Power To The People – How To Re-Brand Zimbabwe

President Mugabe & PM Tsvangirai
How Mugabe & Tsvangirai Should Re-brand Zimbabwe

The government has promised Zimbabwe people change time and time again – all which have led to a big fat zero. Promises came first from Zanu-PF, then MDC, and now from the unity government – but no one has produced much for the ordinary people. I can only imagine the kind of promises that will be flying around come election time.

Some in power, have decided that the solution for Zimbabwe’s situation is to ‘re-brand’– effectively calling all this a marketing problem. I’d have to agree (and I’ll tell you why). Now to be sure, I’m no Politician (and I’d hate to be one), but I do have something to say about marketing Zimbabwe – 3 things to be precise.

  1. The tactics Government (both parties) is using are 99% useless.
  2. Sound marketing strategy can indeed turn around Zimbabwe
  3. The government ALREADY has enough resources, they just don’t have stories (I’ll show you why this is key)

So in their efforts to re-brand Zimbabwe, they’ve approached investors, tourism authorities, governments and so on and tried to give them a convincing and compelling message. “We’ve got great natural resources, come, let’s partner”. “We’ll behave from now on, please help us” or

“These sanctions are illegal, remove them…or else”.

Has any of these marketing approaches made a difference? Microscopic differences at best –but it’s been mostly a waste of time (and money). Not only that, but in my view, it will continue to be so. BUT that’s not to say that marketing can’t solve the problem – heck, marketing can do almost anything!

  1. Marketing can change the way investors see us. It can make them hungry, even desperate to invest with us, in ways that actually benefit the Zimbabwe people.
  2. Marketing can bring in a flood of tourists – too many to handle (South Africa is a good example of that right now)
  3. Marketing can sell off, all those Zimbabwe diamonds that have been mysteriously vanishing for so long.
  4. Marketing can turn around the Agricultural and manufacturing sectors in Zimbabwe
  5. Marketing can even rid us of the mass corruption we’re surrounded by

Heck – marketing can do miracles WHEN DONE RIGHT.

Do you agree with me that Zimbabwe would be a VERY different place if we accomplished the above 5 things? Of course you do. But we’d have to do the right kind of marketing to make it happen, and that’s where the problem is. The Political marketing gurus – whoever they are have got it all wrong.

Here’s how I think we should be going about branding Zimbabwe. Oh – and if you’re a business person, you’ll see how all of this applies to your business too.

Talking to investors, other governments and so on is good, but it’s not the smartest place to start (as has already been demonstrated by the wasted efforts thus far). The government completely lacks the credibility and resources to influence these people sufficiently to cause real change.

So I think the government should focus their turn around strategy on the people with the greatest capacity to make a difference… not Obama (or what’s the Chinese presidents name?), but none other than…(drum roll please)

The Zimbabwe people!

people of Zimbabwe
People Of Zimbabwe

Question: What do you think would do more good, the Prime minister’s next begging trip to wherever or 10000 ordinary Zimbabweans on Facebook, Google Buzz and LinkedIn suddenly talking positively about Zimbabwe?

  • Telling friends on Facebook how life in Zimbabwe is starting to look good again
  • On Gmail, yahoo and Hotmail telling stories of how things are turning around
  • On LinkedIn and saying how business opportunities are popping up everywhere in Zimbabwe
  • Local bloggers start telling good news stories to the world about Zimbabwe.

Suspend your negativity and imagine for a sec what would happen if thousands of Zimbabweans started telling captivating positive stories all of a sudden? Think about it…

  • I personally have thousands of friends and followers on Facebook, LinkedIn, Google Buzz, Twitter and Gmail. So do you.
  • My friends and followers, have money, skills and ideas to invest. So do yours.
  • Our friends and followers also have friends and followers.

Just one thousand of us could reach and influence 10 million people quite easily. It would be more effective because word of mouth always has more credibility than anything else. My friends would believe my word 100 faster than they would the presidents or the Prime ministers combined. So would yours.

Of course to do all this, one big thing has to happen first.

They (Government) need to give us good stories to tell about them and Zimbabwe.

That’s the hard part, because it would mean that instead of fighting each other, the unity government (as it’s called) would actually have to unified and then make real changes. Changes that make for good stories. They’d need to generate stories about changes we care so much about, that we enthusiastically tell the world about. That’s how word of mouth (or mouse) happens.

Now maybe you’re thinking;

How can they make changes without money?

I assure you, it’s quite possible. A good many wealthy people started off with very little resources. A nation can do the same.

For example, It doesn’t take money to

  • Fire and prosecute minister who the Zimbabwe people all know is corrupt to the bone.
  • Make a public full-out apology for obvious mistakes made that have hurt the people
  • Reverse laws that hamper economic or social progress
  • Stop fighting and unify the unity government.
  • Or picture this – Some minister decides to sell one of his farms for a million dollars, and uses the money to feed a small forgotten town for 6 months. Imagine he does it without mention of his political party – his only motivation is a genuine concern for Zimbabwe’s people. Imagine two or three ministers did this?

Now perhaps only one thousand of one million hungry people would be fed by this minister’s kindness. But the impact of his actions reach far more people, through it’s story. You and I would be talking about it none stop.

