Dr Musekiwa C Tapera
Nation branding has emerged as a strategy for all countries to compete financially, culturally and politically in the global economy.
Generally, global marketers have agreed that nation branding increases currency stability, help restore international credibility, enhances investor confidence, boost national pride, attracts tourists and the much sought after skills and talent.
The application of branding techniques to nations and places is growing in frequency given the increasingly global competition which nations and places now face in both their domestic and external markets.
Tools of corporate marketing and branding can be transferred to place marketing. Destination branding and nation branding are terms that can be used interchangeably because both have physical and administrative boundaries defining their management.
Images and perception and ultimately defining its market competitiveness. However, what complicates nation branding is that it incorporates various and diverse stakeholders because a country on its own is a destination that can be on a scale of a whole country, a region or an Island, to a village, town on city.
Stakeholders in this case are central to nation branding as they constitute the core to the delivery of a solid, sustainable and results oriented brand.
The approach by the Government of Zimbabwe through the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting Services was a progressive start to this mega project. For technical guidance it only left out the academia (not Vice Chancellors only).
Zimbabwe has numerous scholars who have researched and written brilliant publications on the national branding of Zimbabwe both local and in South Africa Universities who can constitute a pool of technical experts based on empirical research at the highest level to support this national initiative.
In practical terms nation branding is a mega project that is driven by diverse stakeholders with different expectations and aspirations. Their interests cannot be ignored.
A sustainable nation brand must recognise the role of destination stakeholders who are central to visitor satisfaction, perception and image management, investor confidence and creating a deeper understanding of our national interests.
These stakeholders can be categorised according to their roles. The public sector plays a destination leadership coordinating role which the Zimbabwean Government say has seen increases in incomes.
It also stimulates regional development and generates employment. Thus the public sector, complemented by the private sector coordinates the funding of nation branding because it has direct access to national fiscus.
However, it is also important to consider other stakeholders such as pressure groups, environmental lobbyists, power brokers within local, regional and national community groups especially in the context of the devolution policy and the National Development Strategy I.
Research by numerous scholars agree that
key stakeholders within a nation must collaborate in order to create a strong and unified
It has also been observed that the critical challenge for destination marketing is to pull together all individual partners to cooperate rather than compete and pool resources towards developing an integrated mix and delivery system.
It is therefore important to pull together all stakeholders and synergise their efforts to manage the complexities and challenges that are connected to branding a national/destination.
This will bring into being an effective overall strategy of a nation brand.
Commitment of various players is important to deliver, a solid nation brand.
A truly sustainable destination will recognise that it must satisfy all of its stakeholders in the long term, it is therefore advisable that the lead government ministry recognises that strategic planning in nation branding demands that all stakeholders should participate in formulating the core idea, vision, strategic analysis, local development and the provision of leadership in the strategic branding process.
It can never be a one person, one entity affair, It is also important to accept that a wide level of participants in nation branding process creates ownership and also promotes a common sense of purpose and consistency of message, a critical element of the brand proposition.
A unified branding strategy can create a unifying focus for all public, private and non-profit sector organisations. Cooperation diminishes the chances of sending out conflicting messages that may cause multiple perceptions in the minds of intended beneficiaries.
Destination gurus underscore the message that far more can be achieved if the work of these stakeholders is coordinated, consistently of 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.
From this context, it becomes imperative for the Government to establish a Nation Branding Board or Working Group made up of key representatives from key stakeholders to push the agenda.
In the context, Devolution and NDSIs should establish provincial or regional working groups to cater for provincial interests and feed into the national board for effective coordination.
Nation Branding is a mega and complex project that requires good funding support to yield positive results. Not every aspect of the economy, socio-cultural issues, politics tourism etc is important for a nation brand.
A careful selection of unique selling proportions is important to effectively sell the nation. Destinations therefore, need to create a sense of being unique in order to outcompete and attract attention on a global market that has become increasingly competitive.
Scholars and researchers argue that events, movies, celebrities can be central to enhancing or damaging the reputations of destinations.
It, therefore, means 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.
For example, the Harare International Festival of the Arts attract thousands of national and international participation and attendance.
Hosting the Olympic Games or the World CUP of football, rugby and any games of such magnitude provide a nation with a massive possibility of economic value if the potential is exploited correctly.
It is, therefore, crucial for destinations to clearly and carefully consider which events to host in terms of economic value and return on marketing investment.
Cases to illustrate the above are many, for example, Spain leveraged on Barcelona Olympics to prelaunch itself as a prime tourist destination after years of dictatorship of General Franco, New Zealand boosted its image significantly by hosting the filming of the Lord of Rings and Rugby!
New Zealand’s Destination Management Organisation (DMO) has been successful in implementing the marketing value of these events 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.
Dr Tapera is director of communication at Chinhoyi University of Technology. He writes in his personal capacity. He has a PhD in Marketing. His research work and thesis focuses on the destination branding of Zimbabwe. Dr Tapera areas of interest include general destination marketing of cities and towns, tourism destinations, corporate reputation and communications and projects and public relations and investment projects and public relations and investment attraction programmes. He can be contacted on email: [email protected] mobile 0772 920 617.