Marketing South Africa -Turning challenges into opportunities
Marketing South Africa to the world is one of the ultimate challenges and privileges that a marketer from this country could be faced with. How does one convey all that this incredible country encapsulates in one succinct, strategic offer?
In 2001 the South African Government initiated the Brand South Africa project and established the International Marketing Council to successfully deliver this initiative. The Brand South Africa project was based on a need for a single-minded, coordinated positioning and message to sell South Africa to the world. Tourism, Trade and Investment had been identified as the key drivers of GDP growth, and thus the message had to be relevant across all these audiences as well as to South Africans. Brand SA therefore had to be a framework within which tailored messages could then be developed for Tourism and Business.
In taking on this challenge, learnings and guidelines were drawn from other best practise case studies such as Australia and Ireland. Various key success factors were identified and the most appropriate process for South Africa was developed.
One of the key elements identified was the need for a joint initiative between public and private sectors. In the spirit of forging this partnership Unilever offered their branding expertise and marketing tools to be used in developing the Brand South Africa. The International Marketing Council worked closely with Unilever and Added Value, one of the country’s leading strategic marketing insight companies, to develop a motivating and differentiated positioning for Brand South Africa.
Having defined the country positioning it was time to craft a specific positioning expression for Tourism together with a full marketing and branding strategy to communicate this message.
Once again Unilever and Added Value worked closely with South African Tourism, and again, Unilever’s tools and expertise were made available, playing a fundamental role in arriving at the end result.
Turning challenges into opportunities
The mandate for Tourism in South Africa was clearly outlined in the Tourism Act, which was passed in Parliament. It states that tourism must contribute to Gross National Product, create jobs, alleviate poverty and improve redistribution and transformation of our economy and society. This will be achieved through the Tourism Growth Strategy, which set the requirements for sustained delivery on the six key strategic thrusts, namely to promote transformation and to grow foreign tourist arrivals and their spend, length of stay and regional distribution throughout the country and throughout the year.
In order to do this, various strategic choices were made, primarily the one to move away from deriving strategy from opinion and anecdote and steer towards answering two key questions with data, marketing understanding and deep analysis:
1. Behind which consumers do we organise ourselves to win?
2. How do we target these consumers?
In answering these questions SAT made another key choice to become a consumer-driven organisation, which positions itself to win against what the consumer wants. The focus was shifted to the consumer to understand his or her needs and drive the product and marketing against intelligence of their behaviour instead of putting products out and hoping that people will visit.
To achieve this shift SAT had to start with the consumer and determine what they wanted, so they invested in extensive research to understand consumer needs, current perceptions and existing obstacles or limitations for South Africa. Consumer’s current reality could then be used as a starting point rather than existing internal marketing strategies.
Out of this research a number of conclusions were reached; namely that people were primarily associating South Africa with economics (gold and diamond mining) and politics (‘the home of Mandela’), and that this did not offer a motivating tourism hook for all visitors. It was also established that South Africa had an incredibly small share of the global travel market and that roughly only 6 percent of those people interested in travelling to South Africa actually end up coming here. But rather than deter SAT, these figures served to highlight the opportunity and the growth potential that was achievable.
Having made the first strategic choice to adopt a consumer focus, the second core strategic choice was to focus the selection of specific target countries and target consumer groups; rather than adopting the ‘spray and pray’ approach. It was decided that South Africa was not for everyone and that we needed to hone our limited resources by targeting more lucrative groups. 13 key countries and regions were identified.
Having identified several consumer groups across the 13 target countries, two key consumer groups were chosen that were common to all markets, economically appealing and who’s mindsets were compatible with South Africa’s product offer. People with positive predispositions were preferable, as opposed to trying to convince people from scratch.
The third core strategic decision was to focus the message. One of the challenges that faced South Africa was that it had almost too much to talk about. Previous positionings such as “A world in one country” had reflected this and had resulted in South Africa not clearly owning any differentiated promise in consumers minds. Many fantastic initiatives already existed marketing South Africa but they were un-coordinated and fragmented, sending out too many different messages.
In light of the small tourism budget that South Africa has to work with in world terms, the need for a more coordinated message was further highlighted.
All of these decisions were taken in order to help Tourism South Africa realise it ultimate objective, namely that of developing a single minded, consolidated approach to branding South Africa as a unique tourism destination.
International Best Practice
So, how do you come up with an idea that is internationally relevant and motivating as well as locally credible and deliverable? In developing a positioning, SAT, Unilever and Added Value once again drew on the learnings from other countries.