See, It doesn’t have to take money to get the ball rolling. Just create good stories the people can’t ignore and make t easy to spread the word. Not just through the newspapers (that have greatly lost credibility) but by the people themselves.

After all, stories – not promises – that’s how brands are built, and it’s how Zimbabwe will be re-branded.

And of course, although most people will, YOU don’t have to wait for anyone before you create an inspiring story of your own – for your business, or for Zimbabwe.

That’s my two cents spent… Please leave a comment

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20 Replies to “Power To The People – How To Re-Brand Zimbabwe”

  1. I agree,if we lived in a country where those in power wanted a real change,they would come to you for help.

  2. Trust a marketer to believe everything is a marketing problem! However, i cannot argue with your excellent thoughts here – you have communicated great insights with extraordinary clarity. I wonder why this has not occurred to the powers that be, or if it has – why they have not done anything about it. This is a one of a kind website in Zimbabwe.

  3. It’s only part of the problem but I must admit the biggest part the way I see things. People buy into, invest in and want to see stories. So we need to tell a good story, especially for the future. How do you convince a tourist to visit Zim when next door to him lives a Zimbabwean who swears to never return there. I also feel that we are chasing a ‘return’ to the old story when we should realise it is within our power to create a new story, that works with our status quo as it stands and as we wish it to be going forward. Zimbabweans (all and sundry) will buy into the right story when it comes along and the world will follow suit.

  4. Smoking hot post Max! This is a different and much more tactically smart view given our position and economic capacity. You really know your s**t!

  5. I have been following your work for sometime now and i have come to greatly admire what you do. Where do you get your ideas from? You have a great combination of unique and fresh ideas with sound marketing knowledge. Thank you for your generous blog, you are giving many of us hope that we can return to our homeland and still succeed in business.

  6. Excellent article Max. You need to get in touch with the Prime minister’s office. Give James Maridadi a buzz, i am confident he will give you audience. The challenge is for all of us Zimbabweans to start talking positive things about our beloved country. Surely following what Max is prescribing here, i am sure sooner than later we will regain our status as the ‘food basket’ of the nation. Big UP Bros!!!

  7. Hey Max – love your refreshing take on the Zimbo debacle.

    As a professional brand storyteller with Zim roots, I deeply relate to a lot of what you’re sharing. Some sound advice on how to re-invent a brand.

    Unfortunately, stepping into a bigger story, requires the ability to see possibilities. Before you can tell better stories, things have to shift: context, experience, and desire are three avenues for meaningful change.

    I’m afraid, the current political situation in Zimbabwe remains a devolving zero-sum game, where everybody ultimately looses and gets hurt.

    But perhaps you’re onto something…what if the Zim diaspora started telling stories of why it LOVES its homeland, and spreading that message on social media? That may be what you’re suggesting, and if so, count me onboard.

    On the topic of storytelling, you might enjoy my story manifesto, which can be downloaded for free – http://www.getstoried.com

    Thanks for spurring such an inspired convo!

  8. Thanx for the article, am also pursing the issue of rebranding Zim but from my research so far, I am beginning to appreciate that rebranding Zim does not require marketing efforts. I feel the rebranding is about changing intrinsic behaviours and perceptions of people both within and outside Zimbabwe.

    Marketing has failed to rebrand a once globally competitive country, lets try something different which we need to strategize.

  9. hey Dissa, thanks for posting your comment. I think we’re saying the same thing. This article really is about how conventional marketing hasn’t done the job and how a different type of marketing is required. When Zimbabwean leaders inspire the people with better stories to tell (marketing), than that’s what will shape the perceptions (and resulting behaviors) of Zimbos everywhere. Call it viral marketing.

    Thank you again for coming round!

  10. Hi Max, other than our shared surname i have never known why we linked on facebook, but we did and I ended up reading the article and now commenting – i think that proves just how viral marketing can work!

    I have to be honest though, and say that while i agree the rebranding through positive voices will be a great help i don’t see it prompting real change for as long as Mr Mugabe is in government. I have spent much time in Tanzania, where the older people speak so highly of Mugabe and Nyere, but the image to most of the tourist world is of a political environment to be avoided. Why go to Zimbabwe when there is Zambia, Namibia, Tanzania… These places are probably every bit as corrupt as Zim but it is the political situation that scares off tourists. Look at the lack of tourists in Rwanda which is only really picking up now, i know it is wrong to compare but unfortunately bad news sticks in the mind and it will take time – not to say it will not change, South Africa are proof of that.

    Marketing can do a lot, but if there is not the political/economic climate then investors will not come – other than for natural resources such as the diamonds you mention. The example you use of sacking a minister I think will not happen – and if it does, it would barely matter as the world often sees the president of a nation as being the most corrupt of all. it would however be excellent if senior ministers made real sacrifice in the name of the country and the people. Apologies etc are free, but I fear they will not happen quickly, few politicians ANYWHERE admit to being wrong!

    I hope I am wrong, Africa is such a wonderful place, and S.Africa has done well despite no small amount of corruption and problems. As happens so often though the guys in charge cannot think outside of the box like you seem to, and the world is poorer for that. I hope some good comes of this idea, Zimbabwe deserves it :o)

  11. Well for everyone’s sake iaian i hope that you are wrong too, although i am not sure you are. If the powers that be did take Max’s advice, then we’d see a changed country, i just don’t know when that will happen. Well written peice Max.

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