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My next goal in life: create the best country branding campaign for Bulgaria!

But until then, let me show you what one of our favorite neighbors, Serbia, came up with their 2011 campaign. This marketing campaign puts a very innovative twist on country branding. Instead of focusing on historical, natural, and architectural sites as most such promotional videos do, Serbia has chosen to focus entirely on food.

They are very smart to do so because the Balkan cuisine is one of the most delicious in the world (I’m being objective here, honestly)! And although most of the foods they present here are common to several Balkan countries, Serbia has succeeded in personalizing this spot and making it feel unique. My only little critique is that I wish they had put typical Goran Bregovic rhythms in the background!

The message of the video is very clear: Serbia has great food produced in a clean, sustainable way. The country is heaven for those seeking an authentic food experience, village tourism or bio tourism. The simplicity of Serbian (and Balkan) cuisine is what makes it so tasty: fresh, natural ingredients that are full of flavor, juices, and aromas.  Notice that the spot is focusing on the ingredients themselves rather than the meals that can be prepared with them: so once again, it’s about the simple pleasures in life… in Serbia.

This promo video is a delight to the eye, to the taste buds, and to the soul, and I hope it attracts many tourists to Serbia!

… But, as I was looking through some forums regarding the above video, I came upon another promotional video, this time from out other beloved neighbor, Macedonia. The two videos, unfortunately, are surprisingly similar. The Macedonian one is from 2010 and once again represents a journey through the country as a journey through honey, wine, succulent meats, and enticing spices. The voice over says: Македония, мала земя, голема храна. Македония, вечна. – Macedonia, small country, great food. Macedonia, timeless.

Eh, what can I say… I guess we on the Balkans are not so creative after all… Which video do you like more?

You might also enjoy:

Branding Romania: Creative Ads

Bulgaria: Magic Lives Here. The campaign the whole nation dislikes. 

Socialism Sells: What makes Soc-themed ads so successful in Bulgaria

Dimitar Berbatov, The Brand


I found this awesome new campaign promoting my neighbor Romania. I don’t know if these clever ads will really attract tourists, but they will definitely create some positive associations and increase awareness for the country.

I like how they focused on scientific and sports achievements instead of nature, culture, and historical monuments, which are very typical themes for such national campaigns. The images look modern and catchy, I love them! Go Romania!

Let’s see if you know the names of all these people? (Answers at the bottom of the post).

Answers: Henri Coanda, Ilie Nastase, Nadia Comaneci, Nicolae Paulescu,Stefan Odobleja.


This is a great interview with Gencho Genchev  about a very interesting trend in Bulgarian advertising. If brief, it notes that since 2005, many of our TV commercials have revolved around the theme of the “good old” socialism.

The idea is that everything used to be better in our socialist past: fresh produce and meat tasted real and without genetic modifications; human interaction was genuine, not online; life was simple and beautiful.

Many Bulgarians over the age of 30 associate socialism with the idea of high quality and high productivity. Not surprisingly, many of the brands that became popular during those times remain some of the market leaders today (these are mostly foods: Regular Biscuits, rose lokum, liutenitza Purvomai). Even when multinational companies bought some of these brands and pretty much changed the ingredients and the production process, the brands still remained and so did their customer loyalty.

I think that not all Westerners will understand our urge to idealize socialism in advertising. Although it’s widely accepted that most people look at their past with tenderness and nostalgia, the Western world often doesn’t realize that those who lived during socialism make no exception.

What makes the commercialization of our past such a successful marketing tool in Bulgaria? Could it be simply nostalgia for the olden days? Could it be some sort of a reaction against the modern consumerism and its overwhelming array of branded choices?

The shopkeeper: “Ooo Pepi, you look beautiful today! The new hotdogs Leki: the same taste as in those days!”

In her memories, the shopkeeper years ago: “Ooo Pepi! They just brought in the hotdogs!”

