Diana McCaulay

Blog - SnailWriter

Does Jamaica really have a strong global brand?

Posted by Diana McCaulay on July 18, 2013 at 10:00 AM

As we listen to the usual bleating about damage caused to “brand Jamaica” by a civil society group raising legitimate national issues in an international forum, I decided to research the concept of nation branding. I found a report done by FutureBrand for 2012/3 – the entire report is here: http://www.futurebrand.com/images/uploads/studies/cbi/CBI_2012-Final.pdf

I skipped to the top 25 country brands – no Jamaica. Looked at the top country brands in our region – nope, no Jamaica. I found Jamaica on page 106 of the report in the full list of countries ranked at 62 out of 118 countries. Jamaica was ranked behind the Maldives (16), Mauritius (20), Bermuda (24), Barbados (29), the Bahamas (37), Belize (46), the Dominican Republic (53), Trinidad and Tobago (54) and Cuba (57).

Say what? We don’t have one of the strongest brands in the world??

The FutureBrand report says they annually measure and rank global perceptions of nations using a Hierarchical Decision Model to discover how key audiences view a country – the model tracks awareness (does a respondent know the country exists), familiarity (how well is a country known), associations (what are its perceived qualities), preference (how highly is it esteemed), consideration (is the country being considered for a visit or investment), decision/visitation (has an actual visit or investment taken place) and advocacy (do respondents/visitors recommend the country to others). The criteria measured are:

Values: Political freedom, environmental friendliness, stable legal environment, tolerance, freedom of speech

Quality of Life: Education, health care, standard of living, safety, job opportunity, like to live in

Good for business: Investment climate, advanced technology, regulatory environment, skilled workforce

Heritage and culture: History, art and culture, authenticity, natural beauty

Tourism: Value for money, attractions, resort and lodging options, food

When you see the components of a strong brand, Jamaica’s unremarkable global ranking should surprise no one.

I found Jamaica’s name in one other place in the report – page 88, under tourism. “Weak perceptions around safety can have a negative and very real effect on a traveler’s willingness to visit. We see this in countries like Guatemala, Vietnam, the Phillipines and Kenya – all ranked above 100 (in safety) – that, despite having major despite having major attractions to their credit, fail to perform well in the dimension overall. Exceptions include Egypt, Jamaica and Indonesia – also nations that rank 100 and above for safety but perform relatively well in the tourism category.”

We may hit the headlines for various reasons, often tragic ones, the world may gather to watch our athletes – an unstable foundation on which to build a nation’s future – and we may hear Jamaican music in many countries of the world, but none of this means we have built a solid nation, nor a strong brand.

In fact, we remain stubbornly resistant to the truth about ourselves and our country – the JAMPRO website is a marvel of breathy advertising copy and mixed metaphors: “Business Brand Jamaica captures the essence and dual nature of the great Jamaican people. Creative and supportive with an unyielding, enterprising spirit, we continue to be pioneers, reaching great heights and blazing trails around the world. The creative and innovative side of the Jamaican people is exemplified by the exotic cuisine, pulsating rhythms, tantalizing designs and indomitable human spirit for which we are internationally renowned. Our business acumen is another side of Jamaica - lesser known, but just as powerful. We are contemporary, globally connected, and possess an entrepreneurial character which has spawned new businesses and innovations in a variety of commercial endeavours. And we are dedicated, hardworking, supportive, educated, and highly skilled, making our workforce, efficient and productive.”

Actually, no…

So Minister Lisa Hanna, get over yourself, a petition by Jamaicans for Justice on the status of children in state care is not what's damaging Jamaica’s reputation – the actual status of the children is what is doing the damage.

The plain fact is this: good intentions and public relations are never going to build a strong nation brand.

(I have written to FutureBrand to ask for Jamaica’s score sheet – if they send it to me, I will share it.)


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Reply coolieduppy
10:31 AM on July 18, 2013 
Thanks for this brilliant post. It's alarming to hear government officials, journalists, technocrats and others blithely bandying about the B word. How do they not realize how problematic it is to think of the country in terms of a brand...do they even recall the connection between branding and slavery?? In their eagerness to show the international world how ready they 'we' are for business our government has uncritically adopted the anti-people language of neo-liberalism. Its at times like this I know we're f@#$?d...
Reply Kwame
11:21 AM on July 19, 2013 
Well said Diana....
Reply Barbara Walker
11:39 AM on July 19, 2013 
It's called a fool's paradise and I am always reminded of the children's story, "The Emperor's New Clothes". Do you remember that one?
Reply Margaret Morris
9:02 AM on July 21, 2013 
Great blog Diana.
The Jampro paragraph is the biggest bunch of Bull .... that I have ever read. It would be hilarious if it was not so pathetic. Or was that intentional parody?

Without Jamaicans for Justice we would be lost for true.
Reply Wendy Lee
9:28 PM on July 26, 2013 
Form over substance, time and time again. This is reflected in the huge waste of money and resources on celebratory extravaganzas (we certainly know how to jump up and down in costume) even as the GOJ bawls that there is no money for critical social services and infrastructure. Thanks for researching this, Diana.