To “Pull a Kazakhstan”: Is Kazakhstan Taking the Dubious Honor of "The Example" of Sloppy, but Successful, “Nation-Branding”?
There is a Simpson’s episode entitled “Homer Defined” where Homer saves the Springfield nuclear plant from a disaster of his own jelly donut’s making by randomly picking a button to press. Without going further into the plot, Homer eventually becomes a world-renown example of the lucky klutz, and people all over the world adopt the saying “to pull a Homer” to characterize any klutzy act that ends up with a lucky result.
The coincidence of the release of the now infamous “Borat” film and Kazakhstan’s U.S. PR campaign surrounding President Nazarbayev’s visit to Washington last fall has suddenly brought Kazakhstan into the international limelight, but not exactly in the way its public relations’ consultants had originally intended. According to recent articles, the attention that Borat has brought the country has indeed had a positive affect on Kazakhstan’s tourism industry. But, it has also had some unintended consequences. Kazakhstan has suddenly become the brunt of many jokes, and its PR campaign around Nazarbayev’s visit to the U.S. has become “the example” of a laughable (but well recognized – and, hence, successful) “nation-branding” effort. In fact, before too soon, the term “pulling a Kazakhstan” could become synonymous with such campaigns
An example of this tendency comes from Montreal this week. Exasperated at the lack of the city’s efforts to present itself as a desirable destination, the head of the city’s tourism board derided Montreal for being like Kazakhstan. Showing his great respect for Kazakhstan, the Mayor publicly criticized the tourism board for daring to say that his city was like Kazakhstan.
But the fun does not end there. On Wednesday and Thursday this week, I noticed an unprecedented spike in my readership on the Roberts Report. While I wanted to assume that it was in reaction to my keen political insights on Uzbekistan, I somehow doubted that was the reason behind an 800% spike in my average statistics. At closer examination, I realized that another tourism mishap in Serbia had attracted scores of visitors to my piece written in October about Kazakhstan’s tourism commercial on CNN.
The reason for this attention was that Serbia had also taken out an advertisement for tourism on CNN, and CNN International decided to use the same Kazakh folk music they had employed for Kazakhstan’s campaign. Having noticed this, the Serbian newspaper “Blic” broke the story, criticizing CNN for their sloppy replication when Serbia had sunk over 500,000 Euro into the adverts. Serbian patriots seemed to be quite upset that their country’s government had “pulled a Kazakhstan,” and various Serbian language internet forums sent visitors to my site to view the Kazakhstan advert. CNN, however, did apologize and offered to extend the advertisement’s run and remove the Kazakh folk muic…..”DOH!”
Maybe it is time for Kazakhstan (and Serbia) to hire a new PR firm in order to spin this one….
Below, you can compare the two CNN pieces:
Serbia (The Original Version)