Dr Musekiwa Clinton Tapera
A brand position from a consumer perspective refers to a competitive assessment by the customer or a prospective visitor about how the brand is similar or different from competing brands.
It therefore means that for a nation to succeed, it should not only consider its own weaknesses and strengths but strengths and weakness of its competitors.
Effective and successful positioning depends on consistency if it has to occupy a distinct and value position in the target consumers.
For the effective brand positioning of Zimbabwe as a vibrant destination, there is a need for competitor analysis of destinations in the SADC region and Africa generally, for differentiation purposes.
Positioning is concerned with the optimum location of a brand and its competitors in consumer’s mindsets to a destination.
Brand positioning guides marketing strategies by providing indications or directions to what the brand is all about, its uniqueness how similar or different it is to competitors brands destination.
It enables the brand to be highly visible in cluttered market and to occupy a distinctive and valuable place in the target consumers mind.
Brand positioning is about visibility and recognition of what a product or service represents for a buyer. It markets where the intensity of rivalry and competition are increasing and buyers have great choice, identification and understanding of a product’s intrinsic values become critical.
The above assertions about effective brand positioning provides a solid foundation for Zimbabwe to consider seriously the following positioning strategies if nation branding is to have a sustainable buy-in and commitment. There are:
1) Internal positioning
2) Brand leadership
3) Brand culture
4) Brand communications
Internal positioning entails positioning Zimbabwe internally and requires the formulation and development of practical approaches to instil brand values with the nation’s country or communities.
The nation’s marketing team should craft strategies to communicate and promote the brand internally or to its local citizens and communities because they are the best brand champions of a nation.
They can also be the worst enemies if they do not view the brand. Internal branding should ensure that citizens of a country are aligned with the brand and its core brand values.
A buy-in and ownership spirit is critical for people. It is important for a nation’s citizen because it enables and provides with the capacity to gain a clear appreciation of basic branding values. Internal nation branding is of strategic importance to DMOs and government, entailing that necessary resources should be allocated to it.
It is therefore imperative for the Zimbabwe Tourism Authority, Hospitality Association of Zimbabwe to promote domestic tourism as a strategy to make local citizens appreciate their tourism resources and to be able to stand for its values to external visitors.
This writer was made to appreciate destination Malaysia by taxi drivers who speak proudly of their country.
Nation branding destination borrows concepts and procedures from corporate branding. In an organisation employees are central to brand culture so are citizens to a country.
Their interaction with customers plays a crucial role in branding the gap between the envisioned brand values and those perceived by external stakeholders. It is argued that it is concerned with values that bring branding practice into direct contact with organisational culture.
The culture of an organisation, that is, its values, benefits and basic assumptions manifest itself in the ways employees feel about the organisation and forms the environment in which brand values must be developed. Scholars suggest that successful brands are those which create positive link between the desired values (as ensured in the brand vision), corporate culture and brand image.
The task for management is then to bring corporate culture into line with the values embedded in the brand vision so that they become part of customers image and experience of the brand. However, establishing brand commitment by employees is a difficult task.
Building this commitment requires the integration of three sets of managerial activities. Brand leadership, Brand Communications and Brand Culture and Brand centred HR.
These corporation branding activities can be borrowed on nation branding, through perhaps at a larger and more complex scale. As illustration brand centred HR activities should ensure that recruitment and promotion is based on a close fit between personal identity with similar values to the brand.
This can also be said of nation branding. Those hired to run the destination or nation brand process must identify with nation brand vision and identity.
Similarly, brand centered human resources ensures the provision of brand training for new employees and the incorporation of brand identity as part of executive development programmes.
The successful development of employees commitment to the organisation’s brand is important because of a link to the appropriate brand behaviours. This commitment is a key driver to what branding specialist refers to as brand citizenship behaviour.
The same applies to destination branding which demands good brand citizenship and brand commitment from the numerous stakeholders involved in the branding process.
Brand citizenship behaviour includes individual voluntary behaviour which enhances the performance of the brand.
This involves seven dimensions (7): helping behaviour, brand consideration, brand enthusiasm, brand endorsement, self-development and brand advancement, and sportsmanship according to Burman and Zolphin.
A country’s culture just take organisation culture refers to the internal values, beliefs and of the country or company and communicate its meaning to its members. It is argued that, it is the concern with values that brings nation practice into direct contact with a country’s culture
Leadership is essential to the development of brand commitment. It is fundamentally important to recognise that the role of corporate brand management from which destination brand management, borrows is too important to be delegated to a marketing department in an organisation or to a government ministry, branding Chief Executive Officers or Ministers in government.
What this means is giving a clear sense of vision, what the country aspires to be in the future, aligning vision with culture and images through pestering a nationwide commitment to the brand. Coming up with the internal brand requires leadership to establish structures which convey coherent and consistent brand messages to citizens.
Destinations borrow from corporate branding techniques to market themselves. The following aspects are important for adaptations by destination marketing organisations if corporate branding is to be effective for nation branding.
- The role government set the strategic national vision and to chart the sign posts for the future direction of the country. The strategic vision corporate culture and brand image are linked together and therefore a key management role must ensure alignment between these three components.
Both nation branding and corporate branding are subject to growing market complexity engineered by globalisation, internal and external government policies and the environment leadership by top government officials is required to develop, communicate and embed the strategic vision and brand values in the culture of the entire country. Senior management must take the lead in the development of a brand charter.
Besides the vehicle behind external communications such as public relations and advertising and other forms of marketing communications, it is emphasised that widening stakeholder audience has led to an associated widening in communication channels and contact points. In addition to conventional external marketing communications, corporate brands make contact with stakeholders through for example, annual reports events training and others.
The overall aim of corporate brand communications across a broad array of stakeholders targeted is to build trust through consistency. Evidence suggests that consistency between brand communications and the brand statements underpinning brand identity should be measured and monitored regularly.
In conclusion, effective external branding relies on rapid understanding affected through simple, memorable messages, the internal verbalisation of the brand identity has to reflect accurately the full complexity of that brand identity. Because of a wide range of stakeholders, there is need to effectively manage and communicate with them.