Sunday, June 21, 2009

Branding, Re-branding, Teleprompting and Managing Nigeria’s Image or Reputation

Branding, Re-branding, Teleprompting and Managing Nigeria’s Image or Reputation
Written by Paul I. Adujie
New York, United States

Branding and re-branding is how goodwill, good image and good reputation is captured, nurtured and maintained by individuals, companies and nations. Branding and re-branding is a necessity in today’s world

Human behavior is more choreographed, orchestrated and more synchronized that ever before in human history, and to this extent, cue cards, are frequently used in public speaking by business people, politicians, television production crews, movie directors and producers. These practices have become common place, all in efforts to make a seemingly flawless presentation of personal message, product presentations, documentary or movie making and in diplomacy and international relations between nations.

Nigerians who think or say otherwise, are completely wrong on this score about human psychology and behavior. Some Nigerians, it appears, seem to underestimate human savvy, sophistication and even utter frivolity.

There is raging debate between Nigerians as to whether or not, Nigeria indeed require branding or re-branding, and if so, whether such effort ought to be Nigeria’s priority or first order of business. I answer in the affirmative. Branding and re-branding is crucial and it is a priority as well. Branding or re-branding is the equivalent of a mission statement for a company or organization and it is similar to a good resume for an individual.

A company, country or an individual can never be too poor to write a mission statement or a resume respectively. A mission statement about a company’s products or services is the foundation of how such company proceed to convince the whole world what it proposes to do and do efficiently, effectively and cheaply, thereby garnering goodwill and reputation, when and if customers are satisfied.

A resume for individual is how the person sets out to convince a prospective employer about her education, skills qualifications, experience and suitability. Nations goodwill, reputation, image is what attract tourist and immigrants, what equally attract trade and investment, respect and admiration etc

To drive this point home, take for instance the fact that Nigerians who enthusiastically exuberant about promoting Nigeria and even those who are too quick in condemning Nigeria, are ironically agreed on one thing, and it is this, the weight of Nigeria’s current image or reputation which is mostly unsavory, whether deserved or justified, is quite entirely debatable; and where you stand on this issue, is determined by where you are sitting, Nigeria wise.

In today’s world, more than ever, image is everything, or at the very least, image and reputation means a great deal. Reputation, image, goodwill and good name is the advertisements and product placements are everywhere you look. It is the reason politicians raise so much money for political campaigns. These are the reasons products wear certain designs, packaging and have particular labels and particular colors etc

Americans presidents have all sorts of handlers, researchers and speech writers. Even after all that research and good writing has put into a speech, the president rehearses the actual delivery, mirrors, teleprompter and all and then, he comes across as a magician to Nigerians. American presidents are air-brushed for pictures and for every public presentation. In participating in political campaigns here in the US, I have come to realize how crucial handling and presentation is to candidates. Instances abound, in which whether a red neck tie presents the candidate as too aggressive too strong, or a blue tie too soft.

A speech about law enforcement or national security or defense a red neck tie is preferred, whereas, matters affecting civil rights or gender issues, a blue neck tie or silver color tie may be preferred. And for the female candidate, project strength and toughness, a red skirt suit and she has an image judged to be too strong, she may wear sky-blue dress or silver colored dress as well and no pant suit in either case. We should manage the image of our leaders because the essentially are our public emblem. I admired former President Olusegun Obasanjo and former Ministers Mrs. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala and Mrs. Obiageli Ezekwesili for the African attires they wore and glorified, for the former president, I wished that he wore a different sort of eyeglasses!

These are the reasons why Africa continues to conjure the image of Tarzan and Idi Amin, even after several decades of their fables and urban legends.

As for those Nigerians who have and still argue against branding and re-branding in the midst of poverty and competing needs, they must be told that branding and re-branding is a wise investment, especially in the long term. New York City knows this, and it is why she spends billions of dollars annually on advertising New York City as the greatest city in the world! And billions more to market the term, I Love New York in songs and T-shirts etc
New York City ironically, actually started the now world famous I Love New York branding and re-branding, amidst a huge fiscal crises in 1977, when there was fears of New York City filing for bankruptcy, as the financial crises deepened. New York politicians approached the then president of the United States, Gerald Ford, who vowed never to bailout New York City from its economic woes and huge mess, he made an infamous statement that was front page in New York City newspapers “President Ford to New York, Drop Dead!” So, the marketing, branding and re-branding of New York City as place for business for pleasure and vacation became a major effort, among other efforts embarked upon by New York City public officials to resuscitate the city, the effort have been so successful over the years, so much so, that the state of New York has embraced the I Love New York campaign to cover the entire state of New York, beyond the five borough of which the city is comprised.
Nigeria does not have to wait, until utopia is reached before presenting herself to the world as destination for investment, vacation and pleasure, just like New York City, State of New York and everywhere else in the world
Tourism is a major income earner for New York City; last year alone, 47 million tourists visited New York City, a city of 8 million dwellers. And the tourist spent several billion dollars in hotels, on foods and memorabilia and souvenirs. Cab drivers, tour guides, shoe shiners, restaurants, airlines, theater companies and playwright etc all benefit from tourism upsurge to New York City; it has recovered, it took a hit after September 11, 2001 attacks.

