HomeCommentEditor's Memo: Good Product First Before Rebranding

Editor’s Memo: Good Product First Before Rebranding

DEPUTY Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara does not need a second invitation to demonstrate with youthful vitality that he does not belong to the past.


He loves his PowerPoint presentations when his colleagues are more comfortable with reading speeches.

His quest for modernity is reflected in a series of pet projects that he has come up with lately to hopefully bring change to this society. He has been championing the Public/Private Partnerships project, the quest to rebrand the country, and achieving a national vision.
I understand perfectly what he wants to achieve: a new image for Zimbabwe that is saleable. This is a corporate-type project that is employed to sell products which do not necessarily have a good reputation on the market. But the rebranding process together with the so-called national vision are projects bound for failure as long as they are pitched as pedantic schemes that are divorced from the political imperatives on the ground.
British Author Walter Landor once said: “Products are made in the factory and brands are created in the mind.” This is the major challenge facing Mutambara. Looking at Landor’s theory, to create a brand, there has to be a product first. The product is then converted into a culture. It becomes a way of life. It ceases to be just a tin of beans on the shelf. Fathers name their children after it. The product name becomes bigger than the product itself. People start to use the product name as a generic term for other products on the market; the way we use a coke to mean other fizzy drinks (Americans call them sodas), or a Hoover to mean a vacuum cleaner.  Similarly, Durawall  means a precast wall. The proper noun becomes a generic name.
The problem with Mutambara’s project is that he has to rehabilitate Product Zimbabwe first in the face of obduracy by his colleagues. He has to convince his colleagues in the unity government that we have a bad product on our hands. There are those in the GNU who still believe that we have a good product but that the problem lies with those who criticise or point at flaws in the merchandise. But we all know that the product is not saleable at the moment. It has earned a bad reputation. Its packaging is inferior and contents broken. Even locals do not want to buy it. They are investing their monies elsewhere.
Mutambara should pause to think why our own Africa Sun is mobilising monies to build hotels in Nigeria, South Africa and Ghana when government is saying there is a serious shortage of rooms to cater for the 2010 World Cup. Whatever reason Africa Sun will proffer; the bottom line is that they regard Zimbabwe as an inferior product compared to Nigeria, South Africa or Ghana.
Zimbabweans in the Diaspora who do not want to come back home are sending to would-be investors the same message –– that they do not trust Product Zimbabwe.
So the first major hurdle for Mutambara to conquer is ensuring that Product Zimbabwe strikes a positive image on the shelf. That will not be achieved by asking people to speak positively about the product. It requires a collective effort to cleanse Zimbabwe of the bad-boy image the country has earned over the years. The negatives that have blighted Zimbabwe’s image are well documented and there are still there. Product Zimbabwe has become synonymous with these negatives and the challenge therefore for Mutambara is to see that there are positives which identify with Product Zimbabwe. At the moment, it is not clear what punch lines marketers of this product should employ. Should the selling points be sport, farming, mining, manufacturing, tourism good governance or investor-friendly legislation? All these possible marketing thrusts will not work at the moment; worse still if our rulers call diplomats idiots. This is where rebranding needs to start. An organisation wanting to rebrand does not insult stakeholders or brandish fists at those refusing to purchase the brand. Persuasion works better!
In April When Mutambara started talking about rebranding, he had this to say about the country’s image: “We want to rebrand Zimbabwe, but what are we known for?” asked Mutambara. “How are we perceived by the rest of the world?”
“We are known for violence, farm invasions, disregard for the rule of law, electoral fraud, cholera, an unheard of rocket-propelled inflation, gigantic corruption and mafia-style abductions and kidnappings of journalists, human rights activists and anyone seeking democratic space.”  
Unfortunately this is the livery Zimbabwe is wearing today. The task to hand therefore is ensuring that we have a good product first before we talk about rebranding it. Product Zimbabwe must be generally acceptable to the generality of Zimbabweans before it can be marketed to the outside world. At the moment, many Zimbabweans do not feel we have a good product and, without it, the Shared National Vision mantra withers on the vine.
The issue here is simple. You cannot market a bad product, neither can you rebrand it. A brand is like a reputation, you earn it. Our rulers instead demand it. They won’t get it that way. You tell ‘em Arthur.

