KEYNOTE ADDRESS: Harnessing Jamaica’s National Brand for Economic Growth

Dr. Hume Johnson - Founder and Chairman of the Re:Imagine Jamaica Project.

Dr. Hume Johnson – Founder and Chairman of the Re:Imagine Jamaica Project delivering public lecture at the Jamaica High Commission Uk, in London, June 17, 2014.

The following is an excerpt of the PUBLIC LECTURE made   by Chairman and Founder of the Re:Imagine Jamaica Project, Dr. Hume Johnson at the Jamaica High Commission in London, June 17, 2014.  In her lecture, Dr. Johnson argued that Jamaica holds a strong position globally in terms of symbolic and cultural narratives yet remains poor. In short, the impoverishment of Jamaica is out of sync with its fame.  She asks how can this fame be exploited for economic growth and affluence? Dr. Johnson raised 5 key areas which she believes the Jamaican authorities must tackle for Jamaica to reap benefits of its popular and world famous national brand.

  1. Promote a more complete image of Jamaica
  2. Leverage and promote the ‘Made in Jamaica’ label and  exploit ‘Country of Origin’ Effect
  3. Seek adequate intellectual property (IP) Protection of Jamaican symbols, and educate creative industries sector on ownership rights.
  4. Make serious and concerted efforts to address deficits in Governance
  5. Establish a Comprehensive and Coherent Brand Jamaica Strategy

*Greetings and Salutations*:

(Acknowledgement of the presence of Jamaican sports icon, Merlene Ottey; Minister of National Security, Hon. Peter Bunting, Minister of State in Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Hon. Arnaldo Brown, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of National Security Major General Saunders.

***

Let me take this opportunity to thank the Jamaica High Commission, through Her Excellency Aloun Ndombet-Assamba for extending this invitation to me to be a part of the ongoing conversation on the Jamaican Diaspora and, in the context of my current project, on Brand Jamaica. I am delighted to be here and to contribute to deepening this conversation on Brand Jamaica. Before I get into my substantive discussion about Jamaica’s competitive identity in the global arena, let me ask you. When you hear the term ‘Brand Jamaica’, tell me some of the things that come to mind? …. Do you think ‘yaadies’ are part of Brand Jamaica? (Every aspect – whether it is positive or whether it is negative impacts what is Brand Jamaica).

So everybody here – 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th generation, you all impact what is Brand Jamaica. You are a part of Jamaica’s identity overseas, and you are articulating a positive image of Brand Jamaica abroad. Indeed, our reputation and that of Jamaica are joined. Your accomplishments are Jamaica’s accomplishments. And whatever Jamaica achieves in the world is part of your own assets. We are therefore forever connected to the homeland – to Jamaica.

And, reputation is fast becoming the new capital for nations in the 21st century. It is not only about raw military power, economic power or population size. The image of a nation, how a nation is perceived in international public opinion impacts its progress economically and socially. This is what I want to share with you today – how Jamaica may harness its national image for economic gain. Some people may be wondering what image! What reputation? So first it is important to take stock of the quality of Brand Jamaica.

Jamaica’s international reputation has been taking a beating in recent times. Many of you may have seen Channel 4’s documentary featuring Jamaica’s homophobic violence aired across the UK on May 23. The latest indication from international organizations such as Transparency International is that Jamaica is corrupt. The latest Doing Business Index says Jamaica is essentially not an attractive place for investment[1]. And the United Nations Agency for Drugs and Crime (UNODC) in its 2014 report ranked Jamaica #6 in its list of the world’s most murderous countries – albeit an improvement. All of this feeds and reinforces an already widespread perception that Jamaica is not just unattractive for business but a violent and unsafe place to be. One of the young Americans I teach at the University said to me recently: “I can’t imagine being from a place and being surrounded by people who think wrongly about it”. I resented his pity, albeit a well-meaning pity for Jamaica.

