We can only brand Ghana if we understand a brand as an aspect of marketing communications that has long-lasting profitability in terms of funds mobilization, corporate association, world identity and image building. Branding a country is work for specialists not generalists.
Ghana has set up a Brand Ghana office. The immediate impression created is that we want to take branding Ghana seriously hence a separate department to take over this job. But does the office understand brands, especially a brand like Ghana? Is the Brand Ghana office expected to rebrand Ghana or market the existing Brand? These are questions I have not found an answer to.
For the understanding of readers, let us take a quick look at what a brand is. A brand is an identity or feature that differentiates one thing, item or service from another based on its unique features. These features can be different in terms of its colours and colour variations, symbolic representation, picturesque representation, songs, term, name or combination of either or all among others and how it relates to key constituencies: people, partners, investors etc.
In a business sense, a brand is the ethos of the company and therefore corporate Ghana must see a brand as the spirit of the country. What do Ghanaians associate with the ‘Ghanaian spirit’? Can we mention the Coat of Arms or the Ghana flag colours? And if we can, we need to ask, can these two elements be sold.
Brand Ghana in their research made it clear that the message that makes Ghana unique among other countries in the world is our welcoming attitude. They couched it in a tagline Uniquely welcoming. Were they right? I Googled to find the truth about the most hospitable countries in the world. These countries formed the first 10 – Ireland, New Zealand, Canada, Australia, Switzerland, Italy, Fiji, Scotland, Netherlands, and Germany. Where is Ghana? Did this tagline come out of a research or based on a select few foreigners’ admiration of our country? This means Uniquely welcoming is not a unique selling proposition.
Let’s go more practical here. All letter heads used by Ghana ministries, departments and agencies etc have the coat of arms as the most distinguishing factor. Is the Brand Ghana office aware of this? This forms part of Brand Ghana. The unfortunate thing is that we have not celebrated the Coat of Arms as it has been represented in different colours on the letterheads. This shows our lack of appreciation for a brand.
Let’s take another symbolic thing that Ghanaians identify with which is the national flag colours. I have read a number of times Madam Theodosia Okoe advising that the colour is RED GOLD GREEN and not RED YELLOW GREEN as it has been depicted at most state functions. A country that understands brands would have taken this seriously but are we? A cursory look at Brand Ghana shows that all they want to do is to carry out adverts about our cultures and products on the some marketing platforms like radio, TV and billboards. A clear example is a billboard around the Kotoka International Airport. This is not to downplay the work of Brand Ghana but I think they need more marketing professionals to help in this enterprise, for branding Ghana is not an easy task.
Brand Ghana must take a careful look at Ghana as a brand and adopt the inside-out approach by charting the right path in the branding of Ghana that starts right here in Ghana. When this is successful it will give us enough leverage to act as a benchmark for our march into the world. We need to sit back and do a thorough research to know how Ghana should be branded and not take the simplest path because branding is a serious exercise.
As I write this piece, thoughts of Brand Ghana heading towards extinction haunts me.
The essence of a brand is to create consistency instead of confusion across various marketing platforms. We have chosen the confusing path to our own disadvantage. These can be found in numerous taglines executed on the marketing platforms such as The Gold Coast of Africa, The Gateway to West Africa, Uniquely Welcoming and a Better Ghana.
These few reasons, among a thousand others, explain our lack of understanding of branding.
Author: William Y. Ansah, CEO, Origin8, an Advertising and Marketing Communications Company.