Brand South Africa calls for a single national narrative

At a workshop held in Johannesburg this week, Brand South Africa urged stakeholders and provinces to align themselves with its brand so that the nation would have one story, well told.

 sithembile_ntombela_article Sithembile Ntombela of Brand South Africa said they are busy developing a Country Messaging Framework so that South Africans in all provinces could tell the same message when doing nation branding. (Image: Priya Pitamber)

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Melissa Javan

Provinces should align themselves with Brand South Africa‘s message when it came to nation branding, said Sithembile Ntombela, the acting chief marketing officer of the country’s international marketing agency.

Ntombela hosted a nation brand masterclass for several stakeholders during a workshop at the Gauteng Investment Centre in Sandton, Johannesburg, on 19 August. They were introduced to two of Brand South Africa’s programmes, namely the Nation Brand Master Class and the South African Competitiveness Forum.

The former seeks to train and equip marketers and communicators with the necessary skills to profile the South African nation brand. The latter is a platform on which the agency seeks to find ways to improve the country’s competitiveness.

Ntombela said she had visited various provinces’ stalls at the Tourism Indaba in May, and found that the brand information of several was full of jargon. She said this made her feel a disconnection with the nation brand. Brand South Africa is therefore developing a Country Messaging Framework to address this matter. The framework was still being developed and stakeholder input was needed.

Elements of nation branding included people, tourism, governance, investment, culture and heritage.

Provinces should not do their own thing, Ntombela said, especially when it came to tourism. “The dress-up of South Africa is important. It is how we carry ourselves as custodians. The storytelling aspect is the driver behind what you accomplish.

“We have to sell the basics right, know what our values [our esteem] as South Africans are.”

She said brand alignment was about messaging, adding that all messages represent where South Africa came from and what it represented. “But we tend to contradict ourselves.”

Brand South Africa’s messaging would be aligned with the National Development Plan.

The focus of Ntombela’s masterclass was that South Africans should have “one story, well told” when doing nation branding. In meeting this, she recommended that provinces should align with the Brand South Africa brand identity.

Nation branding was important because of a country’s identity, purpose and national pride. “We want to attract tourists and stimulate investments.”

The question that should be asked of South Africans, she stressed, was what they were doing in their province to stimulate this.