But it is important to understand, as I told him, (and as I am telling you) that Brand Jamaica is a nation brand of striking contradictions. Whereas all nation brands contain both positive and negative aspects, Brand Jamaica exhibits a perplexing combination of competing forces that are struggling for dominance. In scholarship, this is called a dialectic tension – where negative and positive forces are tugging and pulling at each other.

DIALECTIC TENSION CONFRONTING BRAND JAMAICA

This dialectic tension goes to the heart of the dilemma confronting Brand Jamaica. First, we can point easily to the extraordinary presence, influence and promise of many aspects of the Jamaican national brand (e.g. tourism, sports, particularly athletics and bobsled; a vibrant culture featuring world famous music genres – reggae and dancehall, a unique language/accent; an indigenous Rastafari movement, energetic lifestyle, world famous export products such as Blue Mountain Coffee, Jerk and others that are set for takeoff; a multiplicity of iconic citizens such as Bob Marley and Usain Bolt and many others who are recognized on every continent.)

But we can point just as easily to dangerous deficits, the prolonged crisis facing the Jamaican brand embodied in weaknesses in governance reflected in economic stagnation – including massive debt, rising unemployment, poverty (half a million Jamaicans living below the poverty line), corruption, violent crime, breaches of human rights, including widespread perceptions of homophobia.

This glaring contradiction reproduces Brand Jamaica’s relative strength versus its profound vulnerability. The positive brand narratives have historically served to elevate and position Brand Jamaica into one of the world’s most popular nation brands. However, the negatives have simultaneously served to undermine Jamaica in international public opinion, and disrupt its capacity to take full advantage of its moral, social, economic and cultural capital. So Jamaica presents a case of some variables that are performing brand build functions while others are equally and at the very same time performing brand-reducing functions. Jamaica has always been a society of great contradictions – so some may say it’s the legacy of our history. But nation brands such as Jamaica that exemplify constructive and progressive features, as well as destructive and undesirable features – the emerging tension causes them to mutually negate each other – leaving the brand at risk of stagnation. And I believe this is where we are at – stagnation.

The Jamaican authorities, and other players therefore confront an extremely difficult challenge regarding the nation’s ambiguous international image. Some interests believe that Jamaica’s success in sports, music and as a top tourism destination make the country attractive and respected on the global stage, as well as potentially commercially successful. Nevertheless, Jamaican authorities must consistently address the negative and controversial aspects of the Jamaican brand if it is to seriously overcome its conflicting international image, and position itself to exploit its brand equity and through this, boost the economy. Many countries have caught on to the idea of nation brand and begun to think more strategically about how their nation is viewed and are taking steps to manage their national brand by focusing on their ‘soft power’ – the appeal of their culture. The term soft power was first used by American political scientist, Joseph Nye to refer to “the ability of a country to attract others because of its culture, political values, its foreign policies” etc. – in other words, the attraction of a nation’s culture. So when we say nation brand, what exactly are we talking about? And why should Jamaica join the ‘brand wagon’ so to speak?

WHAT IS NATION BRAND & HOW DO NATIONS BUILD THEIR IMAGE

A nation’s brand is essentially the sum of beliefs and impressions people hold about places. So when we talk about nation brand, we are talking about the ideas the outside world holds about a particular country. Due to the fierce competition among countries in the global economy for investment, trade, tourism, students and so on (and the fact that everything about each country is now fully exposed on the internet), the reputation or brand of a country is even more important than ever before. Countries and cities are therefore obliged to call upon their history, geography and culture, national symbols among other things to construct a distinctive image, to form their identity in the world.

It is a fact that nations that manage their images and external reputations are more likely to create more attractive conditions for foreign direct investment, tourism, trade and political relations. When we talk about image, as I said earlier, we are essentially talking about ‘the sum of beliefs and impressions people hold about places’, and this is becoming critical in international politics and trade. This image impacts the way how people inside and outside the place think about it, the way they behave towards it, and the way they respond to everything with regard to the place; it affects its relationships with other countries, impacts tourism and, investment and business potential. In other words, the brand image of a country plays a major role in its economic, social and political progress.

