The death of the Spanish brand

Spain has always been one of those places that people loved to hate. Torremolinos and Benidorm have been the butt of jokes, sitcoms and the building of concrete jungles since the early 1960’s when widespread air travel bought the sun, sea, sand and Sangria within reach of the masses.

The best ever Icon that completely represents all of Spain's brand values
The best ever Icon that completely represents all of Spain's brand values

But when Spain started using the Joan Miró ‘logo’ to represent the Spanish brand, the whole offer started to make more sense. It had in effect, displayed its brand values in one beautifully simple representation to show that it was all about fun, easy living and a lovely relaxed style. For me, it is one of the most beautifully timeless ‘icons’ I have ever seen.

But then it all started to go wrong when they started trying to sneak in a few extra brand values, namely profit and perhaps even profiteering.

One of the attractions for us Brits of a Spanish holiday was always that it was incredibly cheap when we got there. Cheap beer, freshly cooked fish on the beach and change out of £20 for a family of four. The introduction of the Euro saw the first real move away from this with money pouring in from the rest of the Euro Zone and a move towards comparative wealth in the most popular destinations.

But then it all went wrong.

People rushed to buy the cheap apartments, being promised and initially seeing, spectacular growth in value, fuelled by the cheap flights of the low cost carriers. But as we’ve all worked out, there’s no such thing as a free flight and there’s certainly no such thing as a free lunch.

Sun, Sea, Sand and a pretty poor branded investment with a superb view over the motorway
Sun, Sea, Sand and a pretty poor branded investment with a superb view over the motorway

Profiteering was rife. Land that was being bought for comparative buttons, was being converted to thousands upon thousands of Penthouse apartments, and in an exact mirror of the buy-to-let crash in the UK, there soon became a HUGE oversupply and the market tanked.

Where I was staying above La Cala, which was a lovely development, there were only one in eight apartments occupied. Around us in other developments, the figures looked much worse, with one opposite only having three occupiers in over 100 apartments – and that is in the height of their summer season. I personally know three people who are trying to sell (absolutely lovely) places in that region alone and all are now offering them at 40+% less than they were a year ago, with not even a sniff of a viewing, let alone any buyers.

The taxi drivers are reporting a 25% drop in traffic and the one I spoke to said he could not afford to have another summer like it. He had moved from selling timeshare, but he acknowledged, that dreadful mistakes had been made in the property market. Even the taxi market is massively oversupplied with over 400 taxis waiting at Malaga airport on one of the days I was there, for far too few fares.

The restaurants reacted by putting their prices UP, so that a meal for four is a struggle for less than 100 Euro. They too are reporting huge falls in numbers – which is hardly surprising either. The visitors seem to have reacted by staying away and buying from the supermarkets, which still offer remarkable value.

So Spain has completely trashed its brand values. It has stamped all over them and probably ruined them forever. Unless they can rebuild their business case with far fewer visitors and go back to their original values, their situation will get worse and worse and worse – and they already have 25% unemployment in some areas.

Spain is a lesson for any brand owner. Know your brand values, keep them steady and keep looking after your customers. Give them reasons to fall in love with you over and over again and never, ever put profit before quality.

Anyway, Turkey for me next year. If that’s not a Spain waiting to happen, I don’t know where is!

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