Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Nigeria's newest Minister of Information, Dora Akunyili, unveiled the country's new branding initiative. The campaign, "Nigeria. Good People, Great Nation", replaces the failed 'Heart of Africa' project begun by former President Obasanjo. Vice President Jonathan, who attended the announcement ceremony, explained that the campaign is "a genuine way to re-orientate Nigeria[ns] toward believing in themselves again...and to change the perception of the country both locally and internationally."

Some have criticized this new campaign, pointing out the the last re-branding effort cost millions ($5.6 million) with little visible results. Additionally, some argue that "a nation lacking in modern infrastructure, purposeful leadership and a culture of free and fair elections, ... should not waste funds in re-branding." Akunyili addressed the criticisms saying, "Nigeria cannot wait until solving all its problems before repairing its image,'' because ''our development is tied to our image.'' When grilled by the National Assembly last week, Akunyili disclosed that funding for the project would come from the government, the private sector and also, individual Nigerians. She pointed out that the campaign's budget is $1 million and promised that spending will be transparent.

This new re-branding initiative is welcome news. As I noted in my series on the Nigerian Psyche and Persistent Psychological Paralysis, the psychology of the average Nigerian and their attitude towards the nation needs a major facelift. I completely agree with a February 2009 statement by Akunyili in which she said,

"it is only when we believe in ourselves that we can truly make the changes needed in our society, and be in a position to project Nigeria positively to the outside world."
I am a firm believer that Nigerians will solve Nigeria's problems and I am a proponent of re-energizing the Nigerian 'spirit' in furtherance of this approach. As such, I congratulate Akunyili and everyone connected with this new project for realizing that any re-branding focus must be on Nigerians. Nonetheless, certain significant issues have arisen with the announcement of this campaign, how it is being received and obviously how it can succeed.

There are certain other missteps that have already occurred that I hope will not be repeated. A quick look at the BBC's report on this story shows that the re-branding initiative is being tied to a pickpocketing incident instead of the obvious goal of publicly highlighting a positive image of Nigeria in the press. The BBC report also refers to Nigeria as "a violent and chaotic place, full of people who use e-mail scams to cheat money out of unwitting victims." Not to be outdone, the International Herald Tribune (IHT) dismisses the campaign, and Nigeria in general, with its title, "Nigeria tries to change image with marketing', and by beginning its brief report with a reference to Nigeria as a "chaotic country". That this is the message being shared about Nigeria and its efforts reinforces that the government (in this case Akunyili's team) must work harder to overcome media bias, and give less of the ammunition that feeds this bias.

It can never be forgotten that powerful media outlets are mainly concerned with making money. Consequently, they will write stories that sell and when it comes to Nigeria, what 'sells' are stories of "chaos", "fraud" and "corruption". Akunyili's team and indeed every concerned Nigerian has to mindful so as to not unnecessarily contribute to those stereotypes. Therefore, more positive and enlightening information must rapidly be released to counteract the already negative stories being tied to the re-branding project and Nigeria. Given the BBC report, it was a mistake for anyone tied to the new re-branding campaign to publicly announce that his phone had been stolen on the way to the event because it reinforced stereotypes. Instead, the thief should have been 'found' and the story should have been spun to illustrate how this push to re-orientate Nigerians is already having an impact. The alternative, would have been to not share the pickpocketing information as Nigeria does not have an effective way of controlling/managing stories related to the country and thus must be deliberately strategic in what information is shared by officials in front of a microphone.

Nigerians at home and abroad were invited to participate in a competition to design the slogan and logo. I wonder what measures where used to encourage as many Nigerians as possible to be a part of this competition. That 'lost message' is not surprising considering that the Ministry of Information and Communication, which is spearheading the project, either does not have a website or its website is hard to find.

This new push could be an incredible opportunity to actually achieve the goals of re-branding in Nigeria and abroad, but, the effort must be better organized from this point on to truly reap maximum results. In addition to the Ministry, the campaign itself needs an easy to find website. Nigeria has many talented web designers who are capable of handling such a job. Antigravity is a company that comes to mind and given their growing client list, such a project could be a challenge they would likely appreciate. A proper online home for both the Ministry and this project will help with coordination and also provide a central location for information hungry Nigerians and others who want to learn more about the country and its efforts.

It is clear that Nigeria needs an image makeover, and this site has been a proponent of such from the beginning. The new re-branding effort, "Nigeria. Good People, Great Nation' can become an excellent means of reminding Nigerians that there is plenty to proud of in Nigeria and attracting foreign attention in the way of tourism and more foreign investment. So far, there have been a few missteps but there are ways to transform those missteps and other challenges into a great success for Nigeria and her people.

This article has been continued in 'USING NIGERIANS TO RE-BRAND NIGERIA'

Related Articles of Interest:
- Nigeria's Re-branding Effort
- Using Nigerians to Re-Brand Nigeria
- Re-branding Nigeria: Success is the Key
- Rebranding Nigeria: With Britain's Help?
- The Nigerian Psyche
- Persistent Psychological Paralysis
- The Significance of Persistent Psychological Paralysis

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Anonymous said...