If I don’t have a good perception of Jamaica, if I believe that Jamaicans are homophobic and the government of Jamaica supports policies that discriminate against this community; if Jamaica has a high crime rate, does not protect the environment, breaches the human rights of its people, I am less inclined to do business in Jamaica, to visit Jamaica as a tourists, to send my children on a study exchange there; I am less inclined to purchase Jamaican products, I am less inclined to set up business in Jamaica; I am less inclined to return home if I am a citizen of Jamaica. So when we are talking about Jamaica’s image, it is imperative to understand that it is very much grounded in the real, lived realities of Jamaicans at home and in the Diaspora, as well as the experience of visitors (i.e. tourists, students, business travellers, returning residents) to the island.

Having a good name is the formula for success in business. Smart states are building their nation brand around reputations and attitudes (to their country) in the same way that smart companies do. I give you an example of the smart, strategic thinking of countries such as Australia and South Africa which have fully joined the ‘brand wagon’ and are reaping the benefits of nation branding.

BRAND OZ

Australia undertook a major rebranding a few years ago, based on research in which they learned that Australia’s global reputation was based on its physical attributes – beaches etc., and not its intellectual ones. Australia’s goal was therefore to move beyond their traditional image as a land of beach, surfing & rugby to being perceived as a progressive society, a place for high quality education, a leader in conservation, and an economic force in the Asia-Pacific region. Australia also undertook nation brand initiatives that were designed to show that Australia was rich in cultural, scientific and business talent. They staged events to showcase Australian food, wine, tourism, entertainment and business. They leveraged these assets to move beyond tourism and to reinvent Australia as a nation of knowledge and innovation. According to the Head of Australia’s Trade Agency (equivalent to JAMPRO in Jamaica) ‘the more others trust, admire and respect Australia, the more they are likely to invest in our people, ideas and products and to send their children to study in our universities’.

In the case of South Africa, the country has moved from apartheid to progressive politics and society via Nelson Mandela. It has established a formal National Brand Strategy – packaging culture, its workforce (although this is now causing some instability in the economy), creative industries and other positive attributes. As a result, South Africa is positioning itself as a major player in international politics and is flexing its muscles economically through strategic partnerships. They were host of the 2010 FIFA World Cup and who can forget the vuvuzela? While some may have found it annoying, it certainly said South Africans are a vibrant people.

The two examples – Australia and South Africa exhibit elements of deliberate actions to build a positive image abroad and also some ‘accidents of history’. A country that capitalizes on these things recognizes the importance of soft power. And so nation branding is not accidental; its deliberately designed and implemented. As Jamaicans we can do it and do it even better than those who are already doing it. Jamaican authorities must now aggressively seek to understand, manage and nurture Jamaica’s image and how we project in the world in such a way that more people will know about and appreciate the country, invest in it and see Jamaica as a preferred destination for travel. No one can deny that Jamaica is a popular and famous nation brand but we have poor reputation in crucial areas. And a bad reputation is bad for business. How can Jamaica contribute to the world in the 21st century? What is Jamaica’s soft power – the appeal and the attraction of Jamaica that can help us to achieve economic and social progress?

 BRAND AUSTRIA

I begin with a story. Carole Beckford (former communications manager for Usain Bolt) and I were in Salzburg, Austria in 2012 – to talk about Jamaica’s sports brand. I was struck by the deliberate way in which that city had been branded. Salzburg is the birthplace of one of the world’s greatest classical composers Wolfgang Amadaeus Mozart. Salzburg is also the location of the filming of the popular film, ‘The Sound of Music’. Every nook and cranny of Salzburg was littered with Mozart. Streets and places are named after Mozart; there are Mozart museums and exhibits. There are Mozart memorabilia everywhere – from the airport shop to the man selling cigarettes on the street corner. You could get a dish named after Mozart in a restaurant. You could go to the Opera to see performances from Mozart’s classic pieces, and you could go on a 4 -hour bus tour featuring the Sound of Music sound track. It struck me that I was witnessing Brand Austria – a carefully crafted place branding initiative designed by the Austrian authorities in Salzburg to present a particular image of this country to the world. This is Austria’s soft power.