About 47 million people visited New York City in 2008. These tourists spent a record $30 billion in New York City 2008 alone. Have Nigerians ever thought about how many of the businesses in Nigeria could be reaping tourist money in Nigeria as is the case in New York City?

Tourism remains a major earner for New York City and most parts of the United States, and different parts of the world. In traveling globally, I have found in my travels, to Britain, Belgium, Bahamas, Canada, Holland, Jamaica to name a few, that travels and tours is how many nations fund a good chunk of their running expenses. In my interactions with local citizens of these places, I found in them, a recognition, and appreciation of, the value tourist add to their economy, and so, the average citizen literally goes out her way to consciously please the tourist, this, at very individual levels.

It is also the case that reputations, images, goodwill and product recognition are too often based on perception, yes, a mere perception! Actual usefulness of a person, or utility of a thing, and real benefits, which is separate and distinct from whether a person, a product or nation, compared with what is actually touted and storied to be.

Why would a medical doctor smoke tobacco in 2009? This even though current science has proven incontrovertibly, cancer causing agents in tobacco, and despite available medical and scientific evidence regarding the harmfulness of smoking tobacco? Cigarette should be seen for what it really is, addiction, disease and death causing products

“The American Marketing Association (AMA) defines a brand as a “name, term, sign, symbol or design, or a combination of them intended to identify the goods and services of one seller or group of sellers and to differentiate them from those of other sellers. ”Branding is the foundation of marketing and is inseparable from business strategy. “

“Re-branding implies that one has to change existing perceptions and shift ideas about an existing brand. Any African government, business, or organization involved in either selling African products, or selling Africa as a business destination, needs a strategy to counteract the Continent’s existing brand in the U.S. main stream media.”


“Africa’s depiction in the American mainstream media has traditionally, centered around images and stories of a continent in crisis, a continent challenged by wars, corruption, disease and chaos”


“Branding is the way in which an organization communicates, differentiates, and promotes itself to its audience.”

“Re-branding - means taking a product or a service and redefining its purpose, it’s content, and its reality.”

“As a journalist and member of the Ghanaian Diaspora, Esther Armah is all too familiar with the portrayal of Africa in the mainstream media. Esther points out that “Africa’s brand was not self-determined; it has been in the hands of an unelected leader, the mainstream media.” She offers her perspectives on Re-branding Africa”

“Devastation” has been Africa’s primary media image for decades. This brand has been powerful, persistent, and without penalty for those who maintain it.”

“It has been destructive for the Continent and the Diaspora economically, culturally, spiritually, and emotionally. It has also been cancerous for trade and development.”

“The media has been the public relations wing of “Brand Devastation” and repetition its tool. A diet of stories featuring the same images of hopelessness and helplessness ensured Western audiences’ loyalty to Brand Devastation.” All these quotes are sourced from The Corporate Council on Africa (CCA)

Most people, most companies and nations recognize the importance of image and reputation, real or merely claimed, with a straight-face! That is what diplomacy and public relations mostly about. Selling ice to Eskimos!

Who hasn’t heard of pharmaceutical companies making and selling same tablets with same admixtures of compounds and chemical formula hued and with a different name, while charging for its placebo effect efficacy, to treat the ailment which you never knew you had, until you watched your television? A pharmaceutical company invented affliction!

Who again, hasn’t heard of ghostwritten medical research opinions concocted by employees of pharmaceutical companies, who are all the while pretending to be acting as if they were real medical science trained, and objective reviewers subject to peer review checks and balances? And who hasn’t heard of Merck’s sponsored magazine in which Merck created the appearance, in the magazine formed by it and paid for by it, while reviewing Merck products and avidly recommending them as pseudo professionals in an independent pharmaceutical oriented magazine?
The lives on branding, re-branding, and teleprompting, all aimed at the smooth delivery or presentation of well written speeches, rehearsed, choreographed, orchestrated and synchronized to land like an egg dropped onto velvets an inch close.

In today’s world, it is still important to have full and good grasps of the issues; and to have the passion, good writing, and practiced delivery, teleprompt and all. A moving speech is where preparation meets elegant delivery and dramatic believability.

Coming across as an accomplished polished speaker takes more than mere efforts of old, it now requires more, it combines dramatic acting with multiple variables of a plethora of factors.