Call me cynical, or a pessimist, but I couldn't also help scoffing when MTN assaulted my phone with numerous texts with the not-so ingenuous new slogan.

As usual, they're going about the whole thing all wrong. I refused to look for this magnificent new logo, until I read this post, after which, I couldn't find a single picture online. And I'm a Google genius! Is there a website? Of course not, because the government is filled up with old-fashioned hacks who don't realise that everything from countries to new-born babies have their own website these days.

In fact, I'm annoyed. This is a washed up effort. Beyond press releases and iffy slogans, how DO they plan on re-branding Nigeria? What are they doing to prove to people that we're better than we look? Where are the plans/details of this rebrand?!

I don't know. Until I hear more details of this rebrand, I'm going to file it under 'Nigeria: You Can't Even Do THIS Right?'.

Maybe I'm overreacting, but the lack of an online presence of this campaign really bugs me.


@ Onyeka: Unfortunately, many share your sentiment. And for good reason. The truth is, like you said, the logo is as scarce as Bigfoot and like you, online researching is practically a hobby.

I also want to know more details and of course, they are far from available. Nevertheless, I think we can use this medium to advance our ideas on how this new project should go. We can spotlight what is lacking and suggest what is needed. I hop you will share your thoughts in this discussion.

How are things?

Anonymous said...

Oh yes, branding works, just ask Shell post Saro-Wiwa, but brand version 48? Good People, Great Nation, Corrupt Government. God bless Africa.


@ Beauty: I know you are not trying to be funny, but I did indeed chuckle at your suggested slogan.

Your point is well made, but re-branding works when it is a well thought out, long term vision. I can think of a couple of musicians (that have accomplished the feat. I will even look for Columbia's new commercial push to attract tourists to the country. I think it is working actually, but will be stunted by the economic recession.

Anyway, hope all is well with you and yours.

Anonymous said...

They are not calling it branding, but 're-branding' which hints at a previous attempt (which must have failed, of course). I think the Professor rushed into this whole re-branding business.

The project sounds like a very impulsive thing, like she's trying to make an impact very early and very fast. This is not NAFDAC, it's a whole new ball game. They are trying to sell a product, which is the Nigerian image and of course to try and change our mental states as Nigerians.

If you ask me, the thousands of Nigerian bloggers and writers have been doing this polishing for a long time. If she had done her homework, all the Ministry needed to do was reach out...create a forum around this their 're-branding' brouhaha, get people involved (not with money), create virals, videos on youtube, images and badges to be put on know...let the foreigners that they are trying to woo see and experience a growing change. Not a giant leap from corrupt country to re-branded country.

When that is in motion, we can move on to other things. The hardest part of this re-branding shizzles is the crime and corruption that has been so entrenched and embedded in our system. How do we get the 'foreigners' to believe us when we celebrate the criminals and murder/imprison the good; when the Foreign Affairs Minister denies simple truths like the 'We do not have gays in Nigeria' issue.

I know Akunyili means well, but this particular product: I AIN'T BUYING IT !

Anonymous said...

I read your article ... I love it, I can't wait for the part two. I think Nigerians must all join hands in giving Nigeria a good image especially our domestic journalists. Those of us who live outside the country see and hear how Nigerians give bad image to Nigeria, and unfortunately some of our local media are part of these group. I wish Dora well and I'm on her train.


Anonymous said...

A product is its best marketer. I learnt that 100 years ago at Uni and it's the truth. No matter what you name a product, if it's bad,people won't buy. At the worst, they'll buy the first time but will never come back.

I am not sure what exactly Dora's plan is but even if we change Nigeria's name to Canaan, if we are still corrupt and lack basic amenities,milk and honey will never flow here.

I am aso thinking what 1 million dollars would do to Nigeria. Imagine if they pumped that money into public schools whether by training teachers or improving infrastructure etc, I bet we would be the better for it. Reminds me of when the NHS(National health scheme,UK)spent 1 million pounds on a survey,yet you go to the hospitals and can't see a doctor for four hours.

Sorry Dora but I ain't buying either.

Anonymous said...

Another "failure plastered all over it" rebranding effort. I really want Nigeria to have a great brand, but that just doesn't happen with a logo, no matter how beautiful, good-feeling-inspiring the logo is (if such a thing were possible). The product behind the logo needs to be sending out a new message, not just with words and logo, but with actions. Is news getting out about efforts to crack down on corruption? Is the news getting out about improved infrastructure? Is the news getting out about reduced crime? What about tourist locations? Of course the news won't get out because the country has unveiled a new logo. That news can only be created if the country starts creating those improved conditions, then they can use the logo/rebranding effort as a platform to blow their trumpet about all what they're doing. A logo without action is just another example of how 'they' chop our money with projects that don't benefit anyone.

bumight said...

I am just sorry for Dora Akinluyi. they uprooted the poor woman from a position she was successfully managing, and put her in charge of this mess.
before u rebrand a product, there must be something new, something different about it. even if its just a new packaging.

what a waste of another $1 million dollars!

wordsmith said...