DEPUTY Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara does not need a second invitation to demonstrate with youthful vitality that he does not belong to the past. He loves his PowerPoint presentations when his colleagues are more comfortable with reading speeches.
His quest for modernity is reflected in a series of pet projects that he has come up with lately to hopefully bring change to this society. He has been championing the Public/Private Partnerships project, the quest to rebrand the country, and achieving a national vision.
I understand perfectly what he wants to achieve: a new image for Zimbabwe that is saleable. This is a corporate-type project that is employed to sell products which do not necessarily have a good reputation on the market. But the rebranding process together with the so-called national vision are projects bound for failure as long as they are pitched as pedantic schemes that are divorced from the political imperatives on the ground.
British Author Walter Landor once said: “Products are made in the factory and brands are created in the mind.” This is the major challenge facing Mutambara. Looking at Landor’s theory, to create a brand, there has to be a product first. The product is then converted into a culture. It becomes a way of life. It ceases to be just a tin of beans on the shelf. Fathers name their children after it. The product name becomes bigger than the product itself. People start to use the product name as a generic term for other products on the market; the way we use a coke to mean other fizzy drinks (Americans call them sodas), or a Hoover to mean a vacuum cleaner.  Similarly, Durawall  means a precast wall. The proper noun becomes a generic name.
The problem with Mutambara’s project is that he has to rehabilitate Product Zimbabwe first in the face of obduracy by his colleagues. He has to convince his colleagues in the unity government that we have a bad product on our hands. There are those in the GNU who still believe that we have a good product but that the problem lies with those who criticise or point at flaws in the merchandise. But we all know that the product is not saleable at the moment. It has earned a bad reputation. Its packaging is inferior and contents broken. Even locals do not want to buy it. They are investing their monies elsewhere.
Mutambara should pause to think why our own Africa Sun is mobilising monies to build hotels in Nigeria, South Africa and Ghana when government is saying there is a serious shortage of rooms to cater for the 2010 World Cup. Whatever reason Africa Sun will proffer; the bottom line is that they regard Zimbabwe as an inferior product compared to Nigeria, South Africa or Ghana.
Zimbabweans in the Diaspora who do not want to come back home are sending to would-be investors the same message –– that they do not trust Product Zimbabwe.
So the first major hurdle for Mutambara to conquer is ensuring that Product Zimbabwe strikes a positive image on the shelf. That will not be achieved by asking people to speak positively about the product. It requires a collective effort to cleanse Zimbabwe of the bad-boy image the country has earned over the years. The negatives that have blighted Zimbabwe’s image are well documented and there are still there. Product Zimbabwe has become synonymous with these negatives and the challenge therefore for Mutambara is to see that there are positives which identify with Product Zimbabwe. At the moment, it is not clear what punch lines marketers of this product should employ. Should the selling points be sport, farming, mining, manufacturing, tourism good governance or investor-friendly legislation? All these possible marketing thrusts will not work at the moment; worse still if our rulers call diplomats idiots. This is where rebranding needs to start. An organisation wanting to rebrand does not insult stakeholders or brandish fists at those refusing to purchase the brand. Persuasion works better!
In April When Mutambara started talking about rebranding, he had this to say about the country’s image: “We want to rebrand Zimbabwe, but what are we known for?” asked Mutambara. “How are we perceived by the rest of the world?”
“We are known for violence, farm invasions, disregard for the rule of law, electoral fraud, cholera, an unheard of rocket-propelled inflation, gigantic corruption and mafia-style abductions and kidnappings of journalists, human rights activists and anyone seeking democratic space.” 
Unfortunately this is the livery Zimbabwe is wearing today. The task to hand therefore is ensuring that we have a good product first before we talk about rebranding it. Product Zimbabwe must be generally acceptable to the generality of Zimbabweans before it can be marketed to the outside world. At the moment, many Zimbabweans do not feel we have a good product and, without it, the Shared National Vision mantra withers on the vine.
The issue here is simple. You cannot market a bad product, neither can you rebrand it. A brand is like a reputation, you earn it. Our rulers instead demand it. They won’t get it that way. You tell ‘em Arthur.

BY VINCENT KAHIYA

Recent Posts

Stories you will enjoy

Recommended reading