Brand values

Written shortly before his tragic and untimely death in January, Komla Dumor turned his thoughts to the importance of image for your business in Africa

brandvalueWhen you think of South Africa what comes to mind? Great wine? Generously sized portions of meat? Nelson Mandela? Table Mountain? What comes to mind when you think of Kenya? The world’s best long-distance runners, perhaps? Amazing wildlife and scenery? Spectacular tourism? What images do you form of Chad or Benin? What comes to mind when you hear the Democratic Republic of Congo or Namibia mentioned? Senegal, Ghana or Zimbabwe? And Nigeria? African films and entertainment perhaps. Confident and ambitious entrepreneurs?

At the beginning of this year Jim O’Neill, the man who coined the term BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa – a group of the world’s fastest-growing economies), came up with another idea: the MINT nations; the countries to watch next. Mexico, Indonesia, Nigeria and Turkey. MINT.

In the case of Nigeria, many economists predict that by 2015 Nigeria will overtake South Africa as Africa’s biggest economy. Whatever you may think of Nigeria or Nigerians, the claim to ‘Africa’s biggest economy’ is not one to dismiss with a wave of the hand.

Never mind the bragging rights. I am willing to bet that anyone responsible for branding anything from sandals to a multinational bank would love to slap the phrases ‘leading’ or ‘biggest’ on their brand. Make no mistake, ‘biggest’ does not necessarily mean ‘the best’. However, in the fierce global competition to attract investment, perception is hugely important.

So what do people say about your business? What do people think about your product or services? Do you care? What about your personal brand? Are you a reliable manager? Are you viewed as an efficient CEO?

Sorry for the prodding, but this is important.

Sticks and stones may break your bones – sorry, but words can hurt you and your business. What is being said about your organisation in that big and sometimes dangerous place called the Internet? We live in a time when fake news websites, pseudo experts, news media and anyone with an axe to grind has a forum to speak and the potential to attract an audience of millions.

It’s a forum that cannot be ignored. That being said, national brand managers can also use this platform to deliver the kind of message that will reach investors, tourists or a domestic audience. The important thing to note is that if you whip up the expectations and enthusiasm of the consumers of your brand message you had better deliver on the promise.

Call me a complainer, but nothing frustrates me more than a hotel room that promises luxury and serves economy. Or pictures that suggest an amazing service and deliver incompetence. Or a mobile phone company that promises full coverage… you get my point.

There is an African proverb that I love to quote. It says “Until the lion has its own historians, the tale of the hunt will always glorify the hunter.”

Until you tell your own story you will be defined by what others say about you. To this I add: whatever you claim about your product should match what you can deliver. If you promise someone a safe, wonderful romantic holiday and they get less than they expected, not only will they give up on your brand, they will tell everyone about it.

Back to my original question. When you think of your country’s brand, what comes to mind?