Whenever key public and private sector players talk about the success of the Barbados economy and particularly about the country’s ability to generate foreign exchange through the export of its goods and services the focus is on how well we market ourselves. Successive governments have recognized that Barbados’ future lies in engendering an export services oriented business culture and the development of entrepreneurial skills. Entrepreneurship suggests a “go it alone approach” and whilst this is important, it is impossible for a single business or even a business sector to successfully market itself without reference to the island brand.
My company, Property Consultancy Services, has just completed a much needed competitiveness study for the Barbados Hotel and Tourism Association and we focused heavily on the Barbados brand and the concept of “Team Barbados”. The two concepts are intertwined because in order to develop a successful brand all of those who use it must understand the brand values and must adhere to the brand “bible”. So the language, the imagery and the focus must be the same across businesses, organizations and amongst all stakeholders, particularly at government level.
The concept of a “team” conjures up the idea of a group of people running onto a playing field all wearing the same colors and all understanding the play. The parallels between international corporate branding and national branding are important, even though it is much more difficult to achieve success at a national level when there are no penalties for non-compliance, nor appointed coaches or captains. I listened intently to Neville Isdell, ex-chairman and CEO of Coca Cola, at a recent lunch, talking about the parallels between Barbados’ achievements, from a brand perspective, and how Coca Cola became the world’s most recognized brand. It is hard to imagine Coke allowing one of its subsidiaries to come up with a completely different brand than the rest of the group. This sort of discipline, from the top down needs to be achieved at national level. Others have done it well. Canada has distilled its national colors and flag such that nearly all marketing images for the country simply bear the red maple leaf. Jamaica has done a great job of ensuring that whenever it is promoted, the black green and gold colors of its flag are used, often in different shapes and styles but always with the exact colors.
Barbados is marketed by many entities both public and private. Invest Barbados, BTA, BHTA, BIBA, BCSI, BIDC, and BMA, to name a few. Each of these uses different imagery, icons and language, and some do not use the national colors in their logo’s at all. Yet each of them can espouse most of the attributes which make Barbados such a wonderful place to live, work and play.
Barbadians understand our need to promote ourselves to the world. In a 2009 tourism competitiveness survey of 133 countries, conducted by the World Economic Forum, Barbados placed 1st in attitude of population, and 2nd in government prioritization of tourism. These are pretty impressive results for such a small country. The challenge is to turn those attitudes into a powerful image which is instantly recognizable and understood and which engenders loyalty and the key to accomplishing this is to have all stakeholders who market the island adhering strictly to the brand.
A brand is in need of constant renewal to keep it current without losing its core identity. Some of the fonts and icons are dated and could be made more contemporary.
The time is ripe for a “corporate style” review of our brand and an education process across all sectors as to how to use the brand in their marketing.