Old people say “Don’t wash dirty linen in public”, but we seem to be washing, rinsing and drying for all to see. It’s obvious that Trinidad and Tobago has built up a pretty negative perception when friends and relatives abroad are making remarks about being scared to come to back home. The crime situation seems to have overshadowed the nostalgic lyrics to Benji’s 2011 “Trini”
For the sake of a developing economy and in the name of attracting foreign direct investments and tourists, we must consider the Trinidad and Tobago brand and how it can be represented in a way that we can be proud of. This is no novelty idea, but rather a journey that many countries have undergone in the midst of a deteriorating brand perception or an opportunity for greater investment, where tweaks were necessary.
Africa’s “Brand Africa” and India’s “Incredible India” are brand identity control initiatives that have come before. Like Trinidad and Tobago, the ethno-political diversity-based tension in India has made negative that which was once a pride of the nation; this breathes hope in knowing that nations that faced challenges similar to ours are well on their way to brand perceptions they can benefit from.
How is it done?
Nation branding is the application of strategic marketing tactics to create and promote a specific perception of the country by a large percentage of its target. It’s achieved through very specific integrated marketing communications initiatives.
Achieve buy-in from the head of the country so that all re-branding initiatives come from the top.
When Finland sought to embark on a rebranding scheme in 2009, the initiative was coordinated by 2 Ministries. Consider, however, that Governments seldom stay in power long enough to realize the benefit of a nation branding strategy. This suggests that the private sector really needs to have a stake in the process as well. You may ask, why shouldn’t this simply be led by the private sector alone? The answer is this, when Slovenia was creating a brand that included quality international customer service, it was recommended that schools teach English, German and italian so that in 15 years the students who benefited from this would be able to interact with visitors in their native languages and leave them with a more positive, satisfying impression of the country. This could’ve only been done with a directive from their Education Ministry.
Determine what your audience currently believes and values with respect to the T&T brand.
Create a cognitive map of the Trinidad and Tobago brand, that is a list of all the things you think about when you think of T&T, through both qualitative and quantitative research. Maybe you’ll find a mix of positive and negative elements including crime, murders, the curfew, Maracas beach, Wendy F, steel pan, Carnival, soca, corruption, laziness, inefficiency. This lends insight into what the international stakeholders of the brand are perceiving when they look at Trinidad and Tobago
Determine what your current messages are saying about who you are, and articulate where you would like to be.
If USA’s brand is Power, Japan’s brand is High Tech, and France’s brand is Romance, what is the Trinidad and Tobago brand? And what steps are necessary to achieve that perception? Let’s not focus on what we don’t want, let’s focus on what we want. Consider what our values are, what we really care about, and how we want to be seen; what does Trinidad and Tobago stand for? What do we stand against?
A Nation’s brand is brought about through its consistent delivery of a particular product, (Los Angeles’s movies, Italy’s food, Jamaica’s music). So our next step would be to determine what our value proposition is. Dare I say that our consistent product delivery is T&T Carnival? I’m not pretending to know what the Trinidad and Tobago brand should be, but lets say it is Entertainment, Business or Innovation, what steps would have to be put in place in our Infrastructure, our Education system, our Laws.
Understand that this integrated thrust would not simply include websites, Facebook fan pages, YouTube ads and fliers, but rather a very integrated, operational shift, and may take a decade or more to realize any real benefit. But with the promise of increased tourism, increased investment and a strong brand image, it’s certainly worth a try.
192.168.1.1 http://www.brandsouthafrica.com/content/annual/corporate_identity2012.pdf http://nation-branding.info/2011/06/29/can-a-nation-be-rebranded/ http://jamaica-gleaner.com/gleaner/20120129/focus/focus6.html http://www.culturaldiplomacy.org/culturaldiplomacynews/content/pdf/Cultural_Diplomacy_Outlook_Report_2011_-_04-01.pdf http://www.unrisd.org/unrisd/website/newsview.nsf/(httpNews)/F3E550D779C037D3C12571C600463154?OpenDocument http://cor.europa.eu/en/news/europcom/Documents/Moilanen.pdf http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nation_branding