Branding, Re-branding, Teleprompting and Managing Nigeria's Image or Reputation

Branding and re-branding is how goodwill, good image and good reputation is captured, nurtured and maintained by individuals, companies and nations. Branding and re-branding is a necessity in today’s world

Human behavior is more choreographed, orchestrated and more synchronized than ever before in human history, and to this extent, cue cards, are frequently used in public speaking by business people, politicians, television production crews, movie directors and producers. These practices have become common place, all in efforts to make a seemingly flawless presentation of personal message, product presentations, documentary or movie making and in diplomacy and international relations between nations.

Nigerians who think or say otherwise, are completely wrong on this score about human psychology and behavior. Some Nigerians, it appears, seem to underestimate human savvy, sophistication and even utter frivolity.

There is raging debate between Nigerians as to whether or not, Nigeria indeed require branding or re-branding, and if so, whether such effort ought to be Nigeria’s priority or first order of business. I answer in the affirmative. Branding and re-branding is crucial and it is a priority as well. Branding or re-branding is the equivalent of a mission statement for a company or organization and it is similar to a good resume for an individual.

A company, country or an individual can never be too poor to write a mission statement or a resume respectively. A mission statement about a company’s products or services is the foundation of how such company proceed to convince the whole world what it proposes to do and do efficiently, effectively and cheaply, thereby garnering goodwill and reputation, when and if customers are satisfied.

A resume for individual is how the person sets out to convince a prospective employer about her education, skills qualifications, experience and suitability. Nations goodwill, reputation, image is what attract tourist and immigrants, what equally attract trade and investment, respect and admiration etc

To drive this point home, take for instance the fact that Nigerians who enthusiastically exuberant about promoting Nigeria and even those who are too quick in condemning Nigeria, are ironically agreed on one thing, and it is this, the weight of Nigeria’s current image or reputation which is mostly unsavory, whether deserved or justified, is quite entirely debatable; and where you stand on this issue, is determined by where you are sitting, Nigeria wise.

In today’s world, more than ever, image is everything, or at the very least, image and reputation means a great deal. Reputation, image, goodwill and good name is the advertisements and product placements are everywhere you look. It is the reason politicians raise so much money for political campaigns. These are the reasons products wear certain designs, packaging and have particular labels and particular colors etc

Americans presidents have all sorts of handlers, researchers and speech writers. Even after all that research and good writing has put into a speech, the president rehearses the actual delivery, mirrors, teleprompter and all and then, he comes across as a magician to Nigerians. American presidents are air-brushed for pictures and for every public presentation. In participating in political campaigns here in the US, I have come to realize how crucial handling and presentation is to candidates. Instances abound, in which whether a red neck tie presents the candidate as too aggressive too strong, or a blue tie too soft.

A speech about law enforcement or national security or defense a red neck tie is preferred, whereas, matters affecting civil rights or gender issues, a blue neck tie or silver color tie may be preferred. And for the female candidate, project strength and toughness, a red skirt suit and she has an image judged to be too strong, she may wear sky-blue dress or silver colored dress as well and no pant suit in either case. We should manage the image of our leaders because the essentially are our public emblem. I admired former President Olusegun Obasanjo and former Ministers Mrs. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and Mrs. Obiageli Ezekwesili for the African attires they wore and glorified, for the former president, I wished that he wore a different sort of eyeglasses!

These are the reasons why Africa continues to conjure the image of Tarzan and Idi Amin, even after several decades of their fables and urban legends.

As for those Nigerians who have and still argue against branding and re-branding in the midst of poverty and competing needs, they must be told that branding and re-branding is a wise investment, especially in the long term. New York City knows this, and it is why she spends billions of dollars annually on advertising New York City as the greatest city in the world! And billions more to market the term, I Love New York in songs and T-shirts etc

New York City ironically, actually started the now world famous I Love New York branding and re-branding, amidst a huge fiscal crises in 1977, when there was fears of New York City filing for bankruptcy, as the financial crises deepened. New York politicians approached the then president of the United States, Gerald Ford, who vowed never to bailout New York City from its economic woes and huge mess, he made an infamous statement that was front page in New York City newspapers “President Ford to New York, Drop Dead!” So, the marketing, branding and re-branding of New York City as place for business for pleasure and vacation became a major effort, among other efforts embarked upon by New York City public officials to resuscitate the city, the effort have been so successful over the years, so much so, that the state of New York has embraced the I Love New York campaign to cover the entire state of New York, beyond the five borough of which the city is comprised.

