Like it or not, Rwanda is a brand, just like any other country in the world.
In this article I share my views on how Brand Rwanda can be managed.
You know Panama hats, right? However, what you may not know is that the hat is actually Ecuadorian, and that Ecuador would spend millions of money to get back its hat named after its origins. Not because hats are selling high on the global market, but simply because everyone in the world would think of Ecuador wherever you see that hat. The misnomer came when former US President Teddy Roosevelt visited Panama Canal wearing that hat, which was thought to be from there.
Talk about branding, every nation should be known, be it for an image, attraction, service, product, people, culture, lifestyle and any other thing you can imagine, even if it’s just a hat.
Some things can pop up in mind quickly when you think of a country: Finland brings Nokia, German gives out Mercedes, South Africa offers gold and dances, Mauritius offers great beaches, Cote d’Ivoire cocoa, USA Microsoft and Mc Donald, etc.
However, all those things are considered in terms of quick thinking and help make nations’ images memorable, which is key to branding. As long as a nation is always memorable with something interesting to people of the world, then it’s a great opportunity to sell in almost every other possible sector. Hence the notion of strategically branding a nation.
Experts like Professor Simon Anholt admit there are two main concepts that separate new forms of nation branding from more traditional forms of public diplomacy, namely: “nations have become far more cognisant of the value of their brand as an asset” and that “countries see the possibility of more efficiently investing in their futures, with a focus on the behavioral aspects of managing a nation’s image”.
Most experts suggest that officials from government, nonprofits, and the business world can better collaborate to make sure the messages a country puts out represent what they view as “the fundamental common purpose”.
Thomas Cromwell says branding a country successfully requires collaboration of many of the knowledgeable people in that country.
“It really requires a partnership and support from a very high level,” he said adding that “you need people who can get the ministries and other organisations to work together,” and coordinate them in order to avoid sending out contradictory, uncoordinated and insufficient messages.
Experts appreciate that some countries have set up departments to promote tourism and foreign investment, but are quick to point out that those are only some of the areas that can benefit directly from a nation brand.
They indicate that sporadic efforts to develop a country’s brand do little to help in the long run, and for success, they urge nations to create and fund organisations specifically tasked with branding with relevant activities to be pursued in key locations around the world.
In the past decade, many countries across the world embarked on national branding projects on large scale with compelling and attractive slogans. They include, but not limited to: Costa Rica – Peaceful Destination; India – Incredible India; Egypt – Destination Egypt; Bolivia – The authentic still exists; South Africa – Alive with possibility; and Malaysia – Truly Asia.
How Rwanda is perceived, both domestically and abroad, from the quality of its goods and services, to the attractiveness of its culture and its tourism and investment opportunities, to its politics, economic policies, immigration, infrastructure, security and governance, can be shaped under one brand – Brand Rwanda –, and the benefits can be enumerable.
Brand Rwanda wouldn’t be limited only in what is in the offerings in terms of tourism and investment but, more importantly, in packaging together people’s achievements (including homegrown solutions) combined with their identity; That is Rwanda-ness which everyone will be proud of and able to sell.
For the non-initiated reader, Rwanda is where it is today on the global scene because of the women and men who have worked hard and smart to make it happen and for whom the mother nation will always be proud.
Today, a successful Rwanda branding effort should be deployed with much more sophistication and coordination across all sectors, bearing in mind the long term results. After all, branding is a business of life.
As much as nation’s branding is more about strategies, it shouldn’t overlook details because they have a huge impact.
For example, uniformed logo for Brand Rwanda, a professional ‘look and feel’ on brand’s stationeries, compelling videos, information leaflets, press releases, coordinated websites, social media accounts and so forth, would reinforce the impression of a well-organised, modern, self-respecting country with effective and efficient structures, processes and mechanisms.
The long-term benefits of Brand Rwanda would be measured in the country’s improved international standing and greater success and prosperity at home.
Of course the cost of branding Rwanda can be high but the rewards can be even higher, both economically and socially. The sooner Brand Rwanda project is up and running, the better for the nation’s future.
The writer is a media consultant