Brand South Africa goes global

27 September 2004

Marketing South Africa has gone big abroad. The International Marketing Council of SA (IMC) has placed full-page advertisements in leading global business magazines such as Fortune and The Economist.

The adverts, part of a campaign by the IMC to raise awareness of the country abroad, began earlier this month when 10 South African-branded taxis took to the streets of London.

The IMC is a public-private partnership tasked by the government marketing South Africa through the creation and promotion of a unified brand image for the country.

The IMC’s new print adverts target potential investors, citing the performance of the SA economy and the rising number of multinational firms setting up base in SA.


  • “If this page was developing as fast as our economy, it would be a billboard”
    View the advert (enlarged) 
  • “350 days of sunshine could be just what your business needs”
    View the advert (enlarged) 
  • South Africa, please, taxi driver
    More on the IMC’s taxi campaignBranding mission to US
    The IMC’s latest overseas campaign follows an unprecedented South African investor mission to the US, organised by the IMC and the US Commercial Service in June.

    IMC chairperson Wendy Luhabe led the South African delegation of 40 high-level business and government leaders, which included African Rainbow Minerals deputy chairman Rick Mennell and New Africa Investments Limited CEO Saki Macozoma, among others.

    Delegates met about 2 000 counterparts during meetings that included investor conferences in Chicago, Atlanta and New York. They also met with US talk show host Oprah Winfrey and editors from Forbes magazine, among others.

    IMC CEO Yvonne Johnston said that visits of this scale to market South Africa had not been undertaken before.

    Johnston said the idea for the visit was to have a band of “brand ambassadors” that spoke with one voice on business issues. “The scale made it powerful,” she said, adding that similar ventures to other of South Africa’s top trading partner countries could be undertaken.

    Representatives in US, UK
    The IMC has posted representatives to the US and UK, and is also recruiting a representative for Japan, to identify opportunities to improve the climate in those countries for trade, tourism and investment in South Africa.

    Part of this involves changing perceptions about SA abroad. To do this, the IMC relies on South African businesses operating overseas to help.

    John Battersby, UK country manager for the IMC, has been focusing on “the big six in London – Anglo American, De Beers, Dimension Data, Investec, Old Mutual and SABMiller.

    “I’m talking to these six companies through their CEOs to try to explore and encourage opportunities for joint marketing of SA”, Battersby told Business Day, “so instead of companies going off and doing solo marketing of their own brands, we can get two or three CEOs on one platform, talking to an audience about South African issues like black economic empowerment.”

    Battersby told Business Day that a conference in London in March, hosted by Investec and Old Mutual, broke new ground in reassuring investors about the investment climate in South Africa.

    He says that UK investors are just as concerned about the countries where a company operates as they are about the company itself. Economic and currency stability, rule of law, labour and empowerment are issues they want to know more about.

    SA needs to market itself more: IIC
    President Thabo Mbeki’s International Investment Council, at its last meeting in Cape Town in June, warned that SA should step up efforts to market the country if it wanted to compete with other economies for foreign investment.

    Among the foreign council members attending the meeting were Martin Kolhaussen of Commerzbank, Jurgen Schremp of DaimlerChrysler, Frank Savage of Savage Holdings, Tan Sri Marican of Petronas, Niall Fitzgerald of Unilever, and Tony O’Reilly of Independent News Group.

    Mbeki, briefing the media after the meeting, said there was an imbalance between the perceptions and the reality of South Africa among some abroad.

    Trade and Industry Minister Mandisi Mpahlwa said that council members had, during the meeting, expressed the view that the conditions for a higher growth rate had been established in South Africa – but that this would require raising the rate of investment, both domestic and foreign.

    Bearing in mind that SA was competing with other economies for foreign direct investment, the council felt it was imperative that South Africa should effectively market its comparative advantages – communicating consistently about the country’s economic progress and success stories – while addressing those areas where competing countries did better than itself. reporter