By Hume Johnson, PhD and Sabrina Caserta

Jamaican-born singer-songwriter, Anita Antoinette

Jamaican-born singer-songwriter, Anita Antoinette. Photo Credit – AnitaAntoinette.com

My goal isn’t to win, it is to develop, and cultivate a career that can allow me to empower others to live out their dreams’.

This is how 25 year old Jamaican born singer-songwriter Anita Antoinette described her journey on the popular American talent competition, The Voice, when The Re:Imagine Jamaica Project caught up with her for a brief chat recently.

For the second year in a row, a Jamaican performer lit up the stage of NBC’s popular television talent competition, The Voice. This time, its the strikingly beautiful daughter of Jamaican reggae artiste, Clinton Fearon. Anita grew up on the sounds of her father’s music in Kingston, Jamaica. Relocating to the United States with her family at just 8 years old, Anita returns to her Kingston roots when creating music. Her original compositions pull on traditional reggae sounds, but seek to incorporate elements of jazz, blues, funk and soul to create a unique musical hybrid that is all her own.

A self-taught singer and guitarist, Anita brought her unique style and personality to The Voice. Competing on Season 7 of The Voice as part of Gwen Stefani’s team, Anita showed early that she is a strong performer with amazing vocals. She wowed the American audience from the early blind auditions to her ultimate elimination (Anita made the Top 8). This is not the first time Anita was eliminated from The Voice. In The Voice Season 3 in 2012. Anita was eliminated during the Blind auditions. In a recent interview with the Re:Imagine Jamaica Project, we asked Anita about early elimination, her experience on the show, the ‘Tessane effect’, and her connection to Jamaica.

***

Re:Imagine Jamaica: Hello Anita. Congratulations on your success on NBC’s The Voice competition. How disappointed are you by the early elimination from the competition?

Anita: Thank you! I feel grateful for having gotten so far. My blind audition still takes the cake for me! I’m always nervous, but I was the most relaxed during that performance. As for the early elimination… everything happens for a reason, one door closes, a plethora of other doors open!

Tess Anne Chin was such a hit on the Voice 2013, having won the competition. How much pressure did this put on you?

Anita: None, My journey was for me, fueled by my want, need and desire to inspire others. My goal isn’t to win, it is to develop, and cultivate a career that can allow me to empower others to live out their dreams.

Anita Antoinette performing on NBC's 'The Voice' Competition.  Photo Credit - AnitaAntoinette.com

Anita Antoinette performing on NBC’s ‘The Voice’ Competition.
Photo Credit – AnitaAntoinette.com

To progress in this competition it appears contestants require a strong backative [fan base, social media support, financial capital]. Can you comment on this?

Anita: Yes, having a strong fan base on the social media side is absolutely crucial as you saw with the Twitter Save outcome and my own experience. When I first started with The Voice I had a small following and then it sort of blew up almost overnight. I try to stay connected with the fans by doing status updates and letting them know what’s going on in my world. I try to follow back some of my followers and I do video journals when I’m able to do so.  I want to explore all avenues possible to keep in sync with my fans; this is something I am strongly working on. Change is constant and as the social media environment  changes, I want to be that much more engaged with my fans.

Although the people in her home country of Jamaica do not have voting rights on this American show, Jamaican artistes know that home country support plays a crucial role in their success. Having relocated to America at 8 years old, many Jamaicans were unaware of who Anita Antoinette was, and did not feel as strong a connection with her as they did with reggae artiste, and winner of The Voice 2013, Tessanne Chin. So we asked Anita to connect us with her Jamaican roots, and what it was like growing up in a Jamaican household.

Re:Imagine Jamaica: What you do remember about your childhood in Jamaica, and growing up in a Jamaican household.

Anita Antoinette at 6 years old.  Photo Credit - AnitaAntoinette.com

Anita Antoinette at 6 years old.
Photo Credit – AnitaAntoinette.com

Anita: I was the youngest of 4. My mother was a single parent working as a seamstress in a factory (Freezone) to make ends meet. There were many times that she had to leave me in the care of other people so that she could go to work. My father, Clinton Fearon would travel back and forth to the United States for his music career. I hardly saw much of him. Some of my greatest memories growing up in Jamaica were playing in the gully that separated the playing field and our little house on “Hill Foot”. They would play cricket on Sundays. My siblings and I would sit out on our verandah and watch the matches. Many of our neighbors were doing the same. When it rained the gully got flooded and I remember we would look down from our little board house at the goats, pigs, chickens and other livestock got washed away. I would see our neighbors standing close by to rescue those animals that all of a sudden now became their property. It was fun watching that. I love, love, love me some ackee and salt fish with fry dumpling. Love my rice and peas too with some steamed snapper!

Re:Imagine Jamaica: You are now an ambassador of the Jamaican Brand on the global stage. What kind of responsibility do you think this presents?

Anita: This creates a huge responsibility. First off let me say that I’m truly honored to even have such a title floating out there on the global stage. I want to show the world that Jamaica has a lot to offer. We are a small island but we always strive to put ourselves out there whether it’s in sports or the entertainment industry. We have so many amazing talents on our little island. I also really want to get involved in charity work. I look forward to working with the Rockhouse Foundation on a few initiatives. Giving back to my homeland and to the community in general is something that I am really looking forward to.  The Voice has given me this platform and I want to capitalize on it as best as I can. Jamaica is known for its Reggae music, rum, its luxurious resorts and beaches but we  also need to make people aware that there are other things happening on our small island. From a philanthropic perspective I want to make a difference for the children of tomorrow. They are our future; we need to invest in them!

