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The three Ps of Nation Branding 2

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An ariel view of Yankari Game Reserve

This is the second in a three-part series. Branding a nation to greatness involves the successful branding of what I have identified as the 3 Ps. These are People, Places and Products. What this basically entails is the application of the branding process to our identity as a people, our cities by way of destination branding, and our products as proudly Nigerian brands. If we are able to do these successfully, we shall be a great nation. It may not be as easy as it seems, for each component is a painstaking process requiring dogged commitment and detailed application.

But why should our President fly to the United Kingdom on vacation at a time am writing about the need to brand our cities as viable destinations for tourism and investment? When he is sick, he goes to the UK. When he needs a vacation he goes to the UK. This is unacceptable. Our President at this time should be spending his vacation at Yankari Game Reserve. This will not only promote that tourist destination but also prove to us that Bauchi is a safe place to vacation and show us that the government’s efforts at restoring peace and security in every part of the country is achieving the desired results.

Unfortunately, Baba decided to break our hearts once again by going to the UK on vacation. This is not fair. Our President is our Number One Brand Ambassador. He must therefore constantly express belief in everything Nigerian. He has the huge responsibility to lead a team that makes things work. If it will take ages for our hospitals to attain world class status, what about our tourism destinations? What Mr President needs is a quiet time close to nature and we have numerous options for him within the borders of this huge country. Can you imagine the CEO of Pepsi publicly drinking a Coke? Or can you imagine the CEO of Samsung using an iPhone? Can you imagine the CEO of Guinness drinking a bottle of Star? Or vice versa? These things are anathema. And if brand managers have such religious commitment to their brands, why is it different with our leaders who have sworn to uphold our constitution?

Unfortunately, what our President has done is akin to these examples. And this is why I insist we need brand managers in government. We need people who understand the basics of brand management and who will manage this country as they would a brand. Because the country is indeed a brand and requires a brand-centric approach to her management. The second P of nation branding requires that we brand our cities through a systematic implementation of destination branding programs. It also means that Mr President is the brand ambassador for Brand Nigeria, and must always act in way that promotes that idea that Nigeria is the best nation brand in the world. He should symbolize and sell the idea that our country is the best place on earth, not because we have the best of everything, but because we have everything to be the best. When Donald Trump proclaimed that Nigeria is one of the most beautiful countries in the world, the first people to disagree with him were Nigerians! Why are we so stupid? Whether we like it or not, the world now agrees with Trump that there is actually a ‘Fake News Media’! Many may not like his approach but there are tens of millions of Americans and indeed other nationals who believe everything he says.
The essence of strategic brand management involves highlighting the positive attributes of your brand and making it define your brand. Because indeed, there is no perfect brand. Which is why strategic brand management also essentially requires continuous improvement. This is why automobiles, cell phones and other electronic gadgets always come out with new models. Brands have to constantly reinvent themselves in a never ending process of continuous improvement to stay competitive. With our nation brand however, we have always allowed others to highlight the negative stories about us. This has been done so repeatedly that Nigerians at home and abroad have accepted the idea that nothing good can come out of this country. This is really unfortunate and makes the task of changing the narrative even more difficult.

During a study we carried out several years ago, about the country’s brand image, one of the revelations was that the major antagonists of this country are Nigerians living abroad. A majority of them are so disillusioned about this country, it would take moving Mount Kilimanjaro, to convince them this country has anything to offer. They are also constantly exposed to the foreign negative narratives which for them carry greater credibility than whatever stories are coming from their motherland. Many of them also prefer to propagate the negative stories about Nigeria just to make themselves feel good about their decision to live abroad. They are always quick to broadcast content that tarnishes the image of the country. They however often forget that this also devalues them and the perception their foreign hosts have of them.

This mind set has to change. Transforming this country is a process that will take years of slow, painstaking work. It will not happen within the four-year term of even the best leadership. We should therefore not assume that this positive story will only begin when we have the best President on the African continent. It must begin right now and it can even inform the leadership about the kind of vision we need as a nation. Branding our Places requires the concerted efforts of leadership at all levels. It calls for a new thinking and a new consciousness. It requires a social and psychological freedom of thought.

If each of our 36 governors decides to create and develop at least one viable tourist destination in their respective states, imagine the economic impact this would have! These places may be as simple as a nature resort, game park, farm resort or beach resort but each has the potential to give that particular state or city a unique identity and draw tourist patronage. There are numerous examples littered all over the country begging to be developed, but our governors obviously have other priorities.

In the third and concluding part of this series, we will explain The Third P, and how we can successfully brand our products to achieve economic competitive advantage and build the nation brand of our dream.

• Muyiwa Kayode is CEO at USP Brand Management and author, The Seven Dimensions of Branding. Brand Nation is a platform for promoting national development based on the universal principles of branding.


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