Sunday, July 17, 2005


A new book suggests that branding is the path to prosperity for impoverished states. The writer has a point.
Japan and South Korea were the first to understand that a direct relationship with a consumer in the West was the way to go. Powerful car and electronic brand names like Hyundai and Sony were built on it.

Egypt has done it with the Red Sea resort of Sharm El Sheikh, where world leaders queue up to hold conferences and thousands of ordinary Brits as well as Prime Minister Tony Blair take holidays.
Dubai has transformed its desert status into a playground for the super rich with its fabulous hotels and off shore man-made islands.
China, which has pulled itself up by its bootstraps to become the world’s work horse and commodity manufacturer, joined the branding band wagon with the purchase of IBM’s computers. Now it has its eyes on US oil and gas giant, Unocal.
Emergent India, fast becoming the globe’s call centre capital, would do itself a big favour if, instead of being known simply as a cheap wellspring of outsourcing, entrepreneurs seized the initiative and set up their own branded call centres.
Imagine the improvement in image if people were greeted with the words, ‘Good morning, this is the Bangalore Global International Universal Business Centre, about which company are you inquiring?’ instead of just being an inquiry service for a foreign bank or company.
Image is everything in the world of global marketing. It’s no good doing the work, making and exporting the stuff, if somebody else brands it and gets the credit and big time cash. You’ve got to have your own brand.
And if your image is one of poverty, corruption, war and aid dependency, you can shout as much as you like about fair trade and even get it, but nobody is going to invest in your country — or even pay you visit.
But wait a moment. The West is hoaching with travel snobs, people who hate to be considered tourists. They want to be seen as travellers, insiders who like to claim they really ‘know’ a country because they have done a bit of rough travelling there, not just basked in its four and five star hotels and on its beaches.
Among people who lead cosseted lives in centrally-heated homes and spend their days in air-conditioned city offices, there remains an atavistic longing to experience life in the raw, to feel in touch with nature and the elements as their long ago ancestors did. That’s why they go sailing, rough trekking and climb mountains.
They have seen it, been there — ‘experienced’ what life is really like. Their holiday snaps and videos would be a lot less boring if some bright entrepreneur in a downtrodden country branded this kind of holiday.
One idea is that poor countries join together to improve a region’s brand image. Parts of Africa could cash in on the market for visits to literary and film locations.
For instance, an enterprise called say, Sub Saharan Storyteller Tours could be a start to lifting the fortunes of several African countries.
Visitors could kick off in West Africa where Graham Greene set The Heart of the Matter followed by a trip to Hotel Rwanda and Joseph Conrad’s The Heart of Darkness country before proceeding to Botswana for a bone-shaking spin around the streets of Gaborone in a car driven by a real life version of Alexander McCall Smith’s Mr J. L. B. Matekoni of Tlokweng Road Speedy Motors.
There must be plenty of bright young people out there who could make this kind of enterprise work and improve their countries’ images while becoming multi-millionaires out of the brand.
Copyright © Rebecca Hamilton 2005 All Rights Reserved