As for her future, Anita Antoinette is working on her debut album. She lists her musical influences as Bob Marley, Nina Simone, Lauryn Hill, Erykah Badu, India Arie, John Mayer, Amy Winehouse Bill Withers, Marvin Gaye, Tina Turner and Beres Hammond. Anita also enjoys painting, writing, drawing photography. She has performed on a slew of stages- both large and small- throughout the country, most notably, the Library of Congress in 2008. Yet, she knows her biggest stage is yet to come.

Please connect with Anita on social media:

Website

Twitter
Facebook

Anthony Bourdain’s Take on Jamaica

By HUME JOHNSON, PHD

Anthony Bourdain - Chef, Author and TV personality. Photo Credit - CNN.com

Anthony Bourdain – Chef, Author and TV personality. Photo Credit – CNN.com

‘Who owns Jamaica’? This was the BIG question forming the backdrop of Anthony Bourdain’s recent ‘Parts Unknown’ programme on Jamaica aired on CNN on Sunday November 16, 2014. It is a profound question, and the answer was clear. Wealthy hoteliers and business tycoons buying up properties to service the formidable tourism sector that underlines much of their wealth. Bourdain called it for what it is – ‘Locking tourists into compounds’ under the tag ‘all-inclusive’. He wanted to understand the logic behind this.

“It’s a business model that works so, yes, Jamaica will essentially remain a service economy…” says owner of Island Records, and the man behind the success of Bob Marley, Chris Blackwell in answer to Bourdain.

Anthony Bourdain with Island Records boss, Chris Blackwell.  Photo Credit - ZPZ Productions.

Anthony Bourdain with Island Records boss, Chris Blackwell.
Photo Credit – ZPZ Productions.

But Bourdain uncovered what Jamaicans already knew. An economy prepped almost solely for tourism and a service economy that would make the rich richer, and keep the majority black Jamaican majority further impoverished.

A trip to Trident Castle in Portland run by Jamaican billionaire, and one of the world’s richest men, Michael Lee Chin, and the famous Golden Eye, owned by music tycoon, Chris Blackwell… and it didn’t take Bourdain very long to discover – as he himself remarked – that in Jamaica ‘a small minority controls everything, and the majority are less connected and left out’.

Bourdain and his film crew lyming with Jamaicans. Photo Credit - ZPZ Productions.

Bourdain and his film crew lyming with Jamaicans. Photo Credit – ZPZ Productions.

And so his Parts Unknown feature focused primarily on the less connected – the ordinary Jamaican people. He sat down to hear the jolly boys play mento, drank Red Stripe and rum with men as they talk about the development of the lands to service tourism over schools; he watched men almost come to blows over this discussion; Bourdain caught crabs in the night with poor hustlers in Portland, and dined with local women and men at outdoor kitchens, and ate ‘and thoroughly enjoyed ‘home-cooked’ Jamaican cuisine.

Bourdain is without a doubt a true foodie, and as he sampled Jamaica’s food – from dumplings, jerk, festival, breadfruit, ackee and rice and peas to beer and ting, you get the impression that he is not just playing for the camera. The food of this island will stay in his tastebuds and on his heart for a lifetime.

Anthony Bourdain sampling Jamaican food. Photo Credit - CNN.com

Anthony Bourdain sampling Jamaican food.
Photo Credit – CNN.com

But what is most striking important about Bourdain’s engagement with locals is that in a single programme, he did what the Jamaica Tourist Board and the Government of Jamaica has failed to do in half a century. He returned the ordinary Jamaican people to the centre of the discourse about their own country, and made them – as they ought to be – the representation of Jamaica’s identity and projection of itself to the world.

The ordinary Jamaicans he spoke with lamented their lack of access to their own beaches because the Government has sold them to hoteliers who make the beaches a part of hotel property. In other words, no public access. Jamaicans must pay to attend the beach. The Jamaican people articulated their feelings of betrayal by their own Government.

Jolly Boys play Mento  in Port Antonio. CNN's Path Unknown.  Photo Credit - CNN.com

Jolly Boys playing Mento in Port Antonio for CNN’s Path Unknown.
Photo Credit – CNN.com

But the Government of Jamaica has been historically deaf to these laments. The Government’s answer to community impoverishment is to remake local areas into tourism spots. Not many folks are happy with these developments. They feel while tourism is important to growing the economy, a deepening of tourism renders an unskilled, under educated population mere servants to a white visitor – a contemporary version of the plantation.

Bourdain unmasked the flaws of the Jamaican Government’s tourism centric model of developing and promoting Jamaica. Though I would’ve preferred to see a wider context of the economy and the extraordinary Jamaican talent in industry, science and technology, sports and education, Bourdain ‘Parts Unknown’ was a refreshing and authentic perspective on Jamaica.

It works because it positions the sun, sand and sea where it should be – at the periphery of Brand Jamaica, and locates the people at the centre. The Government is obliged to take heed; to take the world, as Bourdain did, to the ‘parts unknown’ in Jamaica.

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

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

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

The following is the keynote address delivered by Chairman and Founder of the Re:Imagine Jamaica Project, Dr. Hume Johnson at the 4th Biennial Jamaica Diaspora UK Conference in Edgbaston, Birmingham, United Kingdom, June 13-15, 2014. In her conversation with Jamaicans living in the UK, Dr. Johnson showed the connection between the Jamaican Diaspora with Brand Jamaica, established how nations are becoming strategic in managing their national image and reputation, and mobilised members of the Diaspora  (and the Jamaican Government) to ‘reimagine Jamaica, produce and promote new narratives, particularly Jamaican credentials in business and entrepreneurship, the arts, science and technology, education and sports to tell a more complete, and a more complex story about Jamaica.

