Government Spokesperson Dr Jeff Ramsay has criticised government departments and other state bodies for failing to act in unison in their branding efforts. Dr Ramsay was speaking at the Fifth University of Botswana BOT50 Lecture series, titled; The Creation of a National Brand, held in Gaborone on Thursday. For a difference, Ramsay who is a historian and communication expert put aside the defense armor synonymous with him and the numerous rebuttals he has over the time penned down to defend government against alleged wrong doing and rather leveled salvos and took jabs at the uncoordinated branding efforts by government departments which he says has since frustrated efforts of a creation of a national brand.
Although Ramsay acknowledged that logos and symbols are not necessarily what constitute a brand entirely, he lamented that symbolically the Botswana government is just not coordinated. This he says is shown by the various symbols and logos that various government ministries, departments and parastatals have adopted and want to be identified with, away from what the government use as its brand logo; the coat of arms and the national colours."We are a government that seems to be going in all directions,” he said. The various symbols according to Ramsay bring confusion and may lead one to wonder if there is one government or many. “But branding a country is of course more than just the display of official symbols. It is about the marketing the country to itself and the world, establishing a positive profile in the context of such social attributes such as social harmony and progress, heritage and culture (both traditional and modern), openness and tolerance, productivity and competitiveness,” he said.
Ramsay lashed out at the various government bodies for constantly trying to be seen as independent institutions while they are in fact part and parcel of the Botswana government and should in fact act as such. He used the decision taken by Australian government to show how adopting common branding could be of advantage to the government. The Australian government he says decided in June 2003 that common branding will apply to all Australian government departments and agencies and this branding policy continues to apply even now. “A common, easily recognizable brand ensures a clear and consistent communication across all government ministries, departments and agencies,” he said.
This move by the Australian government, according to Ramsay was meant to strengthen the identity and visibility of government, ensure that citizens recognises or know the government brand and reduce the complexity of government structure , creating a simple memorable identity for citizens. As a way forward for Botswana, and in an effort to create a national brand, Ramsay said it is wise that instead of countless brands, government ministries, departments and other agencies should adopt a clear, crisp and clutter free communication for branding. He however acknowledged that, there are some government institutions such as the national broadcaster the Botswana Television (BTV) who in order to be compete with its competitors nationally and internationally have to have their own branding.
Professor Rina Makgosa of the University of Botswana’s Marketing department also shared Dr Ramsay’sentiments. According to Professor Makgosa, although Botswana’s branding efforts as far as creating a national brand is concerned, the country needs to put efforts in building and managing the national brand so that it may yield benefits. This she says can be attained by improving the retention strategy and tracking perception regularly.