The Tourism Branding Issue

A distinction needs to be made between a national brand and a tourism brand. However, while one branding may serve both purposes, many destinations tend to choose a pure stand tourism brand. For example, in the case of St Lucia, they recently re-branded their tourism from “St. Lucia – Simply Beautiful” to “St Lucia”. But St. Lucia is also known as the “Helen of the West” and the “Land of the Pitons”.

Prior to the re-branding to “Pure Grenada”, which is a positioning statement for the purposes of tourism marketing, the branding promoted by the Grenada Board of Tourism for many years was “Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique – The Spice of the Caribbean”, the latter element being a tagline. The branding was not “Grenada, The Isle of Spice” which is more of a national brand.

Beyond this, it is evident that the processes undertaken towards settling the new branding for Grenada’s tourism were not sufficiently adequate, appropriate or sensible, given the force of national sensitivities naturally attaching to such an important issue.

Thinking seriously, one would realise that a re-branding exercise does not in and of itself guarantee business success and mere words cannot make it so. There needs to be significant and focused efforts at establishing the brand in the marketplace; as well as internal investments to consolidate and preserve the core values of the brand.

Furthermore, there must be an internal communications strategy on the new branding so that its promises are successfully delivered to visitors by Grenadians. This will happen only if Grenadians understand and identify with the branding, such that there is appetite to service the brand and to contribute towards the fulfilment of visitors’ expectations.

It is a grave mistake to think that tourism enterprises on the destination can make this happen, by themselves. It is also clear that beyond the theoretical knowledge of branding, there exists a very practical environment in which the ‘brand hosts’, that is, the people of Grenada, must quickly come to a point of reconciliation on the issue. Otherwise, we will have on our hands an internally-challenged brand sending mixed messages to the market. Any such outcome will not be good for business.

It is vitally important that the integrity of the brand is assured by the core qualities of the destination and the very ‘SOUL’ of Grenada, its people. The successful depiction of the brand requires that the imagery, symbols, colours (a blue nutmeg!!) and graphics are easily recognisable or capable of interpretation and true to life. In other words, these must not in themselves constitute a mystery. They must be authentic.

If the symbols and imagery are mystified, then meaning, significance and understanding will remain concealed. Where there is concealment of this nature then no positive and convincing messages are communicated to the marketplace. The results will be obvious! It is not understood that Grenada is branding itself on a myth. Even if that were the case, it would be critical that Grenadians understand what the particular myth is all about.

ATTENTION, ATTENTION! The situation is worsened with the existence of an embarrassing set of problems to be found on the homepage of the Grenada Tourism Authority’s official website…grenadagrenadines.com, under the caption ‘DISCOVER PURE GRENADA’.

Here are the issues:

The English is downright poor in terms of subject and verb agreement, word repetition and sentence construction (in parts). The entire text is as poorly constructed as it is lacking in awareness of what is required to fulfil its real and important purpose.

– We, who are inviting others to visit with us, will not refer to ourselves as “the local people”! So an ‘outsider’ appears to have scripted our invitation, without supervision.

–  There is misrepresentation regarding aspects of the product, namely; “18th century plantations”(?) and “cascading waterfalls” (?).

– The presentation of these and the Mona monkey as the essence of the Pure Grenada brand is simply untenable and wrong. The consequence is that Grenada is being short-changed.

– What is styled as a ‘Welcome’ would be better presented as an ‘Invitation’. Operationally, the latter seeks to persuade vacationers to come to Grenada; whereas the ‘welcome’ is to be received on the island, in various forms, from arrival to departure.

– Care must be taken in extending the invitation so that the right persons are targeted based on the ability of the Grenada product to meet and surpass their vacation expectations.

– But the ‘Welcome’ says that the destination, Grenada, is best suited for those having an “inquisitive mind”!! Sadly, this is truly alarming stuff! To begin with, there is no travelling demographic or niche that is identifiable through that description. To frame the ‘invitation’ in this way will severely restrict the visitor pool to which Grenada may otherwise be appealing.

In any case, a destination posing with a Mona Monkey, 18th century plantations (?) and cascading waterfalls (?) would hardly commend itself to the modern tourism market. Presumably, only the “inquisitive minds” could reveal the mystery referred to above! The result would be bankruptcy for the tourism enterprises on the island!

– This latter point is the worst aspect of this menu of problems. The question must be asked, has the CEO of the GTA ever visited the website with an ‘inquisitive mind’? Has the Director of Marketing, inquisitively, paid any attention to what is on the website? Together, these persons must bear serious responsibility for the defects as outlined above.

Since it is unthinkable that they would not have visited the site and concerned themselves with what Grenada is saying to the rest of the world, the issue of ‘tourism’ competence arises as a very powerful and reasonable indictment against these hired professionals. Hopefully, they will be enabled to act with great urgency to remedy the deficiencies.

– Tourism in Grenada is a ‘going concern’, therefore the branding should not ‘mis-speak’ relative to Grenada’s genuine product strengths and the ‘word of mouth’ endorsements traditionally expressed by tourists who have had a vacation experience here. Bear in mind that the authorities do not and cannot purport to introduce new product to establish the new branding. The period for guesswork has long past.

– Consequently and in context, the conclusion must be that the management of Grenada’s biggest business appears not to be in interested, capable and experienced hands. The website is the main marketing tool of the destination. To get such basic matters wrong in this manner is particularly unacceptable. One of the fundamentals in management is that recruitment errors are generally very costly.

– Supposedly, Noel Lynch, Consultant-extraordinaire, whose flying fish and cou-cou have by now become richly spiced, will feel obliged to proffer a perfectly cogent explanation or defence on behalf of his confidante and friend, and all other indicted recruits. He may be expected to visit Grenada for this purpose.

William Joseph

 

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