***Greetings and Salutations***

It takes extraordinary commitment to facilitate an ongoing connection among Jamaicans in the UK, and to strengthen that important connection between the Diaspora and the homeland –the Government, and people of Jamaica. Let us acknowledge the important work of this movement with a round of applause. Let me take this opportunity to also thank the Jamaica DiasporaUK organization, and the Jamaica High Commission, through Ambassador Aloun N’Dombet Assamba for inviting me to be a part of this important conversation.

I like the word Diaspora. I was first introduced to the concept as a student at the University of the West Indies. The professors spoke frequently of the Jamaican and West Indian Diaspora. It is a Greek word meaning ‘to ‘scatter’. Historically the word Diaspora was used to refer to the Jewish experience of dispersal, through persecution, a sense of loss but a vision of return. Today, it is more a reference to a sense of self-identification among peoples who migrate from one place to another. In this sense, the Jamaican Diaspora are persons who migrated from their homeland (Jamaica) to other countries, those working and studying in other countries, as well as second and third and 4th generation offspring born in the countries in which their parents have migrated. So having maintained a Jamaican identity, Jamaican values and Jamaican culture and Jamaican cultural practices, you are a member of the Jamaican Diaspora (in the UK).

I am a member of the Jamaican Diaspora in the United States. I am a Professor of Media and Public Relations at Roger Williams University, in a region called ‘New England’ (a collection of 6 states in the North East) – the place the British had first settled when they arrived in the United States in 1620. I was a member of the Jamaican/West Indian Diaspora in New Zealand. I migrated to New Zealand in my mid 20s on a scholarship from the New Zealand Government. I lived there for 5 years. I was one of only 2 Jamaicans in the city of Hamilton. But in the neighbouring city of Auckland, I encountered a small community (up to 30) West Indians. I was also a member of the Jamaican Diaspora in Australia having acquired permanent residence there, lived there for a few years and taught at one of their fine Universities.

As part of the Jamaican Diaspora, we are inescapably a part of Brand Jamaica, and this is what I want to share with you to day. If you’ve been thinking about Jamaica, missing the walk about; that place your grandmother or mother talked about. If you are in your kitchen – and you look in the cupboard and you have Jamaican seasoning in there, water crackers, Levi Roots Reggae Reggae Sauce, or any other Jamaican product, you are contributing to Brand Jamaica.

Today – You are in a room with people who are connected to brand Jamaica. Some people – 2nd, 3rd, 4th generation Jamaicans have never been home to Jamaica, but live in a household where the Jamaican language is spoken; Jamaican products are used, Jamaican culture, values are kept alive. You are a part of what Brand Jamaica is. You may be having a conversation at the barbershop, or at Church, and whether you know each other personally or not, you connect to each other – we have a sense of connectedness – because we have and know somewhere (a homeland) that knows us. So today you come here not just to listen to the speakers, but also to be part of a conversation in which you are individually and collectively integral players.

Long before Excellencies, Aloun Assamba, Anthony Johnson and Burchell Whiteman came to the UK as formal ambassadors of Jamaica, you have been ambassadors. Jamaicans have been migrating to the United Kingdom since the 1950s, during the so-called “Wind Rush’, and played a fundamental role in building British society. Jamaicans fought in the two Great Wars for Britain. There are pockets of Jamaican professionals – nurses, social workers – as well as semi-skilled labourers and blue collar workers – bus drivers, mechanics – who have been contributing to industry in the UK. Jamaican students come here to further their education; many of them are taking those skills and currently making invaluable contributions to the workforce in the UK. A number of Jamaican academics, most notably the late Stuart Hall, have helped to position the Jamaican/Caribbean perspective in important national discussions taking place in Britain for decades; Jamaican businessmen and women – both large and small entrepreneurs – also extend a positive image of Jamaica in the UK, and elsewhere.

So everybody here impacts what is Brand Jamaica. You therefore have an ambassadorship and have a commissioning from the island home to this foreign place with your individual skills and capacities. Whether you came here and you became a mason, a barber, a bus driver, an architect or an engineer, or a businessman; even as you pursue your own ambitions, one must never forget that you represent a little place out in the Caribbean, and you carry the hopes and aspirations and the dreams of a people in your small way in which you are contributing – to make a difference.

You are a part of Jamaica’s identity overseas, and you are articulating a positive image of Brand Jamaica abroad. Indeed, your 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. You will never stop contributing – consciously and subconsciously to your homeland. You stand on the backs of those who came to this country before you, and others from the homeland will join you for generations to come.

Three things I want you to appreciate and take away from my talk today are:

1). You are a part of this thing called Brand Jamaica.

2). Brand Jamaica is the responsibility of all of us, and

3). A better understanding of how you can play your part “in advancing the welfare” of that beautiful island we call home – Jamaica.

The first thing you have done already to illustrate this is to show up here. The fact that you showed up here today is worth more than the cost it took to bring you here because it reflects the dedication and commitment of the individuals in this room, and collective capacities of all of us to make a difference. In other words, you are invested. A significant number of you leave dependent relatives or other financial obligations behind in Jamaica, and so naturally you retain a strong interest in the social, political and economic affairs back home. We want to build on this investment. Despite social class and status, how can you influence what brand Jamaica is? And I am not just taking about finances (not just you sending remittances) but through collective thought, action, and will of a community here in the UK.

