From Linden Leaf through a Bouquet of Flowers to I Feel Slovenia

Countries have always been competing for the attention of media and other target groups, for investments, for a better position on the international market of goods and services… And they have also been competing for tourists. Slovenia has been aware of the meaning of independent recognisability even before its independence 20 years ago. The Slovenia, My Country campaign has built the foundations for the creation of our country’s brand.
The Slovenia, My Country
Countries have always been competing for the attention of media and other target groups, for investments, for a better position on the international market of goods and services… And they have also been competing for tourists. Slovenia has been aware of the meaning of independent recognisability even before its independence 20 years ago. The Slovenia, My Country campaign has built the foundations for the creation of our country’s brand.

The Tourism and Commercial Promotion Centre was officially established on 1 October, 1983. This was also the period of a number of interesting activities, which were co-designed by Studio marketing: the integrated image with the linden tree, wide-spread presentation to the local public, series of posters, brochures, film, badges, announcements, and slogans. In a then interview for the Lipov list monthly magazine, Leopold Perc said (taken from: Delo, 14 January, 2004): “Only when communication runs smoothly at home, can we aggressively develop communication outward, too, because it is the reflection of our internal communication, our entire essence, our splendours, our history, our particularities, our religion, etc. Look, in a small area we have the sea, the Alps, lakes, the Karst phenomena, hills, meadows, and rivers, convents, churches, three religions, three different cultures ... Tell me, who else has something like that?! But no, we turn such diversities into differences, issues, instead of making the best of them, offer them to the world, and make good money. Sure, a selection is necessary before we present such diversities on films, posters, or brochures.”

Other campaigns many Slovenians still remembers also originate from that period: Slovenia, My Country; Turizem nas bogati (Tourism Enriches Us): Turizem smo ljudje (Tourism is People); Iščemo dobrega gospodarja (Searching for a Good Landlord). We all still remember a short film called Slovenia, My Country, but not many know that this film also received an award at the Tourism Film Festival in Berlin. This was the basis for the organization of the Tourism is People campaign (taken from: Delo, 14 January 2004). The campaign designers believed that every Slovenian must take part in the tourist offer of the country, if we want our guests to feel good. With a personal letter they invited more than 50,000 people from various occupational spheres to “take part”, such as innkeepers, mailmen, and drivers (taken from: Delo, 14 January 2004). The fact is that this was not only a tourist campaign, but a national campaign, which was financially and morally supported by the then government.

It is largely owing to the following people, that the campaigns for the promotion of Slovenia as a tourist destination saw the light of day, as they majorly contributed to their organization: Jernej Repovš, Zlatko Jančič, Miro Kline. The much needed support was provided by the then Secretary of Tourism, Bogomila Mitič, and members of the government with the then President of the Executive Council, Dušan Šinigoj. “The then situation dictated a campaign, which was primarily inward oriented: we were fantasising what we could do across borders, but actually, when it was time to step “across”, we ran out of courage, will, and money… The campaign that we designed almost 20 years ago could absolutely no longer be “alive”. As a matter of fact, we knew precisely how and where to position Slovenia, and who are our greatest competitors, but we did not know that it is required and possible to built a trademark of a destination, although this is what we have been doing intuitively. Undoubtedly, the campaign has been extraordinary well thought-out, it gave good results, filled everyone with optimism. Today I am certain that Slovenia possesses enough knowledge to carry out a similar campaign again, and there’s no need to go anywhere abroad. But, sure, the promotional campaign has to be implemented together with those, who are familiar with individual foreign markets to the core. This cannot be avoided,” said Dr Miro Kline in his interview for the Delo daily newspaper.

But more than anything from that period Slovenians still remember the then symbol of Slovenian tourism: the linden leaf. Jernej Repovš about the linden leaf: “It carries the following attributes: kind, friendly, warm, homey, clean, authentic, natural, and up-to-date.” In unison with nature it is to remind us that ecological environment enables tourism more than anything else.

Although the Tourism Enriches Us and Searching for a Good Landlord campaigns were still attention-grabbing, they were so much less than their forerunners.
A Bouquet of Multi-Coloured Flowers
In 1995 Bled for the first time held the Slovenian Tourism Forum. At this occasion the symbol of Slovenian tourism became a bouquet of multi-coloured flowers with an inscription, i.e. slogan the green piece of Europe.

In 1995 one of implementation activities within the Resolution on Strategic Goals of the Republic of Slovenia in the Field of Tourism was the integral image of Slovenian tourist offer. The activities related to marketing planning of the bases and creative implementation of the integral image of the Slovenian tourist offer in the form of a colourful bouquet of flowers took place at the Ministry of Economic Affairs, which was then the competent ministry for the area of tourism, and continued within the Slovenia Tourism Promotion Centre, which was founded in 1995. The integral image was built on the basis of the Slovenian tourism marketing strategy and on the basis of the definition of target markets and tourist products of the Slovenian tourist offer. With these strategic starting points we carried out a public tender for the design of creative solutions of the new integral image. After a double-stage procedure, the selected contractor became the Futura agency and its creative team under the guidance of Igor Arih. The Contracting Authority (i.e. the Ministry of Economic Affairs of the RS) engaged a group of experts to act as a commission for the selection of the contractor and to oversee the project implementation. Next to representatives of the ministry, the commission also included Slovenian and foreign experts in the area of market communication and tourism.

