Rebranding Ghana is a topic I’m passionate about, not least because it’s been on the agenda for many years, but more so because the country today has this topic, however much in the sub conscience, running through its fabric. ‘Ordinary people’ have changed the narrative, following the cue from the President of the Republic, and are talking about investing in the country and building for the future. Agriculture has become a buzzword, and people who thought farming was for a particular crop of people, have started to develop their own farms.
On Friday 20thNovember 2017, the Executive Women’s Network (EWN) of Ghana held its maiden yearly conference to delve into the subject. I moderated the first panel which was to share views on how to move from ‘rhetoric into action and execution,’ in the drive to rebrand Ghana for business growth.
Although I still believe there is work to be done, my pervading belief was that Ghana is already being rebranded.
But as I’m a marketing & communications person, it made sense for me to start the conversation by first surmising what a brand is and then to try using the points emerging in the discussion to create a marketing & brand plan for Ghana (there and then)!
To help make it stick, I decided to use G.H.A.N.A:
Goals– every brand has a goal or a purpose. What is the goal of this rebranding? And ultimately, what does Ghana wish to imbibe as its purpose?
History– successful brands have a history, or at least a compelling story. What can we learn from the past that will help us into the future?
Attitudes– every brand has a personality. What is the personality of the brand? In this case, what should the Ghanaian people look like, so that the country is identified as such?
Nationalism– (benefits / Unique Selling Proposition (USP)) – brands have a meaningful product truth or a USP. What is unique about Ghana, that would make people its citizens proud, foreigners want to visit and businesses or individuals want to invest, etc.?
Actions– finally, but most importantly in the context of this panel discussion, a brand doesn’t become one without execution or action. Brands are experienced, not prescribed.
I was hoping we’d end up with a draft marketing plan and inputs for the brand essence, but an hour was way too short for that…
Before our discussion, the Keynote Speaker David Ofosu-Dorte shared a compelling case for taking seriously the task of building ‘brand Ghana,’ including his thoughts on positioning Ghana as the ‘centre of the world.’ I was also privileged to hear thoughts from some dynamic and accomplished panellists, on actions we could take to accelerate this agenda of action.
Yvette Atekpe (Regional Managing Director, Internet Solutions Ghana Ltd.), Patrick Awuah (Founder and President, Ashesi University College), Adelaide Ahwireng (CEO, FIO Enterprises Ltd.)and Ivy Apea Owusu (CEO, Cirrus Oil Services Ltd.), all shared completely different perspectives and I highlight some of these, concerning three areas; brand, media, and women.
We could consider a USP such as ‘Ghana as the centre of the world’ (literal geographical placement), an idea promoted by some, to cancel out the generic ‘Ghana as the gateway to Africa’ which has been promoted by other individuals and organisations in the country. A contrary view shared was that although the ‘Centre of the world’ was a strong idea, by itself does not present much value add. The idea was that if we wish to be seen as a business and investment hub, our positioning should not only reflect that, but our policies should be in line with that positioning. If, for example, ease of doing business in Ghana will attract investment, and in turn drive business growth for Ghana (the sub-theme for the conference), this stands to making Ghana a strong hub for the sub-region. How do we build that brand – Ghana as a hub for Sub-Saharan Africa.
Media & Brand Ghana
It was viewed that media plays a largely negative role; positive news is quickly washed away by a culture of financially and politically motivated radio “serial callers” whose task it is to discredit ruling parties. The outcome is that media is often used to tarnish others’ images rather than to challenge others for positive change. So, instead of a nationalist movement of “Ghana first,” unnecessary bi-partisanship foils news of positive progress. Internationally, mainly negative news is covered. It is not reasonable to expect a strong national brand to be portrayed in international media, if the news they pick up from Ghana is largely negative. Local media has a role to play in projecting the country’s growth, as well as encouraging positive attitudes and behaviours to propel both local positive sentiment as well as international respect and recognition.
Women & Brand Ghana
Women were encouraged to play a strong role in national efforts as well as in the business environment and in the home. But there need not be a distinction in gender when it comes to the national effort of rebranding Ghana, even if different perspectives could be brought to the table. The manifestation of a strong brand Ghana is more concerned with the role of the ‘individual’; every Ghanaian (male/female/young/old) should take responsibility for his/her actions. The idea put forward was that everyone in Ghana needed to be part of building and imbibing the brand Ghana. So even the positioning of the brand should be something that every Ghanaian, across every social strata, can relate to. This means time must be spent in information gathering from a large portion of the population to determine what the country/brand Ghana is considered to represent. People should work hard, drop the feelings of entitlement, and stop denigrating to acts of petty corruption. The general sentiment was that social and civic responsibility had weakened to be replaced by higher levels of materialism.
As EWN starts to prepare for her 2018 Annual Conference, which is set to continue on the theme of rebranding Ghana, I will solicit more views from amongst a cross section of Ghanaians to help inform what is currently considered to be Brand Ghana from a G.H.A.N.A (Goals, History, Attitudes, Nationalism and Actions) perspective so that I can engage meaningfully with others who are actively working on articulating the Brand Ghana. Maybe we can finalise and agree on the overall marketing and brand plan. Look out for a second article on this. In any case, it is my hope that we can encourage all nationals to participate in activating what will be the newly rebranded Ghana.