I believe we have to begin, FIRST, to engage in a process of what I prefer to call re-imagining Jamaica. For some people, Jamaica is only relevant at particular times. But Jamaica is relevant all the time because you are always an ambassador of Jamaica. You are always representing, even when you are not conscious of it- the way you speak, the food you eat, the way you wear clothes – clothes with plenty colours – is about a representation of a place, a place that is part of who you are. I am saying this to say – Although you are here in the UK, you are a continued representation of what is Brand Jamaica – so we all have to take stock of the quality of our brand, our reputation in the global arena.

BRAND JAMAICA

At the moment, Jamaica’s reputation is taking a beating in Britain, and elsewhere. Many of you may have seen Channel 4’s documentary on Jamaica’s so called homophobic violence and treatment of gays aired on May 23. This highly negative perception of Jamaica is quite common, and you have seen it many times in the global media – crime, economic instability, corruption, and human rights abuses. 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 encounters such as these forced me to become more alert to, and take stock of Jamaica’s international reputation and brand image.

I have had a varied, interesting and very international life. Within the last decade or so, I have lived and worked in three countries – New Zealand, Australia and the United States. I have also visited myriad countries and cities around the world.  Many times, I was the only Jamaican in the room, so I was also painfully aware of people’s own perceptions (versus real knowledge and understanding) of Jamaica. But living abroad – in different countries – also gave me the opportunity to see Jamaica through the lens and prisms of other people; from the vantage point of these other cultures .

I learned that how you perceive a place determines your interaction with that place, and the people of that place. For example, each time I would land in New Zealand or Australia, my luggage was specially selected for ‘random searches” at the airport. Every time cannot be random; it’s deliberate. What the customs officials were searching for, I could not pretend that I don’t know! The perception of Jamaicans at ‘drug mules’ and traffickers has unfortunately been embedded and so our people are treated accordingly. So the Jamaican authorities and people have got to now ‘re:imagine Jamaica’. Frame Jamaica in new ways, using new narratives. Push back against the negative stereotypes.

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.

 

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 etc., (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 etc. to construct a distinctive image, to form their identity in the world.

According to Simon Anholt, the scholar who invented the notion nation brand: “The brand powerfully affects the way 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, for instance its products, sporting and cultural events, it affects relationships with other countries, impacts tourism and, investment and business potential etc. The brand image of a country plays a major role in its economic, social and political progress” (Anholt, 2006; 2001).

Having a good name is the formula for success in the marketplace. Smart states are building their nation brand around reputations and attitudes in the same way that smart companies do. In the interest of time, I will give you an example of the smart, strategic thinking of countries such as Australia who have fully joined the ‘brand wagon’ and are reaping the benefits of nation branding.

Australia undertook a major rebranding a few years ago, based on research on 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 Brand Australia ‘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’.

South Africa – from apartheid to progressive politics and society via Nelson Mandela. Established a formal National Brand Strategy – Packaging culture, its workforce, creative industries- hosting 2010 WorldCup = reap trade partnerships with China and Europe. All this represents a positive aspect of a nation’s identity and image abroad. It is not accidental; its deliberately designed and implemented. This is what nation brand and soft power is about.

As Jamaicans, we must seek to understand, manage and nurture the good name of our country in such a way that people want to purchase our products, invest in Jamaica, see it as a destination to which to travel. We are a popular and famous nation but we have poor reputation in crucial areas of governance. And a bad reputation is bad for business. But as the Governor General, His Excellency SirPatrick Allen remarked recently ‘what is wrong with Jamaica can be fixed with what is right with Jamaica’.

JAMAICA’S SOFT POWER – BRAND JAMAICA

How can Jamaica deploy its soft power – its nation brand to achieve economic and social progress? :

Build a Cultural economy – Based on the arts and culture. The arts are Jamaica’s calling card abroad – music, dance, theatre and film. Way before the arrival of Usain Bolt, The Film Cool Runnings – about the triumph of the Jamaican bobsled team at the 1988 Winter Olympics in Canada – took Jamaica and Jamaican values to cinema screens on every continent.

Jamaica possesses numerous cultural symbols, products and people. We must claim ownership of these symbols, establish effective intellectual property governance; educate our artisans and entrepreneurs about intellectual property; and how to monetize their innovations and creative expressions for economic growth. This is what is meant by cultural economy.

Sports Economy: Aside from reggae, sport is Jamaica’s greatest asset.
Our athletes are a ready-made corps of soft power, promotional ambassadors for the nation. Their brand images – if well positioned – can help to further shape the nation’s image abroad and mobilise returns in the areas of sports marketing and sports tourism.

Jamaican food, our export products articulate a story about Jamaica. Blue Mountain Coffee, Jamaican Jerk, Red Stripe, Ginger Beer are now global export commodities. Jamaican Patty is slowly making its way into the global marketplace. I heard that Levi Roots ‘Reggae Reggae sauce’ outsold the popular Heinz ketchup in Sainsbury supermarket across the UK. “Products produced by a country are powerful ambassadors of each country’s image. If they are good quality products, consumers will have positive responses to them because of their emotional with Jamaica. We have to begin to exploit this ‘country of origin’ effect by leveraging the ‘Made in Jamaica’ label.

Tell a more complete story of Jamaica: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 is poverty, economic instability, violent crime, corruption, homophobia and violent crime –which tells visitors and investors to stay away we remain an unsafe society.

Even while this is happening, the Government fails to confront this negative narrative and continues to tell a story of Jamaica firmly rooted in tourism. The discourse about Jamaica promoted by the Jamaica Tourist Board has one strands – sun, sand, sea – a tourism-centric narrative which says, come to Jamaica and feel alright’. In a nation brand strategy for Jamaica, it is, of course, important to account for Jamaica’s vibrant lifestyle and cultural reputation. Yet the tourism-centric model of promoting Jamaica is unsustainable; the marketing of Jamaica as ‘sun sand and sea’ can no longer hold. A more progressive, diverse and enlightened view of Jamaica is available and this is the narrative that we have to begin to tell.