Good public speaking therefore is just like marketing or acting, or product placements of today, or public relations, these are never accidental happenstances.

These factors are almost always invariable, whether they are geared at promoting an individual person’s interests or marketing a product for a company, and or, promoting a nation’s strategic national interests.

Wars are won or lost these days, depending on how they are sold and whether public bought into it, as in Wag The Dog.

A prospective employee is hired based on his self-promotion or public relations through his resume and packaging and presentation skills geared at selling self to the interviewer at the interview

Worse than useless products are marketed to gullible public every two seconds of the day! Worse than useless products such as cigarettes are sold every second to satisfied gullible-buyers smokers-consumers!

Some Nigerians must believe that Calvin Klein is daily hunkered over a tailoring machine designing and sewing every pair of denim. These Nigerians are splendidly unaware that price of goods is not often related to cost of production, such that a shoe manufacturer may sue a seller, who sells shoes too cheap below manufacturers recommended prices.

Having read the published opinions of many Nigerians on the futility of branding or re-branding and creating and promoting Nigeria’s image or reputation, I should be forgiven if I now conclude that some Nigerians come across as if they must believe that cigarettes and other tobacco products have good health benefits? Ort hat cigarettes or tobacco enhances longevity, hence the wide market for cigarettes and tobacco in America, Nigeria and worldwide? Nothing could be farther from the truth! It was marketed, branded, re-branded, packaged and presented and, sold!
Branding is crucial and critical for success. This has always been so, it is even more so in today’s world.
The British Pound had sterling qualities, that is a brand, that is a reputation, that brand and reputation was exported through force and sometimes through persuasions and arm-twisting, so that, what in the beginning was a British Pound or Sterling quality which should be limited to England, became a brand, India, Nigeria and America had to accept as colonies of England

BBC and VOA are very popular with Nigerians, Africans and others in the so-called so-labeled Third Word, some Nigerians take whatever is heard on BBC and VOA as gospel or Koranic truth, meanwhile, BBC and VOA are government owned and operated propaganda tools, they have been so, and remain so. The BBC and VOA brands are brands trusted by Nigerians so much, that some Nigerians rely on BBC/VOA with pride, for breaking national Nigerian news. Multitudes of Nigerians trust BBC/VOA, regardless of the fact that these are mere propaganda tools of the UK and US governments! Brand faith, blind faith as well!

And western liberalism and press freedom was put to test recently in the embedment of western journalists in the invasion and occupation of Iraq, President Bush, even against the wishes of Americans and the world
What does being embedded do to freedom of the press? It makes the press freer? Oxymoronic isn’t it?

And yet, the American and European government are quick to criticize press ownership by governments of other nations and the gullible public listens inattentively?

Flags of nations are brands, and have reputation which are admired or loathed, burned or hoisted proudly, depending whether such flag represent peaceful or pariah brand, the average Palestinian or Iraqi may not necessarily see the American flag as a brand which represents an honest impartial peace broker, just as some Nigerians think our beautiful national flag in all its glory, is meaningless to them.

I read Mr. Salisu Suleiman “I am Hungry, Brand Me” and I said aloud, he is right, and yet wrong. Inasmuch as an a hungry man is an angry man, is a truism in every Nigerian, I must add however, that, branding is misunderstood by too many Nigerians! Branding and re-branding , properly channeled and pursued, would leads to economic salvation for Nigerians and Nigeria, case in point, is the wildly successful I Love New York campaign, which resulted in boost and boom to tourism, employment and great wealth creation for New York City and eventually, the entire state of New York borrowed the re-branding idea from New York City!

Branding should be properly understood as a mission statement. It is a sine qua non for progress. It is essential for a person, an institution or an entity or a nation to have a brand plan or mission statement of objectives. Or just forget everything else! Therefore to say, Nigeria is too broke and too bad to have a brand, is the equivalent of say, Nigeria should not have a national flag, or that Nigeria should file for bankruptcy and cease to exist as a nation.

Branding and re-branding Nigeria as such, is the statement and re-statement of purpose and mission statement of our nation, from hereon-out; when and if, such statement of purpose a la mission statement is pursued prodigiously, vigorously and zealously, even the worst pessimists and cynics among Nigerians would have their wildest dream realized.

If Nigeria were a corporation, it will be fair to say, it is currently doing abysmally, making no profits, but instead, losing prized assets. True! But, would anyone be right to suggest a company such as this should not have meetings, special meetings, general meetings, strategy sessions and thereafter, a restatement of the corporate purpose, identity and desire to improve brand, product quality, image and reputation? Of course not! Nigeria, do indeed need branding, re-branding and refocus our national brand, image, reputation in the hot pursuit of our nation’s development and advancement

Hey Nigerians! Let us go and market Nigeria to the world, the world is waiting! And not a moment too soon!

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