It occurred to me that like Austria, Jamaica also boasts one of the world’s most iconic artistes, in Bob Marley, who introduced the world to an entirely new form of music Reggae, and a religious movement in Rastafari. Jamaica is also home to the world’s fastest sprinters in the likes of Usain Bolt and Shelly-Ann Fraser Pryce. Like Austria, Jamaica also provided the inspiration for one of the world’s most popular and talked about films ‘Cool Runnings”. This is Brand Jamaica. This is Jamaica’s soft power. It disappointed me that there was no similar place or nation branding initiative at play in Jamaica yet we have more cultural symbols than most countries to show. Jamaican authorities have to begin to think more strategically about how the nation is viewed and take steps to position the Jamaican national brand by focusing on Jamaica’s ‘soft power’ – the appeal of our culture.*Jamaica must seek to capitalize on its cultural economy and aggressively pursue cultural tourism.

 Ladies and gentlemen, we are a country of many parts and talents; we are doing a lot of ‘little things’ but we need to harness all of these for economic growth and prosperity.

***

I suggest 5 key areas which require attention, and which I believe will help to set the foundation for us to reap economic benefits from the nation’s cultural capital. I will discuss each in turn.

  1. Promote a more complex image of Jamaica beyond the tourism model

At present, the Jamaica tourism authorities are chiefly responsible for disseminating the key messages of Brand Jamaica to the world. Even a cursory look at the Jamaican marketing and promotion campaigns from Come to Jamaica way back in 1960 to the 2014 campaign ‘Come to Jamaica and Get Alright’ will reveal that the ‘official’ expression of Jamaican identity endorsed by the government, and upon which it has relied since Independence is an exotic island paradise of beautiful beaches, tropical weather, friendly and energetic people, and reggae providing a musical backdrop. This ready-made, fixed, and so far unchanged Jamaican identity did not emerge from the people; it was manufactured over time through ideology and global media which tend to feature the Third World, including the islands of the Caribbean as either beautiful and mesmerizing or impoverished and dangerous, or both.

In rationalizing its new campaign ‘JAMAICA – Get All Right’, the Jamaican tourism authorities declared that:

Jamaica is where people come to find positivity, a force making the world feel more all right through its rhythm, energy and spirit. We wanted to bring the vibrant, joyous spirit of Jamaica to life. You go to Paris for romance, Las Vegas to get wild, and you go to Jamaica to Get All Right (The Jamaica Observer, 2013).

Don’t get me wrong – a sense of humor and cheerful attitude are fundamentally Jamaican, and does help citizens to cope during difficult times. These narratives on Jamaica – of fun and frolic, a sun-sand-sea tourism centric model conveyed by the Jamaica Tourist Board for over half a century, are, however, incomplete – they do not tell the full story of Jamaica. Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Adichie writes of the danger of telling a single story about a people and a place. ‘A single story creates stereotypes. It’s not that stereotypes are untrue but that they are incomplete, she argues. Stereotypes make one story the only story’. Single stories of a people and a place not only flatten one’s experience of that place, but also overlooks multiple other stories that help to form that place (Adichie, TedTalk, 2009).

In any marketing and brand strategy for Jamaica, it is, of course, enormously important to account for Jamaica’s vibrant lifestyle, and the bold energy of its people. However, it may be beneficial for Jamaica to begin to diversify the nation’s image. It is important that the Jamaican government seek to cater to more than just the current sun-sand-sea tourism-centric model as the singular expression of Jamaican identity in the world, and illustrate and express the true complexity of Jamaica’s brand. To attract investment and grow the economy, it is vital to promote not just a destination of luxury resorts, but also a nation of brilliant and talented, industrious people. This means promoting new discourses that illustrate our credentials in sports, the arts, science and technology, in education, food technology; promote Jamaican credentials in business and entrepreneurship – as the Government’s Vision 2030 plan indicates, ‘a place of choice to live, raise families and do business’.