The bouquet of symbolically shaped multi-coloured flowers, which are directed upwards to the right on a blue square, and with a blue, dynamically shaped inscription Slovenija, was selected as the optimal solution among several well-prepared proposals, because it best expressed the given fundamental idea about Slovenia’s tourist offer, and which also corresponds to the trends of the tourist demand at the turn of the millennium. The positioning slogan “The green piece of Europe” was selected to complement the basic sign of the integral image for communication on foreign markets, which stresses the “green” component of the Slovenian tourist offer and places it into the European space.

In this period, tourist regions were defined and individual products were marketed. The Slovenia Tourism Promotion Centre prepared the fundamental marketing strategy for individual specific tourist regions – clusters (Mountain and lakes, Coast and karst, Spas, Cities, Countryside), and also developed strategies for individual tourist products (Games and fun, Congresses, Wine roads, Active holidays, Green, blue, and white sports, Alpine roads, Hiking, Events, Preventive Programmes ...).

“The fundamental concept of the tourist offer, which separates Slovenia from others, is based on features of a small, green, cultivated, and diverse country, which is well organised in terms of tourism, and where vacations actually stand for mental and physical relaxation. Slovenia is kind and hospitable, dynamic and provoking, it can be discovered in an easy and safe way,” was featured in the then introductory materials of the Slovenia Tourism Promotion Centre. This was in the time, when international tourism marketing severely sharpened and became an extremely interdisciplinary sub-science, which could not longer operate without strong support of creativity or designers, statistical support, and without major advertising background and heavy PR-budgets (taken from the annual report of CPTS 1997).

In December 2002, the topic of the Slovenian Tourism Forum in Nova Gorica was the country as a brand. The big question was: is Slovenia a brand? The answer was that our country has not (yet) been a brand, but it could become one. The conclusions of the forum showed that building a brand of a country through a tourist brand is the most simple and appropriate strategy. Next to tourist promotion, which simultaneously promotes corporate brand of the country abroad, tourists in the destination country also get a personal experience, which is connected to everything they chance upon in this country. If a personal experience is positive, in their environment they continue to increase the image of a country they visited as tourists. This approach increases the image of either export, investment or corporate brand of the destination country (taken from: Dr. Miro Kline and Dario Berginc, MSc, Tur!zem, January 2003).
Slovenia invigorates
In November 2003, the Slovenian Tourist Board invited open applications for the creative design of market communication with the aim of increasing recognisability of Slovenia with contextual upgrade of market communication of Slovenian tourism upon the accession of Slovenia to the European Union. The selected bidder became the Imago agency with the campaign Slovenija poživlja (Slovenia invigorates). This simultaneously initiated the first long-range joint promotional campaign, through which Slovenia wanted to position itself abroad as a country, which surprises, invigorates, and enriches the European Union. The main message and slogan had a role of the positioning slogan of Slovenian tourism and Slovenia as a country: Slovenia invigorates and strengthens the European Union or, in short, Slovenia invigorates. On the basis of creative solutions of the campaign and media strategy, and in cooperation with partners, STB, in addition to the basic Slovenian tourism marketing programme for 2004 in accordance with the agreement with the Ministry of Economy, also carried out additional activities for increasing the popularity of Slovenia, such as promotional and information presentations of Slovenia in major European cities in cooperation with the Government Office of Public Relations and Media, the participation in celebrations of the accession to the EU on events in Slovenia, and the preparation of the promotion and information materials to support promotional activities, as well as the implementation of the so-called image campaign (primarily in Germany, Austria, and Italy).

The goals of the campaign were to make a good first impression, start building a positive attitude towards Slovenia as a new member, raise the level of awareness about Slovenia and the level of interest, as well as increase the demand for information about Slovenia. It was all done in an attempt to increase the value of brands in the area of tourism, culture, economy, and politics.

The Slovenian tourism marketing strategy 2003–2006 anticipated that by 2008 our country would reposition itself from a destination, which is similar to others, into an unusual and surprising destination, into an oasis of relaxation. The integral communication campaign in the form Slovenia invigorates represents a sort of a turning point on the path of desired repositioning of Slovenia as an interesting, attractive, different, and invigorating country. The main objective of the positioning slogan is to support the umbrella brand “Slovenia” (with flowers) and give it an invigorating tone, and direct people’s attention to Slovenia as a provider of invigorating tourist services, etc. The positioning slogan “Slovenia invigorates” is integrated in all paths and tools of market communication (ranging from ads, posters, stands, promotion and information material to web sites, press releases, etc.). Hence, on different levels we are communicating with continuity and above all promote Slovenia in an integral way. (Taken from: TUR!ZEM, March 2005.)