Nigerian novelist Chimamanda Adichie writes of the danger of telling a single story about a people and a place. She argues that ‘a single story creates stereotypes. It’s not that stereotypes are untrue but that they are incomplete. Stereotypes make one story the only story’ (Adichie, TedTalk, 2009). Single stories of a people and a place flatten one’s experience of that place and overlooks multiple other stories that help to form that place and people.

Ours is a complicated story. Violence and conflict and slavery is part of the Jamaican story. But ours is also civilizational story of Maroons, freedom fighters, of cultural icons – of Marcus Garvey, Louise Bennett, Bob Marley and Usain Bolt.

It is crucial for Jamaica to diversify the nation’s image. To attract investment and grow the economy, it is vital to establish new discourses that promote Jamaican credentials in business and entrepreneurship, sports, the arts, science and technology, in education, food technology etc.

The first priority of such an exercise is not necessarily to form logos, trademarks, slogans, signage and posters. Rather, it is fundamental to identify the essence of the nation – how it is perceived, how the nation’s stakeholders (we the people) want Jamaica to be perceived, what we want Jamaica to stand for, and not stand for, and how to best communicate and promote a unified and consistent nation brand. Jamaican companies would be incentivized to harmonise the way they do business and promote products and services. So all stakeholders, including you here in the Diaspora should be able to tell the same powerful, believable story about Jamaica.

Conclusion

In the beginning of this presentation, I said I wished for you to understand that you are a part of Brand Jamaica, that Brand Jamaica is your responsibility and what role you need to play in it. I will end by suggesting the following: Much more than my voice, it must be your voice, the voice of this audience, who must speak long after the conference has ended. It must be your voice that must make a difference. So when you go back to your barbershop, your engineering space or your classroom, your home – you carry a message – beyond what the headlines say which is often negative, you carry a message that says that Brand Jamaica is alive. So I invite you, in the words of the organization I just started, to “re:imagine Jamaica’ – see your country through new lens.

We have the ability to start repositioning what the image is, and what is the context of that image. Everything in life happens in our consciousness first and then we manifest those things in our actions and our livity. I want all of you to leave this room becoming brand conscious. Some of us view Jamaica from the perspective of our lived experience there, or what is fed to us in the media, or what you heard from those who have visited the island.

The challenge is that you may not have re-informed yourself of any new perspectives on Jamaica, or any new perspectives that present itself may be challenged by the experiences that you had. Let us now engage ourselves in a new discourse. Regardless of the experience you have had, allow new perspectives to prevail. Allow for new ideas; you are even introducing these new ideas. When we leave here – a part of this experience today – is how do we re-engineer our own consciousness (a brand consciousness) with regard to Jamaica.

Membership in Brand Jamaica is free. Where else will you find such a deal? Show your pride in Jamaica whenever the opportunity arises. Let the world know that Jamaica is truly a special place. Become a part of groups such as the Jamaica Diaspora UK movement, and the myriad others that exist. The first generation folks must help to sustain the connection to the homeland by introducing and reinforcing Jamaican values and culture to the younger generation; you must do your part to assist those who have fallen on hard times, those who find themselves on the other side of the law; participate in the conversations taking place about Jamaica – not to complain that it all gone to the dogs but to re-engineer our consciousness – not to the difficulties but our capacities to overcome them.

This is the best way to illustrate your commitment to Jamaica. You – the people of Jamaica – are the ones who have underwritten Jamaica’s remarkable image on the global stage. It’s not the sun, sand and the sea. It is you the people that are/ought to be at the centre of Jamaica’s promotion of the nation abroad. You are the greatest source of continuity and stewardship for Jamaica. You will always have an essential role to play in the advance of our country. We must recommit to the powerful words embedded in our national pledge:

***

Before God and all mankind, I pledge the love and loyalty of my heart, the wisdom and courage of my mind, the strength and vigour of my body in the service of my fellow citizens; I promise to stand up for Justice, Brotherhood and Peace, to work diligently and creatively, to think generously and honestly, so that Jamaica may, under God, increase in beauty, fellowship and prosperity, and play her part in advancing the welfare of the whole human race.

 

Thank you. May God Bless You. May God Bless Jamaica.

BY SABRINA CASERTA

Founder & Chair of the Re:Imagine Jamaica Project - Dr. Hume Johnson

Founder & Chair of the Re:Imagine Jamaica Project – Dr. Hume Johnson

Founder and Chair of The Re:Imagine Jamaica Project, Dr Hume Johnson will be the keynote speaker at the fourth biennial Jamaican Diaspora UK (JDUK) national conference to be held June 13-15, 2014 at the Centennial Centre in, Edgbaston Birmingham.

The conference, to be staged under the theme, ‘Our Heritage, Our Legacy: Working to build a Sustainable Diaspora Movement’, will focus on reciprocal linkages between Jamaica and its diaspora in the United Kingdom. It will address several key issues of importance to Jamaica’s development and the UK Diaspora such as crime, security, youth, education, employment, investment opportunities, social welfare, health, poverty, and the future of the Diaspora movement.

Dr Johnson, who is also a Professor of Public Relations at Roger Williams University, Rhode Island, USA, Political Analyst and a former broadcast journalist, says ‘engaging the Jamaican diaspora in the UK will provide an occasion to reflect on how the Diaspora may broaden the scope of its involvement in the development process for the benefit of itself and for Jamaica’.

