‘Namibia can never be a McDonald’s’By: JO-MARÉ DUDDY
NAMIBIA must change its country brand, currently flawed with stereotypes, narrow perceptions and cliches, to a bold, multi-layered one which will allow it to compete on a global stage.
“Namibia’s brand can never be a brand like KFC or McDonald’s,” Gordon Cook of the National Brand Navigator for South African brand leadership school Vega said at the annual general meeting of Team Namibia on Wednesday.
Country brands are much more complex than that. A country brand is a competitive identity, he said.
“Brand Namibia still seems to be in the closet,” Cook said.
He suggested the establishment of a Namibian Brand Council, which has to make “broad brush strokes” to capture the country identity. This cannot be a lukewarm process; it has to be bold and competitive, Cook said.
Namibia already has a brand, whether the country likes it or not. Outsiders have a specific view of Namibia, he said.
However, currently the country is being branded by generalisations, narrow perceptions, stereotypes and cliches. Namibia needs to look at a much more layered meaning of what it is all about, taking into account its rich history and culture, as well as its various corporate identities, Cook said.
“This is not an easy task. It is a long-term investment which will take persistent patience.”
A country brand can’t just rest on outsiders view of Namibia, it fundamentally comes from the inside from the citizens of the country, he said.
Namibia needs to decide against which countries in the world it wants to compete and change its attitude and behaviour accordingly.
“Team Namibia, which league to you want to play in – the relegation league, fourth league or fifth league?”
If Namibia decides to play in the “premium league”, it will have to compete against countries like China, India and Korea.
“Are we serious about this?” Cook asked. “Let’s not smoke stuff,” he said, suggesting that Namibia benchmarks itself against African countries to secure a competitive niche.
A brand is a promise for a specific set of experiences. The challenge lies in delivering those experiences, Cook said.
“Mediocrity is out.”
Namibia needs to have world-class packaging for its products and needs to have more local products. It’s a process of constant innovation, Cook said.
“There is no point crying while others steal our bread.”
Namibia needs to have a “big brand” to keep up with global trends where manufacturing can be done in any country and skills are mobile. Namibia must not just attract tourists, but also top talent while keeping its existing talent in the country. And it must lure back those in diaspora, Cook said.
Namibia also needs to get its foot in the door with the international media to take full advantage of global connectedness.
“If the international media ignore you, it’s a nightmare.”
It seems like an overwhelming task, Cook said, with plenty of challenges.
One is Namibia’s high unemployment rate of 51,2 per cent. It is very difficult to build a strong brand internally if people don’t have jobs, he said.
“All good brands paint a future.” Namibia needs to pin down its future, he said.
“If you don’t believe in the future [of Namibia], you will look for a future elsewhere.”
Another major constraint is self-interest placed before the country’s interest.
Namibians must buy more local products, even if it is cheaper to import. The country needs to cultivate a culture of “what can we make?”
Export raw materials without adding value is the “quick profit route”, Cook said.
“It’s the economy of stupidity.”
Namibia’s domestic market is too small to sustain local manufacturing. Therefore the export market should be all manufacturers’ target from day one, he said.
“Namibia can’t compete with the UK in making tweed jackets. But there’s no reason it can’t compete when it makes leather jackets.”
Government doesn’t own Brand Namibia, Cook said. The collective citizens of yesterday, today and tomorrow do. Government is merely the caretaker.
In this regard, everybody in the country, including big business, needs to pull their weight to make Namibia competitive.
“The days of just taking and making money are over,” Cook said, adding that the corporate world needs to plough profits back into the socioeconomic development of the country.