyone from coming to Crete. So care would need to be taken before branding Crete as an island where a visitor goes to experience hospitality, amazing scenery, and all the other marvellous good things which happen to you in Crete….

    • Jean says:

      Thanks for your London EOT description. They are a relic of a past that Greece really needs to get rid of.
      The point you make in your last paragraph is very important: the ways used to promote Crete have to appeal to a broad base and not just the Crete connoisseurs. But it still needs to put across what it special about Crete otherwise people just choose whatever is cheaper or more convenient without regard for what else a place has to offer.

  6. Dragonmamma says:

    For me the greatest attraction to return to Crete over and over again is the hospitality, warmth and friendship of the Cretan people. Add to this the wonderful food, the amazing beauty of the island and the seemingly endless places to find and you have the beginnings of an idea of what Crete has to offer. I love the encouragement I get when I stumble into conversation with my little bit of Greek (and the fact that knowing some of the language will often get me a bonus of a discount at some places!!).
    But there is also a magic to the place which is entirely separate from the people and which will wind itself around your soul if you stop and listen for a moment. I was delighted to find when I took my grown up daughter for the first time a couple of years ago, that the magicl reached out and touched her too almost as soon as we landed at Heraklion airport, and by the time we had watched the dawn come up over Aghios Nikolaus from the coach windows she was entirely under its spell.
    Of course the other entirely Cretan thing is the relationship between the maps and the roads – more a wish list of how they woul like it to be than what is actually there – but this has allowed me to discover all sorts of places that I didnt know I was looking for, because I just got lost and found something I didnt iknow existed along the way.

  7. Peter Ward says:

    Thank you for posting the information on Greek branding – as a Cretophile it is encouraging to know that there are some enlightened people who understand what action is necessary to begin the process of changing perceptions of Greece – from both within and outside the country. Coincidentally I am flying to Crete tomorrow morning, when I get some time I would like to provide a more considered response to your request for suggestions on branding Crete. In the meantime it is important to understand that Greece is the master brand and Crete a sub brand. Any Crete sub-brand can only be developed alongside an effective brand strategy for the master brand. DavidA’s post on the EOT office in London highlights this issue – any Crete brand will be damaged by the sort of consumer experience he describes. Incidentally the London Office experience is not unique, at last years World Travel Market, the UK’s largest travel trade show, the Greece presence fell well short of what would be appropriate for a major European travel destination.

  8. ChristineC says:

    Thank you for a great blog,
    We have been visiting Crete since 1998, and have had a house in Chania since 2001 and try to vist a few times a year, you could say we are hooked, so top of my list would be the welcoming hospitality of the people, we have been made to feel like one of the locals and have made some real friends there.

    Next food, fish, vegetables, fruit and the best olive oil, all of which is fresh, healthy and above all very tasty

    Crete is steeped in culture, there is something for everyone, acheological sites, museums, churches, music, dance, concerts, art shows.

    Spectacular scenery, people back home are astounded when they see snow, mountains, beach and sea all in one photo, to arrive in Winter/Spring by ferry from the mainland in early morning and see the sunrise and the snow is breathtaking, it is something we still occasionally do even though you can fly. You can walk, bike, drive, swim, fish or just watch the world go by.

    I suppose it’s ease of access should be promoted as flights and cruise ships into Crete are getting more and more frequent.

    Branding? if some of those whose conception of Crete as just a summer destination, took time to visit in Spring or Autumn, they would experience a different Crete, you really don’t need sand and sun to have a great time.

  9. Alain S says:

    I am not an ‘English native speaker’ as defined by DavidA, please forgive my poor wordings. I am French (nobody’s perfect) and I am in love with Creta.
    First of all, thank you Jean : your blog, photographs and website are a subtle way to share this love with those, like me, who live far from Creta. And I do think that your promotion of Creta is far more efficient than the one of EOT.
    To the point now. I agree with the preceding comments, my one and only contribution is : Cretan diet doesn’t refer to your stomach, at least not only. What it is all about is your heart, your brain, your soul. Take your dose of Creta, as often as possible, you will feel good !

  10. Victoria says:

    It has been a while since this post, but I have been thinking about it a great deal. Possibly because I work for the municipal government of an island community in Canada, Prince Edwrd County, with some similar attributes to Crete – beautiful scenery, hospitable residents, known for great food and wineries, primary industries are tourism and agriculture. We are also threatened with industrial wind turbines because of our windy location in Lake Ontario and it has our community divided. We, like Greece, are in need of a branding exercise.

    I agree with the other comments posted about Crete (I can’t speak to all of Greece). What is unique for me about Crete, and someone else mentioned it too, is an elusive sense of myth, mystery and magic. Perhaps it is because I come from such a young country that Crete’s beginning-of-time past is so enchanting to me. There was a brief article on Crete in the Toronto Star a few weeks ago which said Crete is like nowhere else on earth. I concur and my only other comment is this – the branding exercise needs to come from the people of Greece and Crete, not outsiders, as much as we may love the place. I certainly wish it Godspeed.

    • Jean says:

      I’d be interested in hearing why you think that “the branding exercise needs to come from the people of Greece and Crete, not outsiders”.

      • Victoria says:

        I’m certainly no expert on branding but I think it needs to capture the soul and essence of the place. I think vacationers only see one aspect of it and I suspect the true beauty and depth may only be seen by citizens. I could be wrong but I’m basing that premise on my own experience here where I was a tourist for years and am now a resident.

        • Jean says:

          Personally I think that it often helps being an outsider in order to better see. I think that I am more aware of the true beauty and depth of Crete than many Cretans just because I am not Cretan. I was not born here and lived in a number of other places before choosing to come here. But I am definitely no vacationer either.
          Going back to branding, most companies in need of it will ask outside advisers. There must be a reason for this.

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