The Grenada Tourism Authority (GTA) inaugurates with Tourism Minister Otway-Noel announcing a bold rebranding industry make-over to conquer the world. She speaks volumes on tourism rebranding not once raising the critical question of “nation branding”, leaving much speculation as to what exactly is our national brand – if in fact we have one.
For skeptics rebranding is just a new coat of paint: systemically and structurally nothing changes. But one cannot keep repeating the same thing over and over and expect a different result. Tourism is our nation’s window to the world, the whole nation, all its products and services, and its many intangible national assets. It is not just for tourists, it is much more than that.
Take for example Made-in-Grenada (MIGS) products. Our MIGS should have been flooding international markets for decades, world-renowned, because Grenada is indeed world-renowned whether for adversity or otherwise.
From the seventies fame, notoriety, and infamy became hallmarks of our nation state. Grenada headline news kept astounding the world and we became a global household name for the good, the bad, and the ugly. And becoming world-renowned had little to do with our Spice Island status.
Instance March 1979 when we shocked the world with a Marxist revolution that later imploded with horrendous mass killings. Instance the 1983 war we fought against the most powerful military force on earth, the United States of America. And instance the world consternation and shock waves of regional jubilation when in 2011 Grenada won the first OECS Olympic gold medal.
War, revolution, and Kirani James have written our name in an indelible, unforgettable place on the world map and never again will GRENADA be called Granada. We are special and unique and, for better or worse, have earned recognition and respect of many. And in the convoluted world of international marketing name recognition is a terrible thing to waste. Yet we squander the competitive marketing advantage of name recognition to boldly emblazon our Made-in-Grenada brand name across the whole world.
We remain bogged down in the doldrums of international marketing inertia. Our supermarkets and stores are stocked to their ceilings with foodstuff, clothes, ad infinitum, imported from every corner of the globe, so one expects that foreign stores are reciprocating likewise.
However, even in Grenada, Made-in-Grenada products are almost nonexistent, marginalised, occupying just tiny shelf spaces in inconspicuous corners of business establishments.
Notwithstanding tremendous global exposure and name recognition Grenada has failed to secure a firm footing on the international stage. The problem is our mono-focal marketing strategy with its single-minded over-emphasis on promoting Grenada as a tourist destination – everything else excluded.
Little is said about Grenada as a foreign investment destination, a diaspora retirement destination, an international sports hub, a movie-making location, an information and communication technology (ICT) destination.
The point is we are not just a tourist destination. What we need is the holistic all-encompassing marketing innovation known as nation branding. Third World countries are often stereotyped and mass-profiled as poverty-stricken countries suffering population explosion, low GDP per capita, and chronic corruption.
Nation branding is the strategic marketing tool that would differentiate the Grenada country image, focusing the things that make us truly special, and then mass communicating that national identity to the world.
The concept is a compelling, individualised country snapshot of our world image, reputation, cultural values, all the things that set us apart packaged as a single composite. The whole nation gains economic value added (EVA).
In our globalised world there is ferocious competition among countries for market share of consumers, tourists, exports, and investors. Nation branding is strategically managed to accentuate the positives, challenge negative stereotyping, and separate perception from reality. A well-crafted branding strategy makes Grenada a strong competitor in the international arena.
Nation branding is a new and powerful innovation countries are adopting with foreign policy, international diplomacy, public relations all selling the concept. Supported by development policies, good governance, and international marketing, the nation brand creates a unique selling point for key success sectors of the economy using prioritided policy strategies.
Like geographical indications (GI), nation branding emboldens the Made-in-Grenada trademark with the power of world-wide recognition. Take the South Africa branding success. For decades South Africa suffered a crippled economy, rampant corruption, out-of-control crime, and incompetent national security like the Oscar Pistorius incident and the fake sign language interpreter breach of Mandela’s memorial security.
South Africa launched a Brand South Africa 2000 Project to clean up its international image. Overtime, South Africa hosted the 2010 FIFA World Cup, was awarded the 2011 “Most Valuable Nation Brand”, and granted membership in the BRIC bloc of emerging economies (Brazil, Russia, India, China).
Many other countries have been commercialising themselves in the international arena with catchy branding logos globalising their world image. Costa Rica is the Peaceful Destination; India is Incredible India; Malaya is Truly Asia; and for Bolivia, the Authentic Still Exists. What really is Brand Grenada?