SHELLY-ANN Fraser-Pryce, Usain Bolt, Asafa Powell, Chris Gayle, the Kool Runnings bobsled team, Jimmy Cliff, Bob Marley, Shaggy, jerked chicken/pork, ackee and saltfish, dreadlocks, beautiful white sand beaches, a distinct, memorable dialect are all instantly recognisable symbols of beloved Jamaica. They represent the carefree, uber-talented, culturally rich people of the island of Jamaica. The epic brand. This little island in the Caribbean named among the happiest countries in the world. 'No problem, mon', right?
National brand focuses on image and reputation, is formed from multiple source and influences: mass media, visitors, political climate, national achievement, word of mouth, history, heritage, etc. Well-acclaimed marketing thought leaders say a nation's image is defined by people, their perceptions of place, which is not only shaped by its products, but also through associations influenced by a country's political, socio-economic, environmental, technological conditions, its culture, heritage, and traditions.
In 2011, the United Nations released an extensive report detailing each country's homicide rate. Jamaica placed fourth with a homicide rate of 52.1 (murders per 100,000 people). According to Business Insider, many of the countries with the highest homicide rates are low on human development, high on income inequality and corruption, and are fairly unstable.
Hmmm... How's the brand looking now?
But this is just a part of the story. How do we rate deterioration in values and attitudes, the disregard for the elderly, women, children, and the environment? How do we rate the pervasive disrespect for self and others; the developing culture of music that lauds and encourages criminal activity?
Despite the negative image of the brand, Jamaica continues to receive some good coverage internationally, which many shout proudly from rooftops. Still fresh in our minds is Tessanne Chin's performance on The Voice which propelled Jamaica (recall... bread and butter) to the top of trending lists last week. Who can forget our athletes' performance in the 2012 Olympics and 2013 IAAF World Championships; our entertainers at BET Awards; the infamous XLVII SuperBowl commercials, and even the massive 2013 Jamaica Diaspora Conference which were extraordinary free promotions for Brand Jamaica. But how much was converted into dollars, jobs?
While brand popularity and recognition are good, it is not the symbols which make a brand great, but the quality, reliability, promise and goodwill it represents. And right now, Brand Jamaica needs backative. Like the person with the big mouth, but no substance or strength for the battle, our cool brand image belies a nation in need of substantive change if we are to convert the brand's goodwill into cash. To be successful, this will require an all-emcompassing, integrative national identity strategy that will involve:
1. Government Support: We will need government policymakers to grasp the importance of having a national identity framework which places the emphasis on 'competitive identity' and a positive national brand image. Countries like New Zealand, Australia, Spain, and Ireland all present as excellent models of countries whose nation-branding process resulted in a radical change of the perception and awareness abroad. This means, therefore, that the Jamaican Government must take a proactive approach to nation branding, recognising the relational linkages to economic growth, such as: an increased inward investment and exports, improved figures in visitor arrivals, and a confidence boost in the products of the nation.
2. Public-Private Partnerships: Firms, in their own best interest and in furthering national interests, may need to help the Government drive Jamaica's Vision 2030 Jamaica -- National Development Plan, specifically funding and ensuring the implementation of public education campaigns whose objectives are to promote a sense of national and individual identity, raise the level of understanding about the linkages and connections between nationalism, individual growth and the nation's economic development. It is important for all stakeholders in nation-building to become involved with re-socialising how people relate to each other and to eliminate disrespectful behaviours that reflect poorly on the country's image. The public education campaign's primary objective is therefore to highlight positive core values that build social and cultural capital and for nationals to understand his/her role in protecting the Brand Jamaica image. As Jamaica develops, so will the private sector, which therefore has a stake in ensuring that the brand, on the whole, is lucrative.
3. Political Integrity: A nation is judged domestically and internationally by its leaders' performance and reputation. Leaders' reputation is a critical aspect, which impacts other channels of economic and social development. The nation's leaders must exemplify and communicate good governance consistently. Therefore, Jamaica needs to establish a political policy that distinguishes itself as a country that places emphasis on political integrity, accountability, responsible and ethical governance. All of which can strengthen its relations in international markets as 'outsiders' recognise that its people demand accountability and ethical governance. Ministers of government daggering at party meetings or flouting known procedures somehow don't paint a picture of responsible governance.
4. Parenting: If, as a country, we are to be successful in re-socialising citizens then it must start at the first teaching point, the home. Parents should bear the brunt of the responsibility to train their children to be good citizens, contributing positively to their country. With the family at the foundation of every society, improving parenting can go a long way in rebuilding Jamaica. More organisations -- church, civic groups, school -- are therefore needed to support parenting and the preservation of right values and attitudes. In Japan, school curriculum at the elementary, junior high and high school levels includes moral education and civics. As early as preschool, students are taught to maintain cooperative relationships with their peers, proper manners, how to speak politely and how to address adults, as well as how to relate to their peers in the appropriate manner. This serves mainly to preserve social values and transmit them to the next generation.
Companies invest millions in building and maintaining their brand's reputation. Because, the truth is, it all boils down to reputation. People buy into the reputation of your product.
So, what are we doing about Brand Jamaica?
Melody Cammock-Gayle is the director — business development and marketing at Communications & Business Solutions (CBS) Limited. firstname.lastname@example.org