What is Jamaica, the brand? What is the image your mind conjures when you think of Jamaica? Sunny beaches, ganja and guns perhaps? Or how about laid back work ethic, homophobia or backward banana republic on the brink of civil unrest? Credible words or great misnomers?
An American colleague remarked, “My wife and I have been going to Jamaica now for 8 years, we just love it!” Then he paused, took a deep breathe and said, “But don’t you feel as you drive to the compound and see those shanty huts that any minute now they might rise up with machetes!”
Is this ‘Brand Jamaica”??? Is this fear of a black planet or fear of the folklorist bravado that Yaad likes to perpetuate? The bombastic bad bwoy Buccaneer. We know this is the media image of Jamaica, search online and you will be floored by the amount of off-balance reporting and negative reports on gangs and drugs. During the time of the Dudus drama you would think the whole isle was ablaze with unrest and uncertainty – a time that cost Jamaica dearly. Meantime in Bangkok street riots took many lives but still Conde Nast named that city the “Best Place to Visit”. Proof that it is perception not reality that reaps the revenue.
Ironically, it’s the tourist beach hustlers who understand Brand Jamaica more than anyone. It’s a symbiotic relationship; the tourist start with their need for drugs or their yearning for sex and it ends in a toxic trade and an understanding that the more brazen they are the more most tourists will, in intimidation, pay. They understand that the key factor in revenue for Brand Jamaican spending is entrenched with fear and distrust. They have cleverly capitalized on this with lotharian tactics that flip on a dime to aggressive hustling and intimidating swagger.
More sluggish to catch on is the Jamaican Tourist Board. The approach of the JTB is that of a band-aid on a cancer. When your brand image is that of unrest, corruption, danger, drugs and guns, a pretty picture of an exotic beach won’t work. Neither will more pretty picture campaigns and a social media push that posts banal “How is your day?” inanities to hundreds of thousands of potential customers. However, it is clear their strategy is to build up the “all inclusive” market, (a mainly foreign owned industry). A strategy that shoots the brand in the foot as it fortifies the salient perceptions that Jamaica is not safe and the locals are not to be trusted.
When there are negative brand connotations, the key strategy is to change that perception fast before it spreads. Deflection is a weak tactic when you are up against a media tsunami of negative misinformation.
Identifying the main issues as fear and distrust in the brand, and knowledge, perspective and exposure to facts will reinvigorate lost revenue. Steering revenue to the smaller hotels of Jamaica and encouraging tourists to visit Kingston is key towards the transparent drip of trust. The fact that the JTB pretty much ignores the smaller hotels and Kingston again strengthen the fear. The JTB needs to stop herding their social media masses to endless banal clips of reggae videos but post human interest stories of real people in real communities doing great initiatives alongside pretty pictures. Show the cosmopolitan aspects of the people and the culture. Applaud the victories in education, industry and the arts. Bombard people with facts and real perspective. During the Dudus drama not one major media put out that Tivoli was the size of Sandals resort in a small contained area miles from any tourist area. When there is a hurricane the story is the same – huddled masses of foreign journalists relish in the scaremongering, “A city on the brink of Civil Unrest” I heard last time on CNN. Then there’s other media reports like that video report on the Wall Street Journal about returning Jamaicans who come home for retirement but are invariably killed in robberies. Who is managing Brand Jamaica here? Where are the global media watchdogs who protect Brand Jamaica and where are the lobbyist groups who instigate the more truthful real balance in reporting. What litigation surrounds to protect Brand Jamaica when such unbalanced reporting continues.
This re-brand needs to be a cross platform initiative to survive and really reap the potential global revenue. Manufacturers of Jamaica need to protect and promote “Buy Jamaica” to rebuild that trust and knowledge that the country has authority and is worthy of investment. Education should have a component that seeks to build back the pride people have in the land and culture, and should also tie into the Buy Jamaica ethos. Politicians need to be mindful of the Brand Jamaica image when they play verbal ping pong throughout each campaign promoting crime stats and the other parties corruption. Jamaica is the only nation in Caricom who print so grandiosely, the crime statistics. Meantime, throughout the rest of the world crime statistics are ‘re-classified’. What use is this negative branding?
Local media also need to be held accountable with watchdog monitoring committees. Accountability is key in order to bring back Jamaica the positive brand onto a global stage for revenue potential.
Who is driving this brand and what is their strategy? I think they are asleep at the wheel.
Originally from Liverpool, England Jane started her career as producer and presenter of the SONY award winning show “Streetlife” on the BBC. From radio she moved on to television with seasons as Entertainment Producer for the network Granada TV show, “This Morning” and later “Jameson Tonight” on Sky TV. Headhunted from Sky TV by Sir Bob Geldof and Lord Waheed Alli company at 25-yrs-old, she was appointed the position of US Producer for Planet 24 Productions. Based out of NYC she coordinated and produced all US strands for the controversial show “The Word” and later, “The Big Breakfast”. When Planet 24 relocated to LA to produce the successful “Survivor” reality show, Jane decided to make NYC her home and continues to live and work in the media. She has held positions at New Video Group/Docurama (Home Video arm of A&E/The History Channel), Disney Theatrical (Lion King, Mary Poppins and Phil Collins’ Tarzan) Maxim Magazine/Dennis Publishing, and Bad Boy Entertainment.