She adds that her keynote address will focus on how Jamaicans in the diaspora can help to solidify the positive image of Jamaica, mobilise support for the development initiatives at home, and to enlist their participation in promoting brand Jamaica.

The Re:Imagine Jamaica Project is a think thank that aims to contribute to global knowledge and understanding of Jamaica through scholarly research. ‘It is important to begin a process of taking stock of our global brand image, both the areas which are positive and can be leveraged for our economic benefit and political and social advantage as well as the aspects that threaten our good name’, says Dr. Johnson.RJ LOGO - Colour Banner

‘We also aim to promote Jamaican credentials in business, the arts, science and technology, culture, academia and sport. A more progressive, diverse and enlightened view of Jamaica is available beyond the tourism narrative, and this is the narrative that we have to begin to tell. The overall goal of the Re:Imagine Jamaica Project is to ‘imagine’ Jamaica through new lens, produce new narratives to tell a more complete and complex story about this remarkable country’, says Dr Johnson.

Dr. Hume Johnson will also deliver a public lecture at the Jamaica High Commission in London on Tuesday, June 17, 2014, entitled ‘Harnessing Jamaica’s National Image for Economic Growth’.

Dr. Hume Johnson is author of the book, Challenges to Civil Society: Popular Protest and Governance in Jamaica published by Cambria Press, New York. She holds a PhD in Political Science & Public Policy from the University of Waikato, New Zealand, and publishes on governance issues, including organised crime, civil society and political participation in Jamaica. A former broadcast journalist, Dr. Johnson is currently an Assistant Professor of Public Relations at Roger Williams University, Rhode Island, USA. She is also a recognized political analyst and commentator.

Follow the Re:Imagine Jamaica Project on:

Twitter at https://twitter.com/BrandJamaica_

Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/reimaginejamaica

BY DIANE A. THOMPSON, MD

Physician, Dr. Diane Thompson.

Physician, Dr. Diane Thompson.

Jamaica is no stranger to violence against women with media reports of multiple episodes of domestic violence occurring everyday. Amnesty International indicates that about 17 % of 13 and 14 year olds in Kingston, Jamaica had experienced rape or attempted rape, the majority by adult casual acquaintances. Violence against women comes in many forms and includes domestic violence or intimate partner violence, mental abuse, sexual abuse, stalking, and murder. Domestic violence is a global issue affecting millions of women, and reaches across socioeconomic, religious, racial, cultural, and class distinctions.  Although women ages 20-24 are at the greatest risk, violence against women starts at a young age with more than 22% of female victims experiencing some form of intimate partner violence for the first time between the ages of 11 and 17 years.

Here are 10 simple things you can do to help decrease violence against women:

1. Educate yourself about the many forms of violence against women. Education increases the chance that you will recognize abuse when you see it, which raises the likelihood of you doing something about it.

2Break the silence. “If you see something, say something,” is the popular saying in New York which encourages residents to notify the police of suspicious activities. The same recommendation is good practice when it comes to domestic abuse. Call the police if you think you see signs of abuse. It is better to err on the side of caution than to ignore the signs when you have the chance to save a life.

3. Begin the education at a young age. Teach your children that violence in any form is wrong, and think carefully about the things to which your children are exposed.  Some of the risk factors for being a victim of intimate partner and sexual violence include low education, witnessing violence between parents, and childhood exposure to abuse or to attitudes accepting violence and gender inequality. In fact, according to the National Coalition against domestic violence, witnessing violence between one’s parents or caretakers is the strongest risk factor of transmitting violent behavior from one generation to the next. So that children exposed to violence may become adults who either dole out violence or accept being victims of violence.

Photo Credit - Jamaica Gleaner

Photo Credit – Jamaica Gleaner

4. Help your daughter build her self-esteem. It is often found that many women who accept and stay in an abusive relationship suffer from low self-esteem. Some of these women may believe they are unworthy of better. It is therefore imperative that young girls are taught their value at an early age and efforts should be made to project positive images of women.

5. Encourage formal education. Although domestic abuse occurs in every segment of society, there is a greater likelihood that the victim of abuse is a woman with little education and of a low socioeconomic background. Education increases the chance that a woman will be financially stable and self-sufficient, which may make it less likely for her to accept certain abusive behaviors.

Photo Credit - Jamaica Gleaner

Photo Credit – Jamaica Gleaner

6. Teach your children the art of conflict resolution. Conflict occurs to some degree in all human relationships. Conflict that is handled poorly can lead to frustration and become the breeding ground for violence. If handled well, it can lead to solutions and improved relationships.

7. Make use of teachable moments. Say something when inappropriate comments are made that encourages violence against women.

8. Volunteer and mentor a youth. You very well may be the person who teaches them not to abuse or accept being abused

9. Offer your support. Often, the victims of abuse may feel ashamed and alone. Offer your non-judgmental support and encouragement to a woman who is going through domestic abuse.

10. Walk the walk. Show your support by joining an anti-domestic abuse organization or donating to reputable anti-violence groups.