“Give me a kilo!”

Tagline: Delicious memories. Hotdog Leki.

***

Read my previous post: Why do Americans Have So Many Types of Breakfast Cereal?


The authentic Berbatov T-shirt cost £67 but was selling like hot bread at the Manchester United Megastore! I admit, I got a much cheaper version from a street vendor.

My UK travels have kept me away from my blog for too long! But don’t think that I’m not observing the culture and taking mental notes about future articles!

I just had a lovely sunny weekend visiting a friend at the University of Manchester. Thanks god she’s a sports fan or I would’ve overlooked visiting the famous Manchester United Stadium and would’ve missed out on a great opportunity to see probably the currently strongest Bulgarian brand in action!

In a previous post, I wrote about who Dimitar Berbatov is and why Bulgarians are so proud of the Man United striker. But now, I actually witnessed that he has the potential to become an endorsement superstar (although of much lesser proportion) similar to Tiger Woods or David Beckham.

Among the merchandise, the highest proportion of course was dedicated to the team as a whole (Man United has always tried to put the spotlight on the collective rather than the individual, even during the time of Beckham), but surprisingly, probably the next most-popular images were those of Owen and Berbatov. It felt so good to see scarves, mugs, t-shirts, and posters with his handsome face and resonant name!

I learned that the Bulgarians at the University of Manchester are constantly buying Berbatov merchandise and shipping it to friends at home.

Berba is certainly the most successful brand Bulgaria has exported in the recent years. He is not only a good player, but also a celebrity whose good looks and status of a fashion icon are additionally enhanced by his socially responsible initiatives(the Dimitar Berbatov Foundation for the development of children’s talent). This winning combination has won him loyal fans from all over the world.

However, so far, he seems to be endorsing mainly products and services in Bulgaria: he has been the face of UNICEF Bulgaria, First Investment Bank, Vivatel telecom company, and more (follow the links to the ads). His image is one of the hard-working and successful man. But on a global scale, Berbatov is still only part of the Manchester United brand. His name is rarely evoked outside the Man United context, and he hasn’t really moved beyond endorsing his team’s corporate  sponsors like AON or Turkish Airlines (check out these cool commercials). From what I saw in Manchester, I’d like to think that he could further leverage his potential.

We randomly met these guys who had flown from Sofia just to see the Man U vs Fulham game and cheer for their idol.


The Coca-Cola Company has always made the best Christmas commercials!  Their new marketing campaign is, once again, memorable, and this time, it even has a connection with Bulgaria!

The “Snow Globes” TV commercial was created in collaboration with Coca-Cola Germany and McCann, Madrid, and was produced by Bulgaria’s Boyana Film Studio in Sofia. Along with the emblematic Christmas Trucks and the reference to the polar bears, the commercial features only Bulgarian actors: Ivan Petrushinov as Santa, Dido Manchev as the store owner, Nikola Kiuchukov and Desislava Kasabova as the young couple, etc. The Californian Grammy Award winning band Train performs the song “Shake Up Christmas”.

I hope the commercial’s message  inspires you for a wonderful holiday with your friends, family and loved ones!


For anyone who is even slightly observant to cultural trends, it is obvious that one of predominant themes in American cinema, TV, music, and commercials is violence. There is blood, blades, or bullets in almost every American blockbuster and computer game. Violence is simply part of the pop culture and no one seems to find it overly shocking any more.

Chalga-hip-hop singer Ustata in a commercial for Nestle ice-cream. Surely many little boys and girls will eat ice-cream this summer.

Sex, on the other hand, is taboo, and eroticism is an ancient art that exists only in Europe. Sex connotations are censored on TV, and movies with nude scenes often receive more strict parental guidelines (the sign that tells you if the movie is suitable for 12-year olds or 16-year olds, etc.) than those with killings. Lately, it seems that pop culture is becoming even more puritanical, like in the Twilight series where Bella and Edward will consume their love only after their marriage, or in Dear John where Savannah and John kiss and hug, but she still waits for him for more than a year to return from the war.