I've always thought that the problem with Nigeria is the lack of practical pride we have in our nation. I mean we are quick to say we have the best dressed people but people rarely plan to help their nation or spend their lives helping their country, So its a good theory, this is a time when propaganda can be useful and hopefully someone will be clever enough to point out that we need to disappoint those who look down on us and despise us.

Its a bit expensive though.

io said...

rebranding? before we rebrand something we attempt to fix it/improve its quality before rebranding. SSD as u pointed out, i had also tried to get more information about this rebranding and went on the information ministries website. i had noticed there was no info on there relating to rebranding. instead they had a link to nowhere from the previous 'heart of africa' waste of money. maibe part of the $1million is for the website and stuff.


Nonesuch said...

Whatever happen to the Frank Nweke led Heart of Africa project. They has displays in London Airports and airtime of CNN. But then Operation Destroy your Predecessor is at play. Instead of Madam Nafdac trying to reinvent the wheel she should have tried to ignite more life in the Heart of Africa project but again what do I know.

I see that we are essentially good people but that we are a good Nation .... I dont know.( some will say the people makes the Nation so maybe then we are not good people) We are professional window dressers. We just keep piling up the white paint but never never look at the real issues and deal with them. How long this will go on, will depend on how long Madam Nafdac is Minister or when the next cabinet reshuffle will be or when she goofs about Yardy's illness or state of health.

I can't still get over the shock that she accepted to be Minister.( Dont ask me why?) Late Lamidi Adedibu accused her of lobbying for Ministerial appointment but then what did he know apart from his Amala politics.

tobenna said...

Personally, I think all this is crap and a waste of my tax!

We need to do what China did rather drastically successfully. Shut off from the outside world and fix our problems ourselves.
It will take us years and we will suffer, but in the end, we will be successful.

Anonymous said...

I absolutely despise mainstream European media such as the BBC with their pointed noses in the air and sniffs indicating that they have disregarded anything non-European. Ridiculous.

Everything deserves a chance. I agree with Akunyili that substantive change starts within. I remind my husband, a Nigerian, who is often critical of his government, that the US and UK govts are far from perfect. The US got its independence a couple hundred years ago, but the country's struggles in the first 50 years after that time are rarely discussed by historians. It was just as corrupt and disorganized as African govts who have been independent from their colonizers less than 50 years ago. We've have more than 200 years to perfect AND disguise our corruption to the point that people here actually believe that government works. Puh-leeze!!!!

All power to the people - if they can't get it.

Anonymous said...

Lol at Beauty's comment. Sorry if it wasn't meant to be funny. I'm still grinning about it.

This might be a petty point but why is the nation great and the people are only good? I mean it's only a slogan but surely you think about those things as well in branding?

That aside I was actually motivated when reading this, I don't know if it's SSD amazing writting or the actual campaign to a better Nigeria but I was inspired someway, somehow. And I for one am terrified to help Nigeria as a Nigerian for fear of death...

Anywho SSD just on the side, I always check your easier blog and not always this one but the link helped me get here today. Maybe link more often? Or... I don't know Lol

Have a nice day all! Txx

Observers thuts said...

This Re-branding project is getting to much attention oh. I dont support this initiative, because its a project who's primary objective is to make the country look goood. So then it means we are not so good. Which suggests that we need to start work on the inside not the outside. its like we are re- painting a 48 year old car. This is beein proved with the whole project not having a website, no blog page, no facebook page, even my 10 yr old sis wants a website,i guess they dont even have a email addrress.
I think the minister did not sleep over the project before coming out to anmounce it. The said competition must have being an in house work. The logo of the project is a rubbish on every graphic artiste in Nigeria. The only thing that i have seen, no, heard are the radio jingles all these of which must have cost millions if not billions{ in case you have not noticed the nigerian govt. does not sign deals that are in thousands anymore}. This initiative needs the input of the youths and the mases. There will be no major achievements without these peoples involved.

I also think that one of the reasons Mrs. Akunyuili was handed the job, was so taht she could mess up her reputation. No one Minister for information has successed in doing the right. I pray that after all her efforts she will have succeeded in "trying" to break the ice. Thaink you.

Unknown said...

Let's assume there's an image to rebrand. Who should be the target of this rebranding effort? Europeans? Americans? Asians? Or the big elephant in the room that no-one seems to notice - Nigerians @ home and the millions more abroad? You all know the old saying, 'charity begins @ home!'.

Temi said...

Thanks a lot for the mention. The funny thing is Antigravity actually did submit an extensive proposal to the minister and I met with her personally in March, but we weren't chosen for any of the work.


@ Temi: thanks for sharing this information. It is shame that your company or any other number of qualified and efficient homegrown companies were not selected. Particularly as the 'website' is now down. Or was it the website to begin with? Nobody knows.

Thanks for taking the time to stop by. Please come by often. BTW, are you on Twitter? We have been having some interesting conversations about the issue there and would appreciate more of your input. Thanks.

public works energy said...

A big part of what we and public works needed to do in those first nine months was to build infrastructure for new media tools.

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