 

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DR. DIANE A. THOMPSON is the health correspondent for the Re:Imagine Jamaica Project. Born in St. Catherine, Jamaica, Dr. Thompson is a physician, author, speaker, and radio host of the popular and syndicated show ‘Health Talk with Dr. Diane MD,’ which is aired on ‘Atlanta’s Incredible Radio’ 1570 AM WIGO on Thursday at 7-8 pm EST, FMG Radio on Mondays at 5 pm EST, and Blog Talk Radio on Sundays at 6:30 pm EST. The show offers the best in inspirational health information. She may be contacted at www.drdianethompson.com or http://www.facebook.com/DrDianeAThompson

 

Founder and CEO of EduFocal, Gordon Swaby. PhotoCredit - Jamaica Gleaner/PSOJ

Founder and CEO of EduFocal, Gordon Swaby. PhotoCredit – Jamaica Gleaner/PSOJ

At just 15 years old, Jamaican Gordon Swaby was already an internet entrepreneur. He created one of the largest video gaming resource websites in the English speaking Caribbean, founded a concept and design company called IconiTouch and was building websites for companies such as the Press Association of Jamaica (PSOJ), Coastal Steel Construction, the largest steel company in Northwestern Ontario, and the Bethune Dubois institute,  a non-profit organisation focus on the education legacies of American Lecturers- Dr. Mary McLeod and Dr. W.E.B. Dubois among others.

Today, under a decade later, Swaby, 23,  is Founder and CEO of a successful internet start up called EduFocal, an e-learning web applications for students at the CXC and G-SAT Level. According to Swaby, ‘EduFocal is essentially a social learning website for Grade Six Achievement Test (GSAT) students in Jamaica and Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate (CSEC) students in the Caribbean. The service takes concept from video games and applies them to test materials for students on the service’. This is the first of its kind in the Caribbean.

For this extraordinary accomplishment, Swaby was recognized by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) along with 9 other innovators and young entrepreneurs  from Latin America and the Caribbean.

Learn more about EduFocal in this short video on Gordon courtesy of the Inter-American Development Bank:

http://www.iadb.org/en/videos/watch,2173.html?videotitle=Young-Innovators%3A-Gordon-Obrien-Swaby&videoid=10061#.U2xBEsdREXw

Swaby is a member of prestigious Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship in the Caribbean, a unique launch pad for aspiring business owners to get access to skills training, guidance and mentorship as well as financing opportunities. He is also a Private Sector Organization of Jamaica’s (PSOJ) ’50 under 50′ awardee, an award which recognizes the achievements of 50 of Jamaica’s civic and business leaders under the age of 50 who, based on their current achievements, are poised to influence and shape the country’s economic future.

Among his numerous awards, Swaby was recognised, in 2012, by the University of Technology as the top student entrepreneur for 2012, as well as the “Top client of the student incubator” of the the college’s Technology Innovation Centre called Business Incubator.

Gordon is a member of World Economic Forum’s Global Shapers,  a network of hubs developed and led by young people who are exceptional in their potential, achievement and drive to make a contribution to their communities.

 

 

 

BY HUME JOHNSON

Women in Nigeria's Capital, Abuja protest abducted girls under the banner #BringBackOurGirls. Photo Credit - Newswirengr.com

Women in Nigeria’s Capital, Abuja protest abducted girls under the banner #BringBackOurGirls. Photo Credit – Newswirengr.com

This week the World Economic Forum on Africa takes place in Abuja, Nigeria. This is an important moment for Nigeria. Economic stakeholders know that Nigeria has tremendous global economic value, and needs to take advantage of its current equity to attract investment and take care of its poor. Yet, these discussions are being overshadowed by the actions of the Nigerian Islamist terror group, Boko Haram, which in recent weeks – not only  kidnapped some 200 schoolgirls ages 15-18, but also brought Nigeria negative international media attention and scrutiny.

The alleged failings of the Nigerian Government to locate the school girls has led to massive protests by the mothers of the kidnapped girls, Nigerian women and numerous women’s groups around the world. They accuse the Government of not doing enough to find their daughters. Under the banner #BringBackOurGirls – the hashtag for which has trended on social media such as Twitter – they are screaming for attention from the world community, and exposing the weaknesses in Nigerian security landscape. This situation has been exacerbated by the arrest of two of the protest leaders, on the instruction of  Nigeria’s First Lady, Patience Jonathan.

Nigeria is Africa’s largest economy. Economic confidence in Nigeria has been shattered by this incident, as other actions by rebel groups including bob attacks. This gets in the way of the possibilities for economic progress for Nigeria. World economic forum on Africa is a profound opportunity for growth and investment. Like many developed countries, Nigeria has areas where there is tremendous poverty especially in the region controlled by rebel groups such as Boko Haram. Nigerian commentators agree that Government policy to develop these areas is crucial. This includes improved political leadership, a political culture focused on thinking of the quality of life of its people.

Nigerian female athletes at the London Olympics. Photo Credit - Premiumtimesng.com

Nigerian female athletes at the London Olympics. Photo Credit – Premiumtimesng.com

Nation brand experts suggest that each nation improve its global reputation in order to attract economic growth, investment and wealth. Nigeria itself has enormous factor endowments – oil and gas are merely two – that can create what economists create ‘global value change’. On Nigeria’s economic brand potential, one economist Papatome, remarks that ‘Business strive when institutions are strong’, suggesting that Nigerian civil society can help to build up Nigerian institutions so as to enable markets to strive so that they can help reduce poverty and create jobs.

The actions of terror groups however serve to stall long term commitment in areas and regions known to pose security concerns. Terrorism and crime makes an area less attractive to investment. The potential to improve the lives of people living in extreme poverty becomes stalled as well.

Other developing nations facing similar issues with armed groups and criminal gangs would be wise to take stock of these realities, and how they impact their country’s brand image.

BY: SABRINA CASERTA

Founder & Chair of the Re:Imagine Jamaica Project - Dr. Hume Johnson

Founder & Chair of the Re:Imagine Jamaica Project – Dr. Hume Johnson

Founder and Chair of the newly formed nation brand initiative, The Re:Imagine Jamaica Project, Dr. Hume Johnson has received a major incentive for her project, winning a grant worth over $US7000 (some $800, 000 JMD) to carry out research on Brand Jamaica.