In 2007, the Government through Jamaica Trade and Invest in co-junction with partners JAMPRO and Jamaica Exporter’s Association launched a strategic Brand Jamaica initiative. Under the tag line Today’s Jamaica Means Business, the main objective of this strategy was to alter perceptions about Jamaica, projecting a fresh, new image conducive to business interests. In short, the goal was to attract investment – stimulate businesses to set up operations in, or relocate to Jamaica, while stimulating local businesses to see new opportunities at home. As a launch pad for the Brand Jamaica strategy, JAMPRO devised the slogan ‘The place you’ve always wanted to visit, is the place to do business.’ The idea was to play into the duality of Jamaica: A place of enjoyment and recreation, but also a place of business and investment.The core idea was in other words to play on already popular perceptions about Jamaica, while at the same time making the target groups aware of the substantial incentives to relocate or start up a business on the island.

The problem with this kind of strategy is that Jamaica’s global reputation as a place of fun and frolic is inconsistent with the economic goals it is attempting to achieve. Jamaica instead must seek to construct an image of the country in a way that illustrates the entrepreneurial enterprising spirit of the Jamaican people, its rich cultural creativity, combined with its ideal geographic location, its industrial and manufacturing sectors and our human capital – an industrious, affordable and skilled workforce. These variables are substantial incentives that will not only appeal to potential external investors but will create a more positive and advantageous climate for Jamaican entrepreneurs to work in. In short, Jamaican authorities must expand on how it frames the country. It has to illustrate that beyond a strong tourism and recreational brand, Jamaica is also strong and viable business brand. It has to illustrate the work of our scientists and the breakthroughs they are making in medical research, agricultural practices; the innovations of the youth using digital technologies; the access to technology by majority of the population; the work of our artisans, the achievements in sports etc. must no longer be at the periphery of branding Jamaica but at the centre.

  1. Leverage and Promote the ‘Made in Jamaica’ Label & Country of Origin Effect

Jamaican authorities should seek to capitalize on the ‘Made in Jamaica’ label to gain ‘country equity’ and economic traction for its popular export commodities based on what is called the ‘country of origin effect’. Country equity is essentially an emotional value that stems from consumers’ association of a brand with a country. The presumption is that there is a link between where a product comes from and its quality. This association impacts its attractiveness and hence its market value. In global marketing, perceptions and attitudes towards particular countries often extend to products and brands known to originate in those countries. These perceptions can be positive or negative, and is impacted by how the product is promoted, the reputation of the product, people’s evaluation and experience with it. For example, Italy is associated with style so Italian-made goods tends to attract enormous consumer support and market value because people feel good about products made in Italy. (Made in China label & inferior products).

Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee has managed to accomplish this emotional value by its branding as a ‘Made in Jamaica’ product. The world coffee industry is highly competitive and given the flood of other coffee brands on the global market, Blue Mountain Coffee cannot be complacent and must find a way to continue to stand out and still be the coffee of choice for consumers of this beverage. Walkerswood (which manufactures Jerk Sauce) is another company that is experiencing increasing success by promoting Jamaican culture and the values of community. Walkerswood promotes a very Jamaican story naming its product from the community in which it originates (Walkerswood in St. Ann); use authentic Jamaican recipes and Jamaican symbols on their packaging. International athletics manufacturer, Puma has gained incredible competitive advantage and economic success by capitalizing on the Jamaican colours and Usain Bolt.

The Jamaica Government must seek to establish a framework where Jamaican manufacturers see the value in incorporating Jamaican national symbols and culture in marketing its products, in order to gain competitive advantage. Jamaican manufacturers and business interests must become more alert to the ‘country of origin effect’ on the market’s perception of a country’s products and services and seek to improve the brand equity of its export commodities.

Jamaican marketers should seek to develop and strengthen the impressions global consumers have of its products. Brands with greater equity are less vulnerable to competitive markets and crises. They also benefit from greater trade cooperation and support. It is also important that Jamaica improve the brand of its products in the global marketplace through evaluating choice of labels, packaging and positioning in new markets beyond the Diasporic community etc. All Jamaican stakeholders ought to be engaged to pull in the same direction and embody the Jamaican brand values; the brand identity can be re-shaped and Jamaican interests can re-claim ownership of the brand and capitalize on their own identity and culture.