1. It’s not just about a logo or payoff-line (or even a campaign) as Britain learnt after the failure of the their “Cool Britannia” campaign. It is about understanding what we as a country stand for and then aiming to deliver it consistently; one message across all provinces, cities and offers. This means that there needs to be buy-in from every stakeholder and that everyone must assume collective responsibility so that the brand is managed by every South African. It is what Added Value refers to as Identity Branding (rather than destination marketing), with everyone from South African Airways to the customs officials at the airports to the local waiter living the brand message.
2. There is a need to invest consistently and to have a long-term view. Define a vision and work towards it. Be resolute and allow for it to take time. Hong Kong and Australia have both pursued their visions resolutely, backing themselves financially and strategically, proving that success comes with time and sheer bloody-mindedness; it doesn’t happen overnight. Dubai realised they had no real point of difference and took the decision to position themselves as a shopping Mecca. They structured their entire offering around the concept of shopping and are now a world-renowned shopping destination.
3. Use unconventional media to promote tourism. It is essential to look at all the possible vehicles that can be used in communicating the chosen message, not just conventional mass media. The Sydney Olympics in 2000 played a major role in promoting Australian tourism and across the Tasman Sea, people are now flocking to New Zealand after watching the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Ireland even paid for the Tour de France to start in the Emerald Isle and gained four days of invaluable exposure.
4. Partnerships are also important and have been attributed to being the power behind successful destinations. Provincial and national partnerships and private and public teamwork is what’s needed. South Africa needs to take a holistic view of its offers, using some as hooks and others as texture. For example, packaging a province and city as one, using Cape Town as a hook and selling the West Coast as texture.
5. It’s not just about icons. Brazil, with their laundry list of natural icons, realised this and started marketing themselves as a ‘cultural showcase’ where it’s not just about what you go and see, rather it’s about the whole experience.
Ireland, with fewer recognisable icons, leveraged the unique attitude to life of the people and conveyed the message “Live a different life” signalling that Ireland was all about gaining ‘memories and not souvenirs’.
6. Negatives can be turned into positives. They shouldn’t be ignored. New Zealand addressed their far-off geographical location as being at “The edge of the world” and turned the isolation into a positive. Ireland eliminated their bad weather out of the tourism cycle by making it part of the attraction, resulting in them now being a year-round destination.
Coming up with a global strategy
Ultimately though, the primary learning was that it doesn’t matter what we as patriotic South Africans think the country has to offer; it’s about what international travellers are looking for in a tourist destination that counts.
The decision was taken that in order to avoid the mistake of creating a positioning that only echoes internal beliefs rather than external perceptions, the best strategic and marketing brains from around the world would be used to help add an international perspective.
So a “Global Dream Team” was recruited, which comprised of world famous creative directors, strategic leaders, marketing directors of global multinationals, presidents and CEO’s of companies and even journalists. It was an incredible group of people to work with, and what made it even more amazing was that they very willingly and generously gave up their very valuable (and very expensive) time to help a country they believe in. It was an amazing testament to South Africa and her lure.
The various “Dream Teams” were briefed on the South African current reality and key consumer insights for the target market and they set about providing a number of different positionings that they felt would best encapsulate South Africa. The output of this was more than a dozen viable positionings from some of the world’s leading authorities – definitely an enviable situation.
These positionings were then filtered down to three or four very strong contenders. These were assessed for their strategic and consumer relevance, credibility in delivery, level of differentiation and campaignability. A final global brand positioning was then chosen.
As part of the full Communication Strategy it was essential that not only the message was identified but also where and when it was communicated. Added Value went about understanding the Intercept opportunities through Communication Channel Insight while Nota Bene (SA Tourism’s media partner) analysed the media opportunities in each of the countries. Several innovative and high impact communication channel strategies were then agreed upon.
Making the strategy come to life
The various agencies around the world representing South African Tourism then flew into the country and spent three days being briefed on the positioning, the target market and the various insights that led to these choices. Turning this insight into inspiration through the use of praise singers, poets, dancers, audio-visuals, culinary experiences and cultural immersions allowed us to impart the strategy quickly, succinctly and most importantly, motivationally.
This extensive preparation and attention to detail meant that the agencies were able to revert back with the conceptual ATL and BTL work in an incredibly quick turn-around time. This work has since been refined and expanded in time for its global launch of the new brand strategy and (im)possible campaign that took place at the Tourism Indaba in Durban in May 2004.
Ensuring success through partnerships and role out
South African Tourism is continuing to work closely with the various independent provincial tourism authorities and other stakeholders to role out the insight, the global strategy and the specific expression for each province and product owner that will result in one coherent message making South Africa one of the most sought after destinations in the world. South Africa – It’s impossible!
Tourism South Africa