I read with a bit of a sinking feeling earlier this week that Tourism Malaysia plans to hold a contest to replace its much-maligned Visit Malaysia 2020 logo (shown above as a rather fetching postage stamp). As BoatyMcBoatface and countless other examples have taught us, this would be a bold move.
Perhaps we should instead be reflecting on how to turn the situation around. Because after all, if there’s one thing The Internet loves more than a punching bag, it’s a comeback.
1. All tourism advertising looks the same
Search your feelings, you know it to be true: all tourism advertising is now a perfect drone video of a never ending tropical paradise or snow-capped mountains. All of it!
What is it they say about 'zigging' when the world ‘zags’?
2. Malaysia could desperately do with some levity (in general)
This is the most serious point. The national mood has gone through a a full range of emotions over the last six months and - in many respects - things often feel pretty dour, even in a time of change.
In politics, endless muck-slinging and finger-pointing has created a depressing, frenetic public discourse - even as the new administration works to fix things. The national Tourism body has not been exempt from this, and also seems to be emerging from a pretty murky period itself.
However this is also one of the few official ministries (in any country) with the license and goodwill to try and avoid hot-button political issues altogether.
So, are the good folks in charge now to spend more public funds on a new logo or might they try to win hearts by poking fun at themselves as bastions of a newly energised, self-aware and transparent national identity? Maybe even one with a sense of humour!
Bonus point: retaining a logo commissioned under an old administration allows you to move forward while acknowledging the past. Penang wasn't built in a day.
3. 'Ugly' is in. No, really.
We live in a time where Balenciaga send Crocs down the runway and flog ‘Dad shoes’ for thousands of dollars. As millennial travelers (read: people who grew up in the 90s) begin to develop disposable incomes and explore the world; this logo may in fact never stand a better chance at acceptance.
Think of it this way. Nostalgia is a key part of the pop culture zeitgeist; whose current custodians grew up in a time of bad airbrush, dubious sunscreen advertising, bright colours and bowlcuts.
In a world of unattainable advertising perfection, poor graphic design is therefore no longer an original sin (unless you want to use Papyrus as a font, in which case - no). 'Ugly' is in. Embrace it!
4. The Internet never forgets. But it also loves a comeback.
So your brand made a mistake. What comes next is all about attitude and commitment to change where it really matters. Now I’m definitely not saying you should be unapologetic in general, but a bit of sassiness on the lighter matters can go a long way to taking back control of the narrative (as they say).
So let's re-frame the question. What is there to celebrate about the Visit Malaysia 2020 logo? Plenty. Or to answer this question with another: why shouldn’t a turtle wear sunglasses, anyway?
5. The proposed solution could go south, quickly.
If this thing goes to a public competition, it's about to get a whole lot worse before it gets better. Because if you can’t laugh at yourself, The Internet will do it for you. And yes, we aren't simply talking about BoatyMcBoatFace here but countless other examples such as the New Zealand flag debacle, in which the following masterpiece came within a sheep's whisker of being hoisted at the UN:
Open Visit Malaysia 2020 to a public vote and the logo gets worse while the joke goes on. Conversely, this is a real chance to turn something wholly under-cooked (yet already iconic) into a gloriously self-aware symbol of Malaysia 2.0. A final word of caution, though: this process itself needs to be taken seriously, lest the people of Reddit keep doing it for you.
At the end of the day, stories like these are all fun and games until someone uses Papyrus as a dominant font. But seriously, they don't have to be a national embarrassment and history will ultimately remember what happens next.
In this case, if the only way to stop the Visit Malaysia 2020 meme train is to double down on the magnificent PowerPoint creation that started it in the first place, then so be it. Shades for everyone.
Tim Sharp is regional strategy lead at APD. The post was republished with permission from Linkedin.