The just ended conference on opportunities that could be harnessed by Southern African Development Community (SADC) from the up-coming FIFA World Cup in 2010, South Africa, has hinted on qualities of good national brand. Ever since the national brand was launched, there has been uproar on the appropriateness of the brand itself and the message it conveys, with significant voices of disapproval.
Mike de Vries, an internationally acknowledged expert for brand communication and nation branding from Germany, said a national brand should enjoy a buy-in within the country first in order to have an impact internationally.
Relaying the formation of “Germany ÔÇô Land of ideas”, he said it took them only eight months before the 2006 FIFA World Cup edition that was held in that country to come up with the national brand. Prior to the brand, he said, Germany was the focal point of negative publicity internationally.
“Headlines in the media talked about planned demonstrations during the World Cup by the Neo-Nazis, accidents that occurred during the construction of the stadia and strong racial tones that exist in Germany. It was really discouraging,” he explained.
It was then that they realized the importance of marketing their country and shifting the international press from negative coverage in order to host a successful world cup.
“Even within Germany there was a lot of pessimism and lack of clear strategic vision,” he noted.
The added; “we then decided to devise a new marketing strategy to align various interests under the same brand so that we could speak with one message, one voice and as one people.”
The biggest unifying factor, they noted, was that the Germans were proud and passionate about innovation, hence the brand. After the formation of the brand, he said perceptions and negative publicity shifted and that was of course accompanied by aggressive marketing and publicity. Impressed with what he had achieved for Germany, de Vries was invited by Ghana in 2007 to participate in the development of the marketing and communications strategy.
For their part, South Africans are saying they are still in the process of selling their brand “Alive with opportunities” to the provinces and aligning provincial government’s selling proportions to the national brand. Presenting the case study, Marketing Manager of International Marketing Council (IMC) of South Africa, Vuyelwa Nyakaza, said before they developed the brand, they had to consult over 25 000 people from South Africa and internationally. The effort was to ensure that they coin something that would be acceptable locally and internationally.
“You always have perceptions out there that define who you are but the most important thing is to take charge and tell your own story,” she said. For instance, she said in the process of interrogating perceptions about countries, they noted that Britain ÔÇô amongst other things is perceived to be proud, civilized, cultured, cold, arrogant, witty and traditional while Germany is perceived to be efficient, industrious, rational, cold and providing engineering excellence. The United States of America is viewed as a country that embraces freedom, competitiveness, strong in customer orientation and services, arrogant, adventurous and war mongers.
However, Nyakaza reiterated that nations have images that differ in different parts of the world. “What they think of you in India may be completely different to what they think of you in the UK,” she said. The image of a nation, she explained, varies with the receiver’s social and political leanings, personal experiences and relationships between one’s country and others.
She noted that countries are also known for products that they produce. Finland, their research has shown, is known to be strong on mobile phones, Ireland on wireless technology, India in software development and entrepreneurial talent while Scotland is known for whisky, biotechnology and energy production.