Dr. Johnson, a Professor of Public Relations & Media Studies at Roger Williams University, Rhode Island, United States received the grant from the University’s Foundation for Teaching and Scholarship.

The competitive grants offer Faculty an opportunity to carry out individual research and other professional development activities based on subjects pertinent to their research agenda.

‘During the Jamaica 50 celebrations in 2012, I began to take a scholarly interest in the subject of nation brands, and particularly Brand Jamaica. While Jamaica is a famous and formidable global brand, a range of negative impacts such as violent crime, economic instability etc., have undermined its image, and prevented it from exploiting opportunities for economic growth and affluence’, says Johnson.

Dr. Hume Johnson, who holds a PhD In Political Science & Public Policy from the University of Waikato, New Zealand, says the grant will be used to support the Re:Imagine Jamaica Project’s current research on perceptions of Jamaica.

‘We first want to discover whether Jamaica has an image problem, so the first phase of the study aims to focus on perceptions of Jamaica in international public opinion. This will include interviews and focus groups with Jamaicans at home, and in Disaporic communities overseas such as New York, Canada, London and Birmingham. We will also conduct interviews with foreign nationals – those who have experienced being in Jamaica and those who have not’, Dr. Hume Johnson says.

‘The research seeks to address the challenges facing Brand Jamaica, and strategies that can be deployed to market and manage a nation brand that is in crisis’. The kind of research is important if Jamaica is to effectively counter negative perceptions and attract investment’.

Jamaica is currently not a part of the global nation brand index that measures the perceptions of countries annually because nations have to pay hefty sums to be included.

Dr. Johnson is author of the book, Challenges to Civil Society: Popular Protest and Governance in Jamaica, published by Cambria Press. She also conducts research on governance issues, organized crime, civil society and political participation in Jamaica.

 

ABOUT THE RE:IMAGINE JAMAICA PROJECT

THE Re:Imagine Jamaica Project is a think thank that aims to contribute to global knowledge and understanding of Jamaica through scholarly research. It also aims to promote Jamaican credentials in business, the arts, science and technology, culture, academia and sport. The overall goal is to ‘imagine’ Jamaica through new lens, produce new narratives to tell a more complete and complex story about this remarkable country.

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For more information, contact:

Sabrina Caserta.

Sabcaserta@gmail.com or reimaginejamaica@gmail.com

For interviews, contact Dr. Hume Johnson – humejohnson@gmail.com

Mao showing visa requirements for Jamaicans around the world. Photo Credit - WikiMedia.org

Mao showing visa requirements for Jamaicans around the world. Photo Credit – WikiMedia.org

Nationals of Jamaica currently enjoy visa free travel to some 77 countries around the world. While this may seem like a large number, many of the countries in which Jamaica has free free access tends to me within central and South America, the Caribbean and parts of Africa. Indeed, the map pictured above is a telling portrait of the extraordinary visa restrictions placed on Jamaicans by other nations.

Singapore leads the way in terms of the ability to travel unrestricted to other parts of the world. Singaporeans are allowed visa free access to 167 of the 219 countries surveyed. This is followed by countries of Scandinavia, the United States and nations of West Europe, as well as New Zealand and Australia. The countries that allow each other free reign within each other’s borders are largely Western, highly industrialized wealthy economies. For example, nationals of the United States, Canada, many countries in Europe; some Asian countries such as Japan, Singapore; as well as Australia, New Zealand can all travel visa free anywhere in the world.For details, see the 2014 Visa Restrictions Index report here –> http://www.straitstimes.com/news/singapore/more-singapore-stories/story/which-passports-are-most-accepted-around-the-world-20140

The flag of the European Union. Photo Credit - Euroespirit.org

The flag of the European Union. Photo Credit – Euroespirit.org

It is worthy of note that European countries irrespective of status, for the most part, have less restrictions among themselves. It is really about ease of assimilation, taking many shared factors into consideration. European countries also have many multilateral agreements that necessitate ease of travel for their citizens. Powerful nations also create border restrictions on societies with high levels of crime, corruption. and severely underdeveloped economies. The UK institution of visa rules was also as part of a wider crackdown on crime such as drug trafficking. Indeed, it is to be noted that although Commonwealth countries allow each other visa free access, it is noted that the highly inidustrialised strong economies that are part of the Commonwealth – New Zealand, Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom DO NOT allow visa-free access to less developed nations such as those of the Caribbean and Africa.

usainbolt12These nations however install border controls (visa restrictions) largely on Third World economies to prevent them from migrating to these larger economies and becoming burden on their public purse. In other words, border control is essentially designed to keep out the peoples of underdeveloped societies whose citizens would be more inclined to migration and become a burden on the economies of wealthy nations. In 2000, the UK installed strict visa regulations on Jamaicans, legislating that ALL Jamaican nationals entering the UK must apply for a tourist visa to enter tghe country. This was to prevent Jamaicans overstaying their time on temporary visas.
Some Jamaican argue that Jamaica does not have significant relations with many of the countries where travel for them is ‘difficult’. Other lament hard it is to find a Jamaican consulate, embassy or other diplomatic representation in the Eastern hemisphere. Yet Jamaica does have diplomatic relations with many places in Europe; Asia not so much. The only challenge is that one Ambassador serves many places. Jamaica’s multilateral relationships also rarely includes visa discussions. When the Government of Jamaica improves the situation of crime, improve the economy which will make our people want to remain at home, we might see some of these visa restrictions lifted.

 

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*  Follow the Re:Imagine Jamaica project at #BrandJamaica_

 

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