Nigeria does not have to wait, until utopia is reached before presenting herself to the world as destination for investment, vacation and pleasure, just like New York City, State of New York and everywhere else in the world

Tourism is a major income earner for New York City; last year alone, 47 million tourists visited New York City, a city of 8 million dwellers. And the tourist spent several billion dollars in hotels, on foods and memorabilia and souvenirs. Cab drivers, tour guides, shoe shiners, restaurants, airlines, theater companies and playwright etc all benefit from tourism upsurge to New York City; it has recovered, it took a hit after September 11, 2001 attacks.

About 47 million people visited New York City in 2008. These tourists spent a record $30 billion in New York City 2008 alone. Have Nigerians ever thought about how many of the businesses in Nigeria could be reaping tourist money in Nigeria as is the case in New York City?

Tourism remains a major earner for New York City and most parts of the United States, and different parts of the world. In traveling globally, I have found in my travels, to Britain, Belgium, Bahamas, Canada, Holland, Jamaica to name a few, that travels and tours is how many nations fund a good chunk of their running expenses. In my interactions with local citizens of these places, I found in them, a recognition, and appreciation of, the value tourist add to their economy, and so, the average citizen literally goes out her way to consciously please the tourist, this, at very individual levels.

It is also the case that reputations, images, goodwill and product recognition are too often based on perception, yes, a mere perception! Actual usefulness of a person, or utility of a thing, and real benefits, which is separate and distinct from whether a person, a product or nation, compared with what is actually touted and storied to be.

Why would a medical doctor smoke tobacco in 2009? This even though current science has proven incontrovertibly, cancer causing agents in tobacco, and despite available medical and scientific evid

ence regarding the harmfulness of smoking tobacco? Cigarette should be seen for what it really is, addiction, disease and death causing products

“The American Marketing Association (AMA) defines a brand as a “name, term, sign, symbol or design, or a combination of them intended to identify the goods and services of one seller or group of sellers and to differentiate them from those of other sellers. “Branding is the foundation of marketing and is inseparable from business strategy. “

“Re-branding implies that one has to change existing perceptions and shift ideas about an existing brand. Any African government, business, or organization involved in either selling African products, or selling Africa as a business destination, needs a strategy to counteract the Continent’s existing brand in the U.S. main stream media.”

THE ROLE OF THE MEDIA

“Africa’s depiction in the American mainstream media has traditionally, centered around images and stories of a continent in crisis, a continent challenged by wars, corruption, disease and chaos”

REBRANDING AFRICA: BEYOND BRAND DEVASTATION

“Branding is the way in which an organization communicates, differentiates, and promotes itself to its audience.”

“Re-branding – means taking a product or a service and redefining its purpose, it’s content, and its reality.”

“As a journalist and member of the Ghanaian Diaspora, Esther Armah is all too familiar with the portrayal of Africa in the mainstream media. Esther points out that “Africa’s brand was not self-determined; it has been in the hands of an unelected leader, the mainstream media.” She offers her perspectives on Re-branding Africa”

“Devastation” has been Africa’s primary media image for decades. This brand has been powerful, persistent, and without penalty for those who maintain it.”

“It has been destructive for the Continent and the Diaspora economically, culturally, spiritually, and emotionally. It has also been cancerous for trade and development.”

“The media has been the public relations wing of “Brand Devastation” and repetition its tool. A diet of stories featuring the same images of hopelessness and helplessness ensured Western audiences’ loyalty to Brand Devastation.” All these quotes are sourced from The Corporate Council on Africa (CCA)

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