The interesting thing is that international manufacturers and producers are seeking to capitalize and have done so in terms of claiming Jamaica as the country of origin for their products. Many of you in this room will recall the recent case of a firm here in the UK being fined for faking thousands of bottles of the popular Jamaican sauce Pickapeppa. You see so many products, from teeshirts to coffee, branded Jamaica and in fact they are manufactured nowhere near the shores of Jamaica. So the point I am making is that we can no longer sit and ponder about Brand Jamaica as others are well ahead. The challenge is even greater now as we must seek to claim what is rightfully ours whilst navigating a course of economic gain based on the richness of our heritage.

In relation to this, I must add that the establishment of Jamaica as a Global Logistics Hub is a step in the right direction. This is to facilitate movement of goods, people and data around the world. Jamaica is prime geographic location for global commerce because of its easy access to major markets in the world. Excellent single effort but must be part of an overall national brand strategy.

  1. Seek adequate IP protection of Jamaican symbols; educate creative industries sector on ownership rights.

It is critical that Jamaica seeks adequate Intellectual Property protection and management of IP assets such as Jamaican symbols and educate the creative industries sector on ownership rights of the creative works and expressions they produce. Adequate use of IP laws gives the right to earn a return on legally protected creations – that is, logos, trademarks, brand names, slogans, designs, tangible products or even services – and could represent a new and promising approach to the harnessing of the Jamaican cultural and symbolic economy. The promise of IP governance is immense, and so IP has to be an integral aspect of an overall nation brand strategy. This is not my area of study and I am not well placed to discuss the intricate details of the international legal framework. I draw on the work of Steffen Muschhe, a Norwegian who studied this aspect of Brand Jamaica and was kind enough to share his work and ideas with me.

At present, anyone who takes the necessary legal steps to ensure the IP rights can claim ownership of any Jamaican symbol. Jamaica, Mussche argues, is a case in point, whereby its symbols and especially its flag, to some degree, have taken on their own life – and runs the risk of being misappropriated, diluted/ tarnished. This is the phenomena whereby other stakeholders than the rightful owner of a symbol produce products of inferior quality that diminish the overall value of the brand or symbol or symbols become over-commercialised to a point of losing its edge. The flag stands for Jamaica, but it also signifies something more. It represents the Jamaican people – their creative expressions and their accomplishments. These are essentially the referents that have given Jamaica as a sign its meaning.

This brings us to the question posed by Muschhe – is it the Jamaican people who should benefit from this, or is it whoever has the ability to see the market potential of this? The question the Government should ask itself is “Who owns Jamaica today”? If not the people themselves, how can the people (re)claim ownership over their own symbols and narrative?

One way of protecting the Jamaican uniqueness, Mussche argues, may be through strategically avoiding further brand proliferation, hence, ensuring that the Jamaican flag is not put on completely arbitrary products that do not convey the essence of Jamaica. However, this is going to require proactive IP governance; positive attitudes to IP, but even more importantly intricate knowledge of how to best deploy adequate aspects of the IP infrastructure in beneficial ways. This is where JIPO comes in and has to take a more aggressive lead. I must say, however, that I am pleased to have read two weeks ago a group of sauce makers, Jamaica Jerk Producers Association Limited has applied for registration of the ‘Jamaica Jerk’ as a geographical indication mark and JIPO is set to review their application. It is encouraging but we need to do this for every single agricultural and value-added product produced in Jamaica.

I briefly want to mention Ganja. We cannot divorce ourselves from Ganja. It is an inescapable aspect of Jamaica’s brand. Many countries are moving towards the legalization of marijuana and commercialization of this product. Jamaica is yet to clearly articulate a vision for ganja as a commodity of trade. We need to accelerate this conversation into a meaningful plan of action.

