Continued from (Part One)
DMO’s must develop a personality for the brand that the consumers can relate to.
Marketing professionals have always argued that destination brand building is all about developing a rich, relevant, brand personality. Developing is the key word here; successful brands never decay, instead they reflect and respond to changes in consumers’ lives and while the brand’s core values remain the same, its personality will continue to evolve.
They stress that changes in a brand’s personality must happen within the overall consistency of the brand. It is a possibility to express the values in other ways, but the marketer should ensure that the essentials of the brand are consistently covered.
Vitiello and Willcocks (2011) underscore the need for having a personality for a destination brand when they argue that “to brand a destination, it is important that the place has a physical personality to draw from, rather than a conceptual image applied to a lacklustre space”.
Here they are in agreement with Morgan and Pritchard that a destination must have a set of personality traits/characteristics. It will be easier for people to relate to the destination brand. Aaker and Biel (1993) in support of this view state that “when we speak of brand’s personality, we mean the way in which a consumer perceives the brand on dimensions that typically capture a person’s personality – extended to the domain of brands”.
Destination branding and its effects on the image of a destination
Scholars argue that if destination branding is done successfully, it produces a major impact on how the world perceives a destination. It can also alter the way a country and its people see themselves. It is therefore implied that destination branding communication can change the image of a destination.
However, Anholt (2007) a national branding technocrat scholar argues otherwise when he says “the nation’s reputation was built through communication and it can’t be changed through communication”. He instead argues that a country’s image can only change if the country itself changes or if it does something to people.
He explains that South Africa did not change its image due to deliberate branding campaigns, but only changed through its actions and behaviours that triggered societal changes.
The mindset of a people in Zimbabwe should be changed from negative to positive. A sense of ownership should be promoted. Massive educational campaigns can be launched to make citizens become destination ambassadors.
Anholt does not necessarily downplay the centrality and importance of communication in destination branding when he argues that “communications cannot substitute change, but can help report it, help to consolidate it and to some extent speed it on its way”.
The bottom line is that the techniques of branding are of essential importance to nation branding, but the marketers should be realistic about the messages to convey and be sure that they do not promise something that the destination cannot deliver. In support of the above standpoint, Gertner and Kotler (2011) argue that brand managers should be aware of the following; they should not try to fix the country’s image without fixing the problem that gave rise to it.
No amount advertising or public relations will make an unsafe place safer. To consolidate the above argument, Fan (2011) supports the view that communication cannot alone constitute change. He argues that the far reaching changes in Spain following the demise of General Franco were due to fundamental changes in the political landscape and social system over a number of years rather than through communication campaigns that was geared to alter the image of the country.
Similarly, far reaching changes could be pivotal in the political landscape of Zimbabwe by coming up with a solid national vision and ethos, policy consistency and enhanced implementation of unified government programmes.
One could argue that fundamentals such as democratisation of governance systems, economic liberalisation and the human rights record could be addressed to correct international perception of the country as part and parcel of the destination branding strategy for effective and substantial results.
Advertising, carnivals, participation at international tourism exhibitions may not be adequate if the above fundamentals are not corrected. Just as in South Africa after Apartheid, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission did well to leverage the country’s political and social image globally and other destination branding strategies such as leveraging on sport rugby and FIFA World Cup hosting were additives to a solid national thrust build on a well-grounded constitution and a national healing process.
Despite the challenge of a high crime rate, tourists flock to SA in huge numbers and the destination experiences high tourism expenditure compared to regional destinations such as Zimbabwe despite the abundance of tourist sites.
While communication alone cannot alter the perception of a destination’s image it is also true that a consistent negative media campaign towards a destination could damage the image of a place.
In this light, DMO branding organisations and marketers should be careful not to communicate something that is not true.
Marketers should craft their communication messages to help accelerate social changes that are happening to create awareness in people about those changes.
Dinnie (2011) argues that even though the key stakeholders agree on a strategy for branding a destination, it is now very difficult to take total control over a brand due to the influence of media, social media and consumers.
The influence has a strong impact on the image of the country. Munro and Richards (2011) argues that branding, personality online has become more complex. They argue that DMO’s need to be aware that the reputation of a destination is increasingly being moulded and defined by conversations, networks and communities.
The scholars, however, emphasise that the basics have not changed. Our starting point is a unique brand position, a set of brand values, a target audience, a well defined look and feel, a tone of voice, and now more importantly than ever is this new conversation culture, a unique point of view. Brands should listen to what people say about them.
