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.
THE FOREIGN MEDIA MOCKS THE INITIATIVE
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.
A LOST MESSAGE
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