Despite all its human and material resources Nigeria is yet to be a superbrand, even among developing countries, such as South Africa and Egypt. Nigeria should have attained that status among some of the best destinations in the world but it remains a country tagged with “full of potential”.
This is the view of integrated marketing communication (IMC) practitioners who ruminated on the achievements of the country 55 years after independence. Kelechi Nwosu, Association of Advertising Agencies of Nigeria (AAAN) President and TBWA Concept Managing Director, said the Nigerian brand is full of potential and needs a consistent and deliberate plan to tell an exciting, attractive, and compelling story.
“We must first assess the brand SWOT and determine the clear target, brand essence, and then plan the branding or rebranding appropriately. But it can be done if we give the right brief to the right brand experts,” Nwosu maintained.
Brand Nigeria is a country brand. In marketing terms, it is a challenger brand. It is challenging for leadership of Africa with South Africa and Egypt. Nigeria has the elements of a brand.
Nigeria is, of course, a country brand not only in Africa but the whole world. A brand primarily contains an identifying mark that separates it from others.
Nigeria has all the elements – a unique name, a geographical space, people, cultures, products, goods, services.
However, it is not a superbrand yet, according to Chido Nwakanma, former Public Relations Consultants Association of Nigeria (PRCAN) President and Blueflower Communication Chief Executive Officer.
He agreed that Nigeria has some elements of a superbrand. These include high name recognition and identification with particular features.
Superbrands have positive attributes mostly. While Nigeria has many positive qualities, there is usually an emphasis on the negatives.
Nwakanma argued that the current government has worsened the characteristics of the Nigerian brand with its song and dance about corruption without doing anything about it.
“If you do a google search on corruption, Nigeria will pop up,” he said.
Indicators for superbrands in product areas are financial performance, what role it plays in consumer purchase decisions, top of mind awareness, favourability, affinity, and the strength of the brand compared with others.
Experts analyse nation brands based on performance in six key areas of tourism, exports, governance, people, culture and heritage, as well as investment and immigration.
Nwakanma insisted that on these elements, “you would notice that we are not strong. We have high brand recognition for the export of a primary product that is now in decline globally; that is crude oil. We are yet to become a tourist destination.
“Our governance structures have yet to become properly institutionalised. We are active in people, culture, and heritage but how attractive and marketable are our heritage sites?
“We score well as a destination for investment but low on immigration. More of our citizens go out than the number of persons coming in.”
Nothing to show for rebranding campaigns
Over N30 billion has been spent on the Rebranding Nigeria Project. It started with the War Against Indiscipline (WAI) by Muhammadu Buhari’s military administration in 1984.
When the campaign started yielding results, his regime was overthrown by Ibrahim Babaginda, who floated Mass Mobilisation for Self Reliance, Social Justice, and Economic Recovery (MAMSER).
MAMSER was political orientation but largely considered a rebranding campaign. It yielded little or no result; the fund allocated to it went down the drain.
Sani Abacha’s junta never really gave rebranding a thought but the Olusegun Obasanjo Presidency bankrolled from 1999 the “Heart of Africa” project.
That campaign, headed by the then Information Minister, Chukwuemeka Chikelu, also failed.
The Heart of Africa suffered hiccups within, and a certain country stopped the project claiming copyright infringement.
The Umaru Yar’Adua administration also ventured into the muddy waters of rebranding Nigeria, championed by late minister of Information, Dora Akunyili under the wings of “Good People Great Nation”. That campaign too went the way of others.
So, does Nigeria still deserve another rebranding campaign?
Nwakanma said: “There is more to branding than communication. We need to tackle the fundamentals. A few ministers have thought of nation branding in terms of communication.
“It failed because, as the elements that make up the assessment criteria for the nation brands show, it goes beyond promotion and proclamation. It is a national effort involving all segments.”
Nwosu added: “We need to review the past efforts and identify the brand essence but do it better than ever. We also need to be consistent with that effort and not change it without reason.
“Our content and our good elements can help in rebranding us. There is perhaps a stronger campaign to be done in raising a shared vision in Nigeria among Nigerians, about brand Nigeria.”
Steering it in the right direction
Experts believe that focus on who handles the rebranding campaign should be shifted from the government.
“The president usually provides symbolic leadership for nation branding efforts. He can designate someone,” Nwakanma said.
Nation branding involves political, economic, sociological, and other considerations.
South Africa and other countries that have done successful nation branding involved the government, the private sector, and the people. There was a collective buy-in.
It is not something for one sector alone, as can be seen from the six elements identified in the Anholt/GFK Nation
“When you speak of culture and heritage, you also speak of the various peoples of a country. It requires national mobilisation,” Nwakanma added.
In Nwosu’s view, “branding involves ‘what you do, what you say, and what people say about you.’ If leaders are ‘debranding’ the country (by accident or deliberately) via their actions, the communications will not matter much.
“There has to be an alignment with a brand vision and the actions/communication that bring that vision alive. A brand is a bundle of benefits not just about the glitzy logos or look and feel.”