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The Lessons And Hurdles In Branding Our Country

Thursday, September 19, 2013 - 00:00 -- BY MARY KIMONYE

In March 2008 Kenya took a bold step to put in place a national branding program. By so doing Kenya joined a small circle of Nations that have dared to undertake this awesome and challenging journey.

 The Brand Kenya board was put in place to steer the process. Two years down the line the board completed the national brand master plan.

In the development of the master plan a rigorous country diagnostic was conducted along the structure of five pillars; people, place, product, politics and economy.

The results of this diagnostic revealed several insights for positioning and building the Kenya brand. These insights informed the development of brand opportunities for each of the four pillars on which the Kenya brand needed to be based i.e. tourism, FDI, exports and citizens. The plan details the key components of the Kenya Brand. These are:-

 The national brand vision which is a statement of the country’s aspired position going into the future. It is a vision of a balance between our quest for modernity and the respect for our heritage and values.

These values are what have seen us become the nation we are today and we must guard, treasure and be proud of. The national positioning statement captures the position Kenya wishes to occupy in the family of Nations it wishes to be seen. The national brand proposition or what is commonly called the brand promise or essence.

This captures that one characteristic of Kenya that is authentic, believable and that which comes naturally to Kenyans and hence is not disputable.

That characteristic is the warm hospital and welcoming nature of Kenyans, simply captured in one word generosity. Hence the national proposition is “Kenya bursting with generosity, rewarding beyond imagination.”The national brand values are the ideals that drives our interactions with others and which should be demonstrated in our relationships, institutions, business and public service. The three fundamental brand values that resulted from the brand research were “optimism” “character “and “generosity”.

The Kenya Brand personality traits of handwork, resilience, entrepreneurship are very evident across all sectors of our country. They confirm that we have the capability in ourselves to move Kenya forward to the aspired middle income status. The national tagline,

“Make it here!” for citizens and it can also be executed in its lip nature “Make it Kenya!” (for foreigners). It elicits a compelling message that we wish to stamp on the minds of others and helps believably execute the brand proposition.

For Kenya the tagline is a simple invitation to both the citizens to choose Kenya as their preferred destination for residence, corporate head quarters, holiday trade, investment and leisure. The visual identity (National Brand logo), which most countries construct around their national colours and their most iconic image.

For Kenya the shield in our flag was isolated as the most compelling image that communicates Kenya’s past, present and future. The shield was modernized in line with Kenya’s youthfulness, hence the Icon Kenya (.)

 With a brand master plan in place the next step is to execute it across all platforms. The first critical lesson learnt from other countries that have embarked on this journey, is that it is suicidal to start promoting your country brand, if it is not real.

Identity Kenya has going through a massive brand cleaning process; the reforms, new constitution, infrastructure, new leadership, all these should eject new life in the brand. The “substance” is the most important issue.

 Secondly as the country brand goes through the cleaning process, promotion must be focused on the components of the brand that are going really well.

For Kenya, the success of the our sportsmen and women, performance of the capital market, performance of the private sector and individuals in the global arena, our climate, location, top quality exports, Safari, our cultural diversity and strides in the ICT sector remain the spring board of our global marketing.

Thirdly, the country’s core essence and brand message must differ from those of competing nations. Countries often make the mistake of promising similar generic things like educated work force, youthful population, great sites and locations without regard to how potential customers perceive the country.

Most potential customers want more than these. They want stability, security, ease of movement, acceptance, respect etc. Finally, country branding needs coordination and cooperation across all levels and sectors: trade, tourism, public diplomacy culture, investment, FDI and citizens.

This will usually prevail in a situation of visionary leadership at all levels. As a country we have the benefit of a compelling vision and a forward thinking leadership. There is no excuse why we should not position ourselves impactfully in the global arena.

Noting the complexity of Nation branding, Kenya needs to stand proud that we embarked on this journey and in three short years have been able to agree on a road map for the long-term development of the Kenya brand.

What we must bear in mind as we forge forward is the responsibility of changing the image of Kenya, lies with all of us, singularly and collectively.

We must be of one mind that as we forge into the future we want and are committed to a better Kenya. Our Vision 2030 and the new constitution have laid very firm foundation for building a prosperous nation. We must now all as individuals, institutions, regions, counties do our part.


Mary Kimonye is the CEO, Brand Kenya Board.

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