  1. Make serious and concerted efforts to address deficits in Governance

Jamaica has a huge crisis of governance to overcome. The structural and governance problems confronting Brand Jamaica are enormous and enduring. Consistent reports in the global media of Jamaica featuring gang warfare, upsurges in violent crime, instances of homophobic violence, corruption and economic instability has led to troubling perceptions of the country as unsafe – a dangerous paradise, so to speak. Overall, the result has been a contradictory, perplexing and problematic public image of Jamaica. We cannot pretend that this does not have severe consequences for investment, tourism promotion and the nation’s economic and social progress.

It is critical that the Jamaican Government accelerate steps to address the enduring challenges of governance and development. We have to deal – as Indian politician Shashi Tharoor says, with the hardware of development – overcome poverty, grow the economy, tackle corruption, improve the infrastructure – the ports, airports, the roads etc. as well as the software of development – the human capital – ordinary Jamaicans should be able to make a living, send their children to decent schools, have a job that can offer them the opportunity to transform their lives. These factors are fundamental if Jamaica is to gain control over its public image, and reap the benefits of is brand.

The Importance of Public Relations

Public relations is especially important to this process of regaining control of the nation’s image. It is thus important for Jamaican authorities to supplement its advertising campaigns with effective public relations.People do not see a society for what it is. They see the stories they are told. The narratives that show up in the information circulating on the Internet are how nations are being judged. While our people are generally well-respected, hardworking and affable, this is not always the story of us out there. One day the top story is success of another Jamaican sprinter. But on many other days – the stories circulating about Jamaica are about poverty and violent crime, which tell visitors and investors to stay away.

Ours is a complicated story. Violence and conflict is part of the Jamaican story. But ours is also a civilizational story of Maroons, freedom fighters, of cultural icons – of Marcus Garvey, Louise Bennett, Bob Marley and Usain Bolt. Negative publicity stemming from crime and violence, natural disasters, economic instability, corruption and declining human rights require strategic public relations responses, not merely advertising. Strategic approaches versus cosmetic approaches. Current strategies deployed by Jamaica are indicative of a ‘business as usual’ approach – ranging from disregard for or partial acknowledgement of a crisis, to moderate coping measures. Future strategies must adopt a more proactive and intentional (as opposed to a passive approach) that diminishes the impact of negative perceptions on the target audience (potential investors and visitors). These may include, delivering a counter message, ridiculing stereotypes of Jamaica, branding contrary to the stereotype, and spinning our liabilities into assets.

  1. Finally – Establish a Comprehensive and Coherent Brand Jamaica strategy

Establishing a comprehensive and coherent nation brand strategy is the appropriate direction for Jamaica to take, as a major step in addressing some of the current challenges to the country’s economy and society. Brand Jamaica initiatives effected by JAMPRO cannot only be at moments, and in pieces but part of a comprehensive strategy including a coalition of government, business, non-government and citizen groups. It has to include all Ministries, not just Tourism – all sectors. Overall, in establishing a comprehensive national brand build strategy, Jamaican authorities would have to come to terms with the current quality of Brand Jamaica, take deliberate steps to tackle the challenges impacting the brand, and exploit its positive features – promoting the country’s credentials in the creative arts, sports, business, as well as its unique history and the genius of its people.

The people of Jamaica – are the ones who have underwritten Jamaica’s remarkable image on the global stage. It’s not the beach, sun, sand and the sea. The Jamaican people must be positioned at the center of Jamaica’s national and international identity. The remarkable story of Jamaican achievement must be told through the prism of its people, and the Jamaican people ought to be made more visible in global understanding of Jamaica. Fundamentally, Jamaican authorities must ensure that the articulation of Brand Jamaica begins at home, that Jamaicans take the lead in defining themselves. Every Jamaican organization, company and citizen must have the same mission in mind; their energies and behavior ought to be channeled in the same direction that is positive and productive for the country’s reputation. All Jamaicans should be able to articulate the same powerful, credible and interesting story about what their country is about, what its tourism, sports and cultural products are about, what the nation stands for and doesn’t stand for. This consensus is crucial to Jamaica’s brand success.

Thank you.

 

[1] Ranked 94/189

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