Another Look at the Nigeria Brand

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Evolving the right template to position Nigeria as a country of opportunities has always been the wish of her drivers. Last week, experts converged in Lagos at the second edition of BRANDish Meeting of Minds to dissect the process. Raheem Akingbolu, who attended the event reports

It was a moment of truth and no holding back. The subject matter – Nigeria perception problem, affected all. At home and abroad, Nigerians are related with suspicion. The country’s stories that appear in the foreign media are nothing but negative. Unfortunately, the local media that should play up the beauties also reels out the negatives as well.

Worried about the embarrassment and how the negative perception is undermining the equity of the Nigeria brand, promoters of BRANDish Meeting of Minds, a periodical workshop on marketing and business activities zeroed in their second edition on how to evolve a right cord for the Nigerian brand. The theme of the workshop was ‘In Search of the Right Purpose for the Nigerian Brand’.

At the event, experts, drawn from core marketing communication agencies and their counterparts who man the corporate affairs of top companies all gathered to share their experiences. Among other things, the expertsadvise Nigeria on the need to define her purpose ease FDI. They also established that creating and amplifying a well-defined purpose for the Nigerian brand would help the country attract foreign direct investment and also ensure global competitiveness. They also called on Nigerians to consume made in Nigeria goods and advised the media to begin to play up the good side of the country.

Evolving a purposeful Nigerian brand
One of the lead speakers at the event and the Managing Director, LUCENT Consulting, Mr. Lampe Omoyele, advocated for the need to create a deliberate and consistent purpose for the Nigerian brand. This, he said has become imperative with the increasing competition among nations for capital destination, global, regional and sub-regional influence, as well as product and cultural export.He spoke on a paper titled; ‘Evolving A Market-Led Positioning for Nigeria’

‘’Corruption, poor leadership and infrastructure deficit have all combined to hamper the journey of Nigeria to becoming a viable nation brand. There is growing need for Nigeria to become assertive as a nation of power in Africa and the world leadership is critical to evolving a strong nation brand. As a result, the country’s leaders should be the ambassador plenipotentiaries of the positioning, accentuating the positives. Their actions and body languages should resonate the very fabrics of the envisioned brand promises that Nigeria represents,’’ he said.

In positioning Nigeria as a land of hope and opportunity for business and investment, the expert stated that the development, involvement and strengthening of the private sector is important, arguing that the most successful nation-state positioning strategies have been driven by public-private partnership.

He pointed out that the advent of the internet has revolutionised the way humans interact and this is gradually changing the Nigerian narrative. ‘’ There is a constant exchange, interactions, import and export of cultures in the digital space. Impressions are made and perceptions formed about our lifestyle; the power of the people now rests in their hands, on their smartphones.The major drivers of this revolution are digital natives, not tribal natives, the youths, who are willing to collaborate and fight for a common cause. They embody the ‘Naija’ spirit, and can be veritable ambassadors for the repositioning of Nigeria in the global space,’’
According to him, there is urgent need to search, identify and amplify Nigeria’s common purpose with a view to creating a uniform and consistent narrative around the Nigerian brand.

‘’For Nigeria to be truly successful in crafting a strategic positioning a concerted unearthing of our shared values and amplification, not fabrication, of these truths in a manner that resonates with Nigerians is required. This would involve engaging stakeholders in the Nigerian enterprise. Participation and conviction of the populace in the overall agenda of the country in manners where ideas are not just imposed on them but communicated as partners in progress is imperative,’’.

In his recommendation, Omoyele reminded his audience on the Technical Aids Corps initiative of Prof.BolajiAkinyemi, the country’s external affairs minister in the 1980s and recommended that the report should be revisited.
He also pointed out that conversation around what strengthens Nigeria and which are sellable to other parts of the world must be aggregated and structured into a thematic campaign deliberately designed and targeted at critical power and economic centres.

Attracting global attention
Another key speaker at the event and the Managing Director of The Quadrant Company MSL, BolajiOkusaga, while presenting a paper titled, “Foreign Direct Investment and the Power of Made for Purpose PR,” called for a redefinition of Nigeria’s “Investment Brand Essence” with a view to creating a clear purpose of both appeal and direction.

Okusaga admitted that Nigeria has tried and failed in three previous branding projects. ‘’The first was the Giant of Africa project, which was an unconscious proposition during the Yakubu Gowon era. This was an Afro-centric proposition – more a derivative of Foreign Policy. The second was the Heart of Africa project which started during the second coming of Obasanjo and was a conscious proposition, global in nature and more of a derivative of Economic and Investment Policy. The third was the Good People, Great Nation campaign which started during the Yar’Adua era as a national a reorientation campaign to address observed negatives and get the world to see Nigeria differently,’’

He called for the need to redefine Nigeria’s Investment Brand Essence with a view to creating a clear purpose of both appeal and direction. In his view, this must be articulated in well-thought out above-the-line and below-the-line campaigns that would effectively communicate the country’s selling-points as well as build and sustain Equity through strategic Reputation Management

‘’Branding Nigerian must take the form of a precise purpose statement with clear emotional and commercial opportunities. Such precise purpose statement must embody and be a functional summary statement reflecting the direction the country wish to go.Such purpose statement must also be reflective of the policy direction of government,’’

On branding, the PR expert further stated that Nation branding is usually a long term project that outlived the government of the day. He pointed out that Nigeria must design it in the form of national development plans to ensure the aggregation of economic opportunities as well as the intangible emotional selling propositions

Earlier, the Analyst-in-Chief, BRANDish, Ikem Okuhu, had pointed that Nigeria should borrow a leave from India in repositioning the brand Nigeria. He said the theme of the event was deliberately chosen in line with the government aspiration to drop the old toga.