The “Slovenia invigorates” slogan was the first attempt to use a uniform slogan on all areas of Slovenia, not only in the area of tourism. In 2006, this slogan gave way to the new slogan “I feel Slovenia”, which is still used today.
I feel Slovenia
In 2006, the Government Communication Office (UKOM) posted an anonymous competition for the design of a new logo and slogan of Slovenia. The expert jury composed of members of the Council for the Promotion of the Republic of Slovenia and four external experts selected the winning idea solution, the slogan “I feel Slovenia”. Subsequently, UKOM also gained a graphic image for the slogan. The Slovenia brand was developed and designed in 2007. The Ministry of Economy was in charge of choosing the model for creating the brand of Slovenia, of acquiring elements of the identity of Slovenia as a brand, of the application (implementation) of the brand on all levels and areas originating from the already acquired system of the visual brand or on the basis of the adopted slogan and graphic image of the slogan of Slovenia.

The company Pristop, d.o.o. was selected through a public tender to set-up and manage the brand of Slovenia. In October 2007 the company submitted the Slovenia Brand Manual and the Business Document. A month later UKOM was appointed the guardian of the brand and in December 2008 it prepared the distribution and communication plan of the brand for 2008.

In 2008, in accordance with the above plan, a lot of attention in the process of setting-up the brand was directed to informing and encouraging the local public to identify with the brand and to eventually use the brand in different areas. But much attention was also particularly dedicated to tourist and general promotion abroad (events, publications, and promotional gifts).

In terms of organization and staffing, the first half-year of 2008 was marked by the presidency of Slovenia to the EU Council. This opportunity also raised a question in what way should the brand be asserted for the purpose of communicating with foreign countries during the presidency, because a special integral image and communication plan already existed. The general opinion was that it does not make sense to use two strong symbols simultaneously, so it is better to introduce the new brand of the country to the local public and to encourage possible identification with the new brand, while not using the symbol within the presidency-related events, but at the same time intensively test and use the symbol as well as other identify elements of the brand on already planned promotional events abroad and materials.

In 2008 and 2009 the brand was distinctively and universally asserted in the area of tourism. Participation at trade fairs, events in Slovenia and abroad, publications, advertising, souvenirs, and promotional gifts with the use of identity elements of the brand and with the use of the logo (symbol) significantly contributed to the greater recognisability of the brand and of Slovenia in target publics in the area of tourism abroad.

As a principle, the promotional use of the symbol (logo) was permitted to anyone, who applied for it. The guardian also prepared the rules, which enabled organizations and individuals to apply for the commercial co-use of the brand and the symbol in the sale of their products and services. UKOM and SBO carried out a call for applications for a specific number of promotional gifts with the I feel Slovenia symbol.

Between 2006 and 2010 the I feel Slovenia symbol was mostly used in tourism. In the area of tourism the implementation of the brand was carried out consistently, both in terms of appearance and content. In its market and communication activities and tools the Slovenian Tourist Board consistently observed the proper use of guidelines of the integral graphic image of the brand, while giving special emphasis to the unspoiled (green) nature. All tools were designed by taking into account the integration of the tourist brand of Slovenia with other areas/elements, which compose the national brand of Slovenia, in particularly in two areas: in culture and in sports.

In 2010, the brand – its visual elements, in particular – was also used in other areas. For example, the brand’s visual elements were included in major sports events, such as the Olympic Games, the FIFA World Cup, and the World Basketball Championship.

Even today the strengthening of the recognisability and efficiency of the tourist brand I feel Slovenia is one of priority areas of STB, which is striving towards a clear position of Slovenia as well as effective management and implementation of the brand. The brand is developed in partnership with other subjects with the aim of achieving synergy promotion effects, and at the same time developing measures for realizing the promise of the brand by facilitating the development of a high quality, responsible, and sustainable tourism. In the year we are celebrating 20 years of Slovenia’s independence we updated market and communication and advertising tools in order to increase the communication efficiency.
Chronological Overview of Tourist Slogans
The campaigns Slovenia, My Country, Tourism is People and Tourism Enriches Us have been followed by other campaigns under the slogans Imejmo se fajn (Let’s Have a Good Time), Dolg vikend so kratke počitnice (Long Weekend is Short Vacations), Juhu, počitnice so tu (Whoopee, Holidays are Here) and Dobrodošli doma (Welcome Home).
1995: The Green Piece of Europe (positioning slogan)
1996: Let’s Have a Good Time
1998: within Welcome Home – Long Weekend is Short Vacations
1999: within Welcome Home – Holidays are Close
2000: within Welcome Home – Whoopee, the Holidays are here
2000: Celebrating millennium
2002: Na lepše (stranske poti so zapeljivejše od glavnih)/Next Exit
2004: Slovenija poživlja/Slovenia invigorates
2007: I feel Slovenia/Slovenijo čutim

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