Jamaica must rule its destiny
The Jamaica Stock Exchange recently invited me to be a speaker at their Ninth Regional Conference on Investments and Capital Markets which was being staged under the theme 'From Productivity to Prosperity: Regional Survival & Growth Through Investments'. I was specifically asked to speak about 'Investment Inflow from the Diaspora: Engagement through New Policies'. My next few columns will be based on this presentation.
I chose to split my presentation into two parts: The diaspora inflow part and then defining 'Brand Jamaica' so people would understand why and where I thought the money should be deployed. The video of my presentation is being edited to make it easier to see my slides, and I will write a future column that covers that section. But the video used at the end of my presentation is already live at http://bit.ly/jamdestiny and I must thank Cezar for allowing me to use his song Rule Your Destiny as the soundtrack at the event (he attended in person).
For years we have all been hearing this mantra about 'Brand Jamaica', but nobody has ever explained what it means and what it represents. More importantly, a brand is what other people think of it, not what you think of your own brand.
You can try to position it but it will only reflect truths, not hype. 'Brand Jamaica' to some people means sun, sea and sand. To others it means friendly people and reggae music. There are, of course, negatives to the brand.
Jamaica is like any country — good and bad mixed in. However, when we choose to be bad, we want to excel at it just like we excel at the good things. It must be in our DNA to aim to be the best at everything we do and stand out, even if it is negative.
The brand, to some, is among the worst countries for murders per capita. For some it is among the worst for tourist harassment. We continue to slip in the Doing Business Index, we have extremely costly energy, we have the lotto scam, a perception of serious corruption and unwillingness to tackle it. The brand covers a wide range and it's time to be honest.
I said that for me Brand Jamaica used to represent luxury. The Boston Fruit Company (later United Fruit Company) made Portland famous, thanks to the banana boats (Boston, the home of jerk pork, supposedly got its name from Boston in the USA). The Titchfield Hotel was one of the largest hotels anywhere in 1905, with 400 rooms. Wealthy people who were spending one or two months in Jamaica awaiting the return of the banana boats put their children in Titchfield High School.
Errol Flynn made Port Antonio famous. The suave American actor who played swashbuckling heroes would be seen walking barefooted along the road to Frenchman's Cove with friends like Sophia Loren. Royalty from Arab countries would go there to get away from the spotlight.
Then Ian Fleming wrote Casino Royale and all his other future James Bond novels in his Oracabessa home called Goldeneye (now you know where they got the name for the Pierce Brosnan Bond-debut film).
Blue Mountain Coffee is one of the most expensive coffees in the world. Appleton Rum has consistently been ranked among the best rums in the world. Sea Island Cotton, which only grows in the Caribbean, mainly Jamaica, sells for US$12.50 per pound while other elite brands sell for US$2 per pound. It is mainly bought by brands like Gucci and Prada. A dress shirt can cost US$500.
An athlete like Usain Bolt represents Puma and is associated with the Nissan Skyline GT-R, a car costing US$90,000 and up that outruns the Porsche 911 Turbo and almost any Ferrari or Lamborghini you put it against. His deal with Hublot resulted in a watch that retails for US$26,000.
When Tom Cruise wanted to have a secret island getaway in his film Knight and Day with Cameron Diaz, he chose Jamaica, Frenchman's Cove to be exact, to be the destination because he fell in love when he shot Risky Business in Jamaica years ago.
That, readers, is what Brand Jamaica really is.
We must rule our destiny.
David Mullings is an entrepreneur, investor and philanthropist who was the first Future Leaders representative for the USA on the Jamaica Diaspora Advisory Board. He can be found on Twitter at twitter.com/davidmullings and Facebook at facebook.com/davidpmullings
Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz in a scene from Knight and Day.