I don’t understand why Americans try to conceal sex so hard and still display so much brutality and bloodshed. Doesn’t it seem contradictory and maybe hypocritical? Probably the origin of the media sex-eclipse is the religiousness of many powerful American Christian denominations and sects. The saturation of guns and violence in pop culture reflects USA’s constant fighting and wars somewhere in the world, which have become part of the Americans’ daily lives just like action movies.

I go to college in the States, and I can tell you that someone’s attempt to keep youths pure from the sin of sex is absolutely in vain. Violence, unfortunately, seems to be engrained too deeply in politicians’ minds.

The commercial for mastika Peshtera with chalga singer Maria contains the lines "They are so big and juicy," which refers to the watermelons to go with your drink.

In Bulgaria, sex comes before violence. Sexual images inundate our pop scene, fashion, TV, magazines, and billboards. The young generation’s pop idols, the chalga stars, are platinum-blonde supermodels with silicone boobs and lips. One can mute their music videos and watch them as near-porn movies.  Girls age 7 to 37 love and imitate the chalga stars. Our TV commercial slogans go: “With licking comes the appetite” (for Nestle ice-cream), “Erases the memories” (for vodka Flirt), and “It’s the season of the watermelons” (for mastika Peshtera liqueur). Our young women like to carry themselves as provocative and sexy, which has brought fame to Bulgaria, and especially our sea resorts as destinations for alcohol and sex tourism.

Despite the abundance of sexual imagery, Bulgaria is not a sexual inferno really. Young people are liberal in their views, but there is no baby boom or STD epidemics (with the notable exception of the Roma people whose numbers are going up while the average age when their women give birth for the first time is in the early teens; but Roma culture is different from ours).

So this is what I’m confused about: How can it be that something so terrible as violence has been turned into a cult in America, while something so natural as sex has been stigmatized as taboo?! Simultaneously, how can it be that a country that greatly values traditional family relations, where homosexuality and abortion are still sensitive topics can have such a vulgar and sexual pop culture?!


Lately, I have been trying to familiarize myself with online social media (as you can tell from my blog) and internet marketing (that’s a long story). I’ve also been thinking about wineries (that’s an even longer story). So there it is, my thoughts on how the two can work together to create some very interesting initiatives.  

The Fledgling Wine initiative joins the efforts of Twitter, the Californian winery Crushpad, and Room to Read, a non-profit that promotes literacy for children from third-world countries.     

$5 from every $20-bottle of the fledgling Crushpad wine, vintage 2009, goes towards the noble cause of Room to Read.  

What makes this initiative interesting to me is that it presumably targets wine connoisseurs,  who are generally expected to be more affluent than the average person (since they are used to buying wine from this same vineyards for $50 per bottle, according to the winemaker).  

I believe that it’s a great idea to target wine-lovers, who often times are the intelligentsia , the more sophisticated social class, and who would spend their money not only on good wine, but also for good causes.  

Still, by lowering the price of their wine and starting this “social winemaking project” in partnership with Twitter, Crushpad takes away from the elitist feel of buying vintage wine for a socially responsible cause. Crushpad makes the connoisseur experience available to everybody.  

The idea of making something far-fetched and elitist (such as premium wine in the eyes of the wine-ignorant, access to the global communication flow in the eyes of the internet-unacquainted, or education and literacy in the eyes of poor kids in India) seem attainable and real, is the heart of the Fledgling Wine initiative; and a truly noble cause.  

That’s why I think the Fledgling Wine is such a great project. Read more about Twitter’s Bottles for Books.  

Cheers!  

And happy Liberation Day, March 3rd, to all Bulgarians living and studying abroad!  

Watch this video from the official website

 

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Read my post on the Bulgarian Day of Wine, Trifon Zarezan.

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