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Stop calling Carnival The Greatest Show on Earth

By Peter Anthony Gales Tuesday, July 24 2012

For some years now weíve been referring to our carnival as the ďGreatest Show on Earth.Ē

A rather brazen claim I think ógiven Rioís carnival ó yet we could certainly own that claim if we consistently support it with an appropriate (read huge) annual media spend.

But why not invest in a campaign that could be more memorable and perhaps more emotionally impactful to the international community?

To understand what this other campaign might be, letís first consider what carnival is.

What is carnival? Thereís no one answer to this. Carnival is an evolving, multi-faceted phenomenon. As Minshall says it is national theatre, it is also a national celebration of life, a showcase of national culture ó especially of creativity, soca, calypso and pan ó a religious festival, a tribute to heritage, a big party and more.

Itís hard to pin down into one thing. Take our Panorama for example. Panorama is certainly a show, a concert featuring one of our proudest cultural achievements as a country. But Panorama is also a gigantic fete like no other. Try explaining that to an international prospective guest.

Focus on an emotionally appealing aspect of Carnival: In marketing to the international community we are wise to focus on one thing and that thing should be something that they not only understand, but that they also have the biggest emotional connection with.

And that thing, that aspect of carnival is this:

Carnival is a party, a big fete, and if weíre clever the big fete.

From an international marketing perspective Iím betting weíll get more bang for our media spend by positioning Trini Carnival as a party, versus as a show.

Think of the difference.

A Show: When you think of a show, you think of something that you go to, sit down, watch, clap or yawn. You leave and go home. If it was entertaining, if it made you laugh, cry, think; you might tell your friends.

But a show is essentially non-participatory. Itís one way. You sit and are entertained. It is not a shared experience. (Itís exactly what our carnival is not.)

Contrast that with a party

A party is involvement, inclusion, interaction, participation. Music and dancing. Food and drink. Bacchanal! OK, thatís a Trini party.

And our parties seem to up the ante for our international guests who are often blown away by our energy and fun compared to what they are used to at home. And whatís the One thing Triniís know how to do? What is that people? You said it.


Trinis know how to fete. We know how to throw one, to entertain, and have fun at a party. (At least we like to think so.) Play to our strengths: Itís now generally accepted business and personal development tenets to play to your strengths.

Donít waste your time developing areas where youíre not naturally talented. Instead develop the areas where youíre strong, and have others fill in the areas where youíre weak.

What makes Trinidad special is not our sun and sand. What makes TT special and unique is our people, our culture, our joie de vivre.

My step-brother is fond of his first impression of Trinidad. It began in the airport in New York in the late í60s where Trinis played quatro and sang at the pre-boarding gate. A singing and celebration atmosphere that continued on the entire flight to Trinidad and formed the foundation of his love of his new home: sweet TT.

Every international guest I have brought to Trinidad ó and they have been many ó has left with a similar feeling; all coming from our people and our party attitude to life. Letís play to that strength.

The international campaign going forward: Now that we have a new Minister of Tourism Iíd like to offer this, and it doesnít matter that London 2012 has already usurped the tagline.

Forget the Greatest Show on Earth, and offer our prospective international guests a taste of something really intimate and unique. Trinidadís having a party and youíre invited.

How many countries can claim to have a nationwide party? Not even Brazil can say that.

The campaign might be:

Headline: Every Year Our Entire Country Has A Party,

SubHead: Every year tens of thousands of our people converge on the capital, Port-of-Spain, and jump-up, dance, wine and otherwise ďget-on badĒ for two whole days, where everyone gets to feel like a star.

Ending Headline: And Youíre Invited!

Fine print: No RSVP required, no winter coats, just bring your shorts, a smile and come experience something no other country in the world can offer you ÖTrinidadís Carnival.

Trinidad and Tobago

Take it quick people before one of our Caribbean neighbours run with it.

Peter Anthony Gales is an

educator and trainer.

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