Dr Musekiwa Clinton Tapera
The spirit of the people and their shared vision and purpose are at the centre of successful nation branding.
The spirit of the people and their value systems as argued by nation branding specialists such as Gilmore, are affected and shaped by such factors as culture, environment, history, economy and their experiences.
This therefore is the mark of differentiation for each nation from others.
The spirit of the people in the Zimbabwean context was shaped by its history of fighting and waging a protracted struggle against colonial subjugation and reclamation of the land is a core element of the ownership of the means of production.
The land and the protracted struggle of fighting the colonialists since 1890’s was the source and foundation of the spirit of the people that has shaped our value systems, beliefs and vision up to this day.
It is out of these deep national ethos that we derive our oneness and deep seated Zimbabweaness in spite of our differences. Our common struggles and aspirations and even inspirations are the source of our unity and common vision.
These are powerful ingredients of a strong nation branding initiative. This has been shaped by a common struggle and shared aspirations inspired by common historical figures whose sacrifices since 1893 culminated into the land redistribution revolution of our time.
That the land issue became a thorny global issue to date is no coincidence.
All the image problems, the perception issues, the sanctions and the stereotypes are rooted from these common struggles.
The core issue of the numerous uprisings since 1893 was land dispossession by the colonial master and repossession of the land was going to haunt this jewel of Africa for more than a century.
It was a historical epoch that shaped the resistance determination and sacrifice of a people of this beautiful country.
It is from this perspective that pronouncements such as ‘inyika inovakwa nevene vayo’ “leaving no one and no place behind’ resonate well with the aspirations of the people of Zimbabwe.
Writings and propositions by scholars borrow from corporate branding where it is argued that the brand of a company must sit at the “heart” of the organisation thus driving its strategy and its direction. It represents the core values and ideology of the organisation.
The brand therefore acts as a guide to strategic decision – making processes of top management and acts as a driving force and motivator for all its employees.
With particular reference to country branding, it is particularly argued that the core of a country’s brand must capture the spirit of the country and their vision.
The spirit of the people is an embodiment of the spirit of the country. These are deeply connected.
The spirit of the people embodies deeply seated values that endures the test of time and remain firm and constant even under changing circumstances.
There is, however, a need to explain how the spirit of the people can be achieved given the diverse background and culture of people from the same country.
The spirit of the people can be a complex phenomenon in African countries where ethnicity and political differences seem rampant.
Perhaps this explains the uniqueness of Zimbabwe as shaped and founded on the above strongly built value systems based on common interests and aspirations.
This stand point therefore, should form or create the enabling and facilitating conditions for a nation branding initiative.
That there are stereotypes associated with the Zimbabwe brand and that there is a perception challenge can be a positive launching pad for a successful branch because of its publicity and visibility already in the global arena.
A sense of patriotism, oneness and a common vision anchored on common values, beliefs and ethos provide a solid and firm foundation for the success of a nation brand programme.
This solid base founded on the spirit of the people is critical for the positioning of a nation in the minds of the external stakeholders. Shared values and beliefs are enablers for championing the cause of the nation under complex and dynamic situations.
Conversely a fragmented people with fractured mindsets and devoid of a common vision are a precursor to a confused brand identity. External stakeholders such as tourists, investors, international or foreign media are likely to fit in easily in a united focused and citizen driven in environment.
Dr Tapera writes in his personal capacity. He has a PHD in marketing. His research work and thesis focused 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 projects, public relations and investment attraction programmes. He can be contacted on email: [email protected] Mobile 0772 920 617