So stop trying to sell it. Let’s face it people, our love for our beloved land may well be blinding us from the stark reality that no one is really that interested in Africa, no matter how much we love the place or try to “sell” it. Who would want anything from a place whose name is synonymous with poverty, primitive people living in trees, death, disease, war, corruption, greed, genocide, uncivilized, dirty , inefficient and the list goes on and on? Let’s face it. Africa is unfashionable, so why on earth are we trying to “sell” it? Why would anyone want to “buy” it? And if you, dear reader, could be brutally honest with yourself, would YOU “buy” it?
I may have come on a little strong here, but sometimes that is what we need in order to beat some sense of reality into people who genuinely want to help, but may be blinded by their intoxicating infatuation with a place the world feels sorry for. Oh Africa, oh Africa, you are the epitome of the world’s pity. Africa, oh Africa, you have even made poverty fashionable, but only to very few of the world’s elite. So Geldof and Bono may buy what we are selling; poverty. Why do we limit our products to poverty and our market to a small collective of celebrities? They buy into Africa’s Poverty, because that makes them feel good about themselves; that they are helping a place less fortunate than where they are from. “Doing good for Africa” even helps with their own celeb appeal and approval ratings and adds a sense of meaning to their superficial existence. Oh my, they even get noticed and offered top jobs by organizations such as the United Nations. Good for them, and their efforts are appreciated, every little helps! What about Africa? “Not for profit” is a crippling business model. Poverty is not a good product and Aid is not the best form of investment. Even worse, investment for the sake of “helping” to lift a place out of economic crisis.
As an aside, have you realized that Bono may have built his own new brand, Edun, on the back of Africa’s Poverty? I wonder how many people may actually now believe that the man is from Africa or is perhaps a politician from Africa? When consumers think of Africa, do they think about Bono? Does that then lead a consumer to go see what Bono is selling? Ok I will stop with these questions. Let me get back to the subject at hand, and don’t worry Bono, we still adore you and Live 8. We appreciate your efforts, every little (and BIG) helps [but to what end]?
Ok, here it is. Let’s put our feelings aside and put our thinking caps on. So far, Africa has been sold to world famous singers, actors and models who get involved in activities such as Live 8 and Comic relief. From a marketing point of view, these people do not even put a dent on the potential market which Africa should be aiming to tap into. Celebrities make a difference and the everyday man or woman is overlooked. Hint: There are more of us nobodies than there are celebs, and collectively, us nobodies have more money than celebs put together. So why not target Jane Doe, John Smith, Hung Nguyen and Zoe Polonski? Everybody makes a difference. And what do our everyday nobodies want out of life? Most just want to feel good, to live their lives in peace and be happy, and to be able to buy nice things with their hard earned money that makes them feel great. Have a look at some of the world’s highly sought after brands. Louis Vuitton (like the web link?), Chanel, Gucci, Prada. People pay small fortunes just so that they can get a piece of that luxurious world. When it comes to mouth watering quality, and sensuous luxury, these brands are second to none. They are sexy, they are products made up to a high specification of excellence and people pay top dollar for them; they sell. And when you think about such brands, what is the first word that pops into your mind?
Money! You need lots of it to get those brands. Even poor Africa pursues these luxury brands; these goods make Africans feel like they have lots of money, so glamorous, living the good life as a part of the cash rich community and THAT is sexy. This sounds sad and a little bit shallow, but this is a reality. It is a cut throat world and if your product does not meet the spec, you are out of the game. So take a breather, think for a minute and you will see why Africa is not the brand you should be selling. This is purely a marketing issue, and don’t get me wrong, I am all for re-branding Africa, so to speak, we just need to do it with a twist. In this post, I have picked up on Africa’s potentially high fashion industry with the idea that we could be aiming to compete with the likes of Gucci, Louis Vuitton and even Edun. Next time I would like to touch on other products Africa has to offer. I have more to say on the subject of re-branding Africa and I hope it will be constructive, but for now, I would like to pose a question. I have shared my own view of Africa’s brand in that it is not a brand and would like to hear your own views.
The question I would like to leave you with today, dear reader is as follows:
Is Africa really a brand?