“Very nice”: Kazakhstan makes ‘Borat’ catchphrase its official marketing slogan
Why should you also use pop-culture in your marketing strategy?
When comedian Sacha Baron Cohen released his satirical mockumentary (Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan) about the fictional Kazakh reporter Borat Sagdiyev in 2006, it was banned in Kazakhstan. However, the Kazakh tourism board has just realised the country’s promotional video with Borat’s “Very nice!” catchphrase.
The campaign includes four promotional videos that show tourists exploring Kazakhstan’s beautiful landscapes, local food, mingling with locals dressed in traditional outfits, bustling markets and cities. At the end of each short video, the tourists say some variation of: “Very nice!”
Surprisingly, what could have been an amazing PR campaign in 2006, became more of a disaster for a country that was not able to accept the joke. Not only did the movie was banned in Kazakhstan, but the Kazakh government also threatened to sue Sacha Baron Cohen and took out a four-page ad in the New York Times arguing against the film.
Kazakhstan in 2006 was a country that gained independence from the Soviet Union some 15 years ago. It was on a path of discovering itself, looking for the right path and putting itself on a map. What came with Borat was a mockery of the country that few knew. Naturally, the image portrayed in the movie was something a lot of people believed to be real Kazakhstan and thus seemed offensive to the country and its people.
Definitely poor marketing to the country. However, things seem to have changed and Kazakhstan is no longer outranged in 2020! Yay!
It’s almost 30 years since Kazakhstan became independent. The country is no longer a teenager, but rather a mature adult. The reaction is, therefore, much more mature, as well. It is also much better known and much more discovered than in 2006 — some 6–7 million tourists visit the country every year.
Tha tourism advertising comes at the time of the release of Borat’s second movie — Borat Subsequent Moviefilm: Delivery of Prodigious Bribe to American Regime for Make Benefit Once Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan. Looks like a great time to surf on the big wave of attention that the country will get again!
Kairat Sadvakassov, the deputy chairman of Kazakhstan’s tourism board, said the nation’s original plan for “Borat 2” was “to let it die its natural death and not respond,” the plan changed when Dennis Keen, who runs a tourism business in Kazakhstan, and Yermek Utemissov, who arranges film shoots in Kazakhstan, pitched the idea to the tourism board to embrace Borat in advertisements.
“It’s a newer generation. They’ve got Twitter, they’ve got Instagram, they’ve got Reddit, they know English, they know memes. They get it. They’re inside the media world. We’re looking at the same comedians, the same Kimmel show. Kazakhstan is globalized.”
The Kazakh Tourism board seem to be much more open to the whole idea. “In Covid times, when tourism spending is on hold, it was good to see the country mentioned in the media. Not in the nicest way, but it’s good to be out there. We would love to work with [Sacha Baron] Cohen, or maybe even have him film here.”
Well, what 15 years ago was a serious insult to Kazakhstan, today became a part of its marketing strategy to attract visitors to the country. Understanding that tourism can be a great addition to national GDP, Kazakhstan has eased visa policy to many countries across the world. Maybe that is why Borat’s “Very nice!” catchphrase has become much more acceptable today.
The marketing trick has definitely worked out, as pop-culture is a serious trendsetter. Look at Google Trends — Kazakhstan, as a keyword, has rocketed in the USA after the release of the movie.
Why should brands use pop-culture in their marketing strategy?
- By increasing the usage of pop culture in blogs, podcasts, social media posts, your SEO starts to become optimized, which increases relevancy and drives more traffic to your site. Of course, there can be more ways to become more relevant but as millennials start making their way into the corporate world, pop culture is the way to go. I’ve recently written an article about how brands in Malaysia used “Emily in Paris” to their success.
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- Good references are easily recognizable and can give great mileage to your marketing campaign. Google Kazakhstan today and you will see that all major international press is writing about the country! When was the last time you saw Kazakhstan on the news? Free advertising!
- Pop-culture has its big audience and tapping into it can help your brand gain new customers who’ll be keen to engage with your brand. Look what happens when brands go collabs with singers, actors, etc. — their products are sold out instantly. This may be costly, though. But if it has a great ROI, why not, right?
- Bringing pop-culture makes you more relatable and less robotic. It builds a bridge with the existing and potential audiences and helps to start a more genuine dialogue. You may also be heard better as your audience will tend to listen to your message more careful if you connect with them via something that’s important to them. As an example, look at the results of collaborations between BTS and various brands.
- 28% of the most successful businesses have pop culture featured in their marketing campaigns. Take Stranger Things, for example. Companies such as Nike, H&M, Burger King, and Coca Cola have recognized the hype around it and now have featured products that surround the show.
- There are a few popular events from the worlds of entertainment and sport that command attention from millions of people. Super Bowls and award shows are rife with opportunities for real-time social marketing. Using such events in your marketing strategy can help you dramatically spike visitors and engagement with your brand even.
- Organize your social content calendar and integrate the events that make the most sense for your brand and audience. Keep in mind the numerous releases of new seasons of popular TV shows, movies and events your business could leverage. What memes within certain TV shows and movies would resonate with the interests of your target audience? Combined with a sharp real-time strategy, popular culture references or contexts for your content can boost the entertainment value of your content in a way that will help your brand reach new audiences and better engage those that are already paying attention.