Notably, the influence from customers and the media is increasingly becoming important. Anholt’s view that images of destinations only change because the country changes or because it does something to others is important, Anholt (2007) argues that the images are quite stable and seldom change.
Destination brand fusion curve
Morgan and Pritchard (2007) argue that brand managers should consider a brand as having a position in the S — Curve which outlines a brand’s life and development through stages as birth, growth, maturity, decay and death. This S curve proposed is termed the destination brand fusion curve.
They argue that this model should not be taken as tracking for sales volumes over time but DMO’s should take it as a series of stages in the brand’s relationship with its consumers, revealing useful insights into a brand’s communications requirements. The conclusion and implication from the “destination brand fusion curve” is that nation brands managers should carefully consider how they communicate depending on the status of their brand.
The model comprises four different stages: These four phases determine the status of one’s brand and also try to explain how the consumers will feel about a brand.
For example, at the famous stage for a brand, it is explained that the destinations visitors are loyal and fond, but it may happen that the brand’s values become irrelevant to them which implies that a DMO must constantly refresh and develop the brand. A destination brand is dynamic.
World technology and people are moving widely globally and therefore a static destination will get outdated and old fashioned quickly. ZTA and Government stakeholders should migrate to Digital marketing massively and quickly if Zimbabwe is to be a competitive and vibrant global brand.
New thinking and recruitment of youngsters to run digital marketing should be done urgently for us to have meaningful impact in the world. The old mentality of writing blue prints and compiling huge dossiers will not have any impact in a fast moving world.
To explain and give an illustration that brands are at different stages, scholars argue that a destination with a powerful and positive image needs to do less work and spend less money on promoting itself to the marketplace, because the marketplace already believes what it is telling them. It merely has to help buyers find and purchase the product.
In addition, they mention that mature and successful brands have a tendency to be overcome by events that can threaten their reputation simply because people tend to believe what they already know and are often reluctant to alter these beliefs.
On the basis of the above discussion, it is evident that brands exist at different stages which should influence the need to carefully tailor communication.
Simon anholt’s practical considerations for destination branding
Simon Anholt developed the concept of the nation brand index in 2005. He is recognised as one of the world’s leading authorities on the branding of countries, regions and cities. He advises a number of national governments and UN Agencies on brand strategy, investment and export promotion, public diplomacy, cultural relations and tourism.
Importance of situational diagnosis in destination branding
Simon Anholt (2005) points out some practical considerations important for destination branding strategy to enhance tourist performance investment attraction in a destination. He argues that most governments and their people always believe that there is a problem with their international image but invest little effort in the diagnosis and analysis of the image problem.
Government and concerned destination branding strategists are preoccupied with the notion of a country having a negative reputation and are prompt to crafting solutions before properly dissecting and understanding the problem.
In Zimbabwe, the ZTA came up with events such as Miss Zimbabwe beauty pageants’, the Harare International Carnival and Brand ambassadors as strategies to address image problems without a careful, all stakeholder driven and participatively driven approach to analysing the problem.
It is a fundamental premise of any strategic intent to be highly focused and specific about the nature of the problem to be addressed so that the right strategy can be developed for confronting it. Anholt (2005) argues that it is of paramount importance to be concretely sure that there is a problem not simply a perception or a stereotype about the destination. He gives an example of Britain whose domestic media and commentators from a diversity of political persuasions are convinced that Britain’s international image is negative and in tatters due to foot and mouth disease, mad cow disease, the invasion of Iraq and high cost of living.
However, Anholt’s nation brand index which surveys 25 000 people in 35 countries reflect that Britain is actually regarded highly internationally. Avraham (2015) focusing on the Middle East in terms of conflicts, terror attacks and war argues for the uncovering of strategies used by Middle Eastern marketers to restore a positive image to bring back tourism in the past decade.
They stresses the need for image restoration strategies by marketers in general and those dealing with the destination specifically There is real need to understand the source of the problem before embarking on image restoration strategies.
Dr Musekiwa Clinton Tapera writing in his personal capacity. He holds a PhD in Management, specialising in Destination Branding of Zimbabwe for tourism performance. He is the director of Marketing and Public Relations at Chinhoyi University of Technology. For feedback and comments-email. [email protected] or [email protected]