Dr Musekiwa C. Tapera
The Government, the business community, the tourism sector, civic organisations and other critical stakeholders must take action now towards restoring and correcting the international perception and image of Zimbabwe internationally.
To us marketers, issues of national branding, destination branding, investment attraction, talent attraction, tourist attraction and other economic fundamentals are premised on an aggressive, robust, focused, an all-stakeholder driven and massive nation/destination branding initiative.
This massive national project cannot be run by Government alone because it will not bring meaningful results that Zimbabwe so desires. Nation branding forms the bedrock up which Zimbabwe must be viewed as a “New Zimbabwe”, “Reformed Zimbabwe”, “Transformed Zimbabwe” in the context of the New Dispensation.
Talk shows, half-hearted approaches and retrogressive bureaucracy will not work. The old style of communication, tired methods and old fashioned marketing approaches are no longer consistent with Digitalisation or Digital Marketing that has taken marketing by storm.
This is the only Zimbabwe we know and we should defend it tooth and nail. The time to act is now. Zimbabwe needs to take its space among the community of nations, but the nation branding strategies should be action-oriented, practical, participatory driven, all-stakeholder driven and doors for branding specialists and marketers should be opened.
Business forums such as Zimbabwe National Chamber of Commerce, Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries, Zimbabwe Tourism Authority, Zimbabwe Investment Authority, Zimbabwe Revenue Authority, Department of Immigration, the President’s Department, Marketers Association of Zimbabwe, Women’s Groups, Youth Forums and other stakeholders must be opened and harnessed into a National Indaba to champion the process.
This important project should be housed in the Office of the President with critical drivers who include Ministry of Tourism and Hospitality, Ministry of Finance and Economic Development, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, Ministry of Information and Publicity, Ministries of Higher Education/ Primary and Secondary Education and other critical departments that have a direct impact on Zimbabwe’s image in general and national branding in particular. The process must be professional, practical, transparent and the government system must listen and fund it.
This article is an attempt to discuss the Nation Branding strategies and approaches from a practical and action-oriented perspective with the ultimate objective being to put us all, important stakeholders into action led by government. Let’s depart from the now widespread notion that Zimbabweans are excellent talkers but very poor at implementation.
Branding strategists and scholars agree that key stakeholders within a destination must collaborate in order to create a strong and unified image. They argue that the critical challenge for destination marketing is to pull together all individual partners to co-operate rather than compete and to pool resources towards developing an integrated marketing mix and delivery system.
In support of this argument, Simon Anholt, (a champion of nation branding) stresses that it is important to pull together all stakeholders and synergise their efforts to manage the complexities and challenges that are connected to branding a destination. This will bring into being an effective overall strategy of nation/destination branding.
Commitment of various players is important to deliver a solid destination brand. Nations and even tourism destinations comprise a mosaic of different actors (stakeholders). A truly sustainable destination will recognise that it must satisfy all of its stakeholders in the long term.
Strategic planning in nation branding demands that all stakeholders should participate in formulating the core idea, vision and strategic analysis, local development and the provision of leadership in the strategic branding process. It can never be a one-person-one-entity affair.
A wide level of participants in the nation branding process create ownership in the country and it also promotes a common sense of purpose and consistency of message — a critical element of the brand proposition.
Writers have outlined numerous benefits of conveying a unified image. They argue that a unified branding strategy can create a unifying focus for all public, private and non-profit sector organisations that rely on image of the place and its attractiveness.
An all stakeholder driven approach and concerted efforts towards coming up with an effective strategy enables a nation brand to be attractive and sustainable in view of global competition.
Co-operation diminishes the chances of sending out conflicting messages that may cause multiple perceptions in the minds of the consumers.
In addition, Anholt (2007) in support of the above position, argues that conflicting messages can compromise the impression of the consistent image which can damage the image of the destination. He argues “far more can be achieved if the work of these stakeholders is co-ordinated, of consistently high quality, and harmonised to an overall national strategy that sets clear goals for the country’s economy, its society and its political and cultural relations with other countries”.
Anholt stresses the importance of consistency in destination branding. Morgan and Pritchard (2007) also underscore the importance of consistency in destination branding by arguing that any change of a strategy should take place within the consistency of a destination brand.
The core values of a destination should remain consistent in order to send a strong and non-contradicting image. A unified voice, co-ordinated communication messages and consistency can represent Zimbabwe as a strong destination brand in Sub-Saharan Africa and on the global platform.
A sense of common purpose and strategic brand management, consistently represented, will influence a positive consumer mindset which will result in high visitation, high tourist expenditure and meaningful investment.
Cluttered efforts and messages, competing interests and lack of a clear strategic direction is likely to create a multiplicity of images in consumers thereby affecting the overall perception of the destination and performance of the nation on a global stage.
Unique selling proposition
Destinations need to create a sense of being unique in order to outcompete and outposition competitors and attract customers on a global market that is becoming increasingly competitive.
It is argued that events, movies and celebrities can be central to enhancing or damaging the reputations of destinations. It therefore means that if destinations succeed in hosting unique events that gain maximum publicity, it creates an opportunity for marketers to take advantage in contrast to its competitors.
It can also boost the number of visitors during the event.
A good illustration in Zimbabwe can be the Harare International Festival of the Arts (HIFA), a prime annual event that invites international artistes for a week of festivals of music, drama, poetry, and painting that attracts thousands of national and international participation and attendance.
Brown argues that “economic value of an event to the host city or region is often predicted on the media attention that the event obtains”.
Hosting the Olympic Games or the World Cup greatly provides a destination with a massive possibility for economic value if the potential is exploited correctly.
The Culture Week, culture being magnetic to international tourists, and Harare International Carnival hosted by ZTA provide an effective platform for projecting a desired image to tourists and business visitors from which Zimbabwe can leverage itself upon against adversity.
Morgan cited in Rungo (2011) posits that “featuring event images alongside those of the destination’s product mix that reinforce aspects of its brand positioning significantly enhances the overall impact”.
It is therefore crucial for destinations to clearly and carefully consider which events to host in terms of economic value and marketing returns. Spain leveraged on the Barcelona Olympics to re-launch itself as a prime tourist destination after the dictatorship of General Franco.
New Zealand is an illustration of a destination whose image was boosted significantly by hosting the filming of the “Lord of the Rings” film, “Trilogy” and “Rugby”.
New Zealand’s DMO has been highly successful in implementing the marketing value of these events in their destination marketing and has been able to brand the country as an adventurous place leading to high global awareness.
Unique events are critical for the differentiation of a destination’s image and products. These enhance the uniqueness of a place, which is a vital task of all DMO’s and nation branding stakeholders.
Allan (2015) argues that “many places and their leaders have also recognised that they also need to distinguish themselves through their culture and heritage”. Destinations can combine the effects of hosting unique events to promoting aspects of their culture in order to differentiate themselves.
The ZTA could maximise on the Harare International Carnival and HIFA by injecting more cultural and heritage aspects to provide a complete picture of Zimbabwe’s rich cultural heritage and modern life.
The inclusion of Caribbean Samba at the Harare International Carnival could be minimised in order to avoid dilution of what is strictly Zimbabwean and use Zimbabwean culture to project the destination favourably on the global market. Mbende, Jerusarema, Muchongoyo can be classically displayed alongside strictly Zimbabwean food, paintings music, drama and other art forms to showcase Zimbabwean Culture to the global community.
Surely Dominic Benhura’s Sculptures, Chiwoniso Maraire’s music or Thomas Mapfumo or Oliver Mtukudzi music are the cultural assets that we possess and these artists are revered internationally yet we do not value them internally and use their artworks for nation branding purposes at events.
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]