Let me pause for a second and really ponder the things I’ve read of late….
Did I miss something? When did a logo become a brand? I could’ve sworn last time I checked, a brand was the collective energies and efforts of an organization or a company – even the behaviour of its staff – that together define the perception formed by consumers about its operations, products, services and solutions. This includes, but surely isn’t limited to its logo, its collateral, its strategies, campaigns, treatment of consumers, and even its company culture. Forgive me then for finding myself quite bewildered and downright troubled by the sudden upsurge of negative comments surrounding the rebranding of Grenada that took place a good two months ago. I mean, are people only now aware that our beloved “Isle of Spice,” has a new brand? Or is this the classic bandwagon effect, where most feel the sudden urge to speak, because the next person has? Honestly, are we really expecting a logo alone to sell our island destination?
If my memory serves me right, a logo on its own serves as a singular piece of the intricate puzzle that is brand building. In-fact, the logo serves merely to recall to mind all those actions that the organization has taken in defining its image. When you see a popular brand like Starbucks, does the face value of the design alone, with the woman smiling amidst a green background, do anything to stimulate a reaction within you? No. What that logo does however, is tap into your memories of the brand – whether learned or experienced. You are reminded of the products you sampled; the barristers who served you; the time it took to receive service; the free Wi-Fi you accessed; the price you paid; and much more. All of these pieces work in concert to define a pleasurable or unpleasant perception of the Starbucks brand. Of course, there are brands like Twitter that use familiar frames of reference to enlighten us to their functions, and call us to certain actions. A bird tweets; Twitter users tweet. Regardless of the approach used however, logos, in isolation, do not make a brand.
What does contribute to brand building, and negatively so, are the countless uninformed, senseless and downright idiotic posts that people shamelessly tout around social media in the name of patriotism. Don’t get me wrong, having Grenadians comment on matters that actually affect our country is great. It’s progressive! But what on earth does one hope to achieve by posting a pic of filth in a drain with the caption, “PURE GRENADA”? Beyond the paradoxical denigration of the very same brand the person claims to protect, is the reality that the action qualifies the retarded thinking and pettiness of the individual, who unfortunately might serve as a representation of us all. I’m sorry, but the last time I checked, we were not a “dottish” people; so why act like it?
PURE GRENADA should be discussed, because it represents a change that was unexpected and as we have seen, somewhat unwelcomed. However, our discussions should exercise sound reasoning and avoid reckless impulses. They should be anchored in objective research, not underlying political agendas or spiteful nuances. Like many of the naysayers, I too remember initially opposing the brand when I first read about its launch. However, by looking into the material publicly provided about the brand, drawing on my own experience working with government and with strategic branding, I was pulled to the other side. I love PURE GRENADA; and below I offer my reasons why.
REDEFINING OUR FOCUS NOT OUR IDENTITY
Grenada will probably always be known as the “Isle of Spice;” after all, we were the second largest exporter of Nutmeg and the largest per capita for years. However, the stark reality is this: we are not producing the quantities we used to. According to the Grenada Nutmeg Sector Development Strategy Report for 2010 – 2015, Grenada’s exports have been less than 2 percent of the world’s volume. That aside, as a brand, the term does not offer much scope for grabbing the attention of the unexposed. Think about it for a second. What comes to mind when an unexposed individual envisions the Isle of Spice? Most likely a country with lots of resources, whether human or otherwise, heavily invested in spice production and a spice culture. And although this might be of interest to some, such an illustration alone isn’t going to capture the mass market and bring the kind of economic influx that the country needs to fix all those problems we beat in the media, or provide those fat salaries we crave. At the end of the day, Grenada’s brand, though it fuels patriotism, isn’t targeted at Grenadians. We already know what our country has to offer. It is targeted at those, who don’t know. And this is the first thing we need to realize. This new brand does not redefine us as a people, it simply redefines our approach to our Tourism product.
I have heard the new brand referred to as “simple and vague” on Facebook. However, because we are targeting the unexposed, this is not necessarily a bad thing. Because of our target, we need a brand that allows the mind to roam and ponder possibilities, while simultaneously evoking curiosity; and this is what the new brand does. PURE GRENADA plays into predefined notions of purity and pushes the unexposed to subconsciously envision endless scenarios about its meaning. Ultimately relegating that individual to research Grenada – and this is where the magic happens!
There is a world of unordered content that exists on the internet about Grenada. A simple search unveils a world of interesting finds, most of which regard our innate qualities. Besides the official launch video by the Grenada Tourism Authority, which I must admit sold me on PURE GRENADA, there are countless posts by tourists, who have visited our shores. Their posts revel in the residual colonial charm of our towns; the unprecedented friendliness and warmth of our people; the unspoiled richness of our vegetation; the scenic splendour of our beaches, waterfalls and springs; and the continued legacy of our traditions – all of which are PURE to Grenada.
AN OPPORTUNITY TO COMPETE
There is a rustic, raw, untouched aura that resonates throughout Grenada. Industrialization and the way it has strikingly branded the rest of the world, even most of our island neighbours, has seemingly missed its stop at the MBIA. We awake every morning to a simple life. A life where communities still raise children; where trusting from Mr. John in the village shop and bartering are still commonplace. We exist in a place where some still bake breads in wooden stoves and a pot of oildown slow cooked on an outdoor coal pot is still the best meal. We live on an island where heritage reigns; where the sound of the conch shell still beckons residents to the bay in the hopes of purchasing the makings of their evening meal; and respect for others, and their belongings, isn’t yet a luxury. Yes, Grenada produces spices. And yes, it may do so in keeping with the heritage of earlier, darker times we hope to forget. But Grenada offers this and much more!
Therefore, to continue to sell Grenada as the Isle of Spice, is to continue to sell ourselves short. After all, with the Indonesian archipelago of the Moluccas often referred to as the Spice Islands, are we not potentially causing confusion? Let’s get real for a minute. As the Isle of Spice, we offered an island rich in heritage, picturesque landmarks and historic festivals. But wait, haven’t we seen that advertised somewhere before? How many other islands offer this…and much more – plus at cheaper rates? I mean, our beaches are breath-taking; but have you seen the beaches of the French Polynesian Islands? Even more, have you experienced the bacchanal of a Trinidad carnival; or lusted over the Argyroupolis waterfalls in Greece? For Grenada to finally hold her own, we need to go beyond the umbrella of what we do, and what we have, to who we are as a people and as a nation. That is where our differentiation lies.
Grenada is Peaceful, Unadulterated, Rustic and Easy-going. It is PURE. And this quality is not something that is fabricated through investments in growth projects. It is something that exists because of the very nature of Grenadians. Our vegetation remains lush because we choose not to spoil it. Our traditions are maintained because we choose not to stray from then. Our crime rate is low, because, for the better part, we chose to remember morality. It’s all really funny, because the very backwardness we cry down – our failure to develop at the pace of other islands – is the very thing that makes us unique. My point is this: as a brand, PURE GRENADA represents who we are, not what we do, how we do it, or what we have. It embodies everything we stood for as the Isle of Spice, but goes further by giving us an identity through which we can connect with our intended targets.
CHANGE MAKES THE GOOD BETTER
I know it is never easy to understand a rebranding initiative, especially when nothing seems critically wrong with an existing brand. However, it’s worth noting that it is easy to overlook flaws when we are comfortable. According to the 2012 Bloom Consulting Country Brand Ranking, Grenada placed 130, out of 193 countries. What’s noteworthy about this ranking is its measurement of the effectiveness of countries’ brand strategies, as well as the impact of these strategies on GDP. Regardless of personal opinions regarding our previous brand strategy, it is clear that it was not exceling at driving economic growth. It is worth mentioning however, in the same report, countries like the Bahamas and Barbados, which ranked 79 and 80 respectively, failed to meet the expectations of their visitors relative to Grenada. Though both countries received a slightly good (B) and good (BB) rating respectively, Grenada received a very good rating (BBB). On the one hand, this may be used by some as proof of the success of the previous brand; however, it is wise to remember that a BBB is not an A, an AA, or an AAA, and therefore indicates that the authenticity of our country’s previous brand was somewhat challenged. In that case, it is only plausible to expect change, as there is obviously room for improvement.
This brings me to another key point that I’m always forced to remember whenever addressing change. Sometimes something doesn’t have to be bad for it to be changed. Not because it’s “very good,” doesn’t mean it can’t be great! I am always reminded of the American chemical company Dow Chemicals, and its move to officially rebrand itself in 2012. In 2011, Dow was the fourth largest chemical company by sales. However, recognizing that the market was changing, it readjusted its strategy and rebranded itself as a solutions company, under the umbrella “Solutionism. The new Optimism.” Instead of focusing on the features of its products, the company started focusing on the needs of its clients and selling the expected impact of its products on its clients’ businesses. It changed its sales approach and focused its efforts on addressing not only current challenges of its clients’ businesses but future ones as well. Dow’s rebranding initiative was so dynamic that it drew interest from people in and outside the chemical industry, eventually earning many accolades for its use of digital marketing.
I say all this – and yes I know it was a lot – to force introspection when addressing the issue of PURE GRENADA. Are oppositions honest and unbiased; or are we jumping on a bandwagon because we’re too afraid of change? Our brand, whether it be the Isle of Spice, or PURE GRENADA, is ultimately made or broken by all of our actions. If our cash cow is Tourism, then shouldn’t we all be working to ensure our brand succeeds, regardless of its tagline? In the end, shouldn’t that be a priority? I implore us all to put aside petty grievances, political affiliations, and egos and enthusiastically accept our stakes in positive brand building. Let us live as unofficial brand ambassadors and demonstrate through our promotions and testimonials the purity and spiciness of our island. Let’s stop publicly slamming Grenada. In the end, if we cannot respect and support our own island’s brand, how do we expect others to?