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Saturday, March 27, 2010

Let me lay my cards on the table.

I am speaking both personally and also as someone who runs an ad agency. I also have a stake in a realty company so I am not making these comments lightly.

It is time, IMO, for Dominica to rebrand away from the Nature Isle identity.

Over the last umpteen years, the tag has been that Dominica is a step back in time, where nature is preserved for all and sundry to enjoy.

Part of that is true. In successful marketing, when the brand has integrity, ie, where the statements which it conveys have truth behind them, and the experience matches the promise, then you have a true winner.

The issue with the Nature Isle tag is that Dominicans, through no other fault than the pure economic reality of the island, do not live to this Nature philosophy in the main.

SOme people do, but here is the truth. We have a heavy dependence on fossil fuels in our way of life. Our stance on whaling is positioned by the lobbying of the entities in the IWC, and not by a pure nature policy. The amount of junk, especially abandoned metal on the island is a tragedy. On top of that you have no recycling policies to govern our waste, and the use of non recycleable plastic bags and containers for the takeaway food business is almost endemic.

The list is as long as your arm, and you quickly get the sense of the country operating contrary to what it is branded as. The actual nature aspect is inherent in the makeup of the country, ie volcanic, green, raw in terrain, and not by any concerted strategy. As mentioned there are exceptions and Dominicans are hardy people who do love their country, but the economic reality is that we are compromised by the need for currency.

My recommendtation is that we rebrand Dominica as the island of adventure. This fits the rationale for gaining real brand equity because it is 100% true. You may eat in a styrophene container and pass a few spots with random rubbish, but the experience of moving around Dominica and going to all the sights etc is one big adventure.

Every spot has a tricky journey or a story. Every person has some story or angle on things that are happening locally. Our hiking, river and sea bathing, spas, even places where you go to eat food, all give off the feel of an ongoing adventure, where the rules are not the same as everywhere else.

This will fit Dominica perfectly, in a region full of the same tired sun sea and sand formula and with a current brand which doesnt really reflect who we are.

I hope people put their personalities aside and think about it.


TropicallyTied said...

I think the Nature Island brand is still a good one and, although it is often used as an excuse, I don't think that the "pure economic reality of the island" forces us to do things contrary to that image; laziness, "we've always done it that way", lack of imagination, lack of education, corruption? etc contribute too.
Personally I think the brand helps us to aspire to do better, Dominica can seriously be a showcase of sustainability to the rest of the world if we get serious about it.
Also I don't think we have to brand ourselves as just one thing or another. I got the impression that we have always also marketed ourselves as "Isle of Adventure" as in Discover Dominica's "Defy the everyday", Lennox Honnychurch "Dominica: Isle of Adventure" and recent promotion video "Heed the Call of Adventure" For true, living here "is one big adventure".

KG said...

Thanks for the feedback.

firstly I dont think realistically Dominicans can improve their attitude to the 'Nature' brand. For years people are engaging in a pipedream about what the real Dominican thinks.

Lets face it. The real Dominica wanted an oil refinery (if a referendum was held, it would have blown that lets preserve myth away). The real Dominica continues to import used Japanese cars because policy and price forces them to, with no visible outlet to recycle or dump the eventual waste. The real Dominica continued to support the Japanese right to whale until the anti whaling lobby really forced it into a corner.

Focussing on what Dominica can be is a huge mistake in my opinion. We have to focus on what Dominica is. That is true marketing. Matching the expectation of a product with the sell.

I have mulled this over alot.

We do need a brand that matches our country. Aspirational branding cant work because thats what we have engaged in for the last twenty years. Trying to live up to a goal that we dont essentially believe in.

Defy the Everyday. What does that mean ? Most Dominicans dont have a clue what that is.

The government and the people of Dominica are not going to change. Not now, and not for a long long time.

Dominica is an adventure. Trying to find a spot to bathe, going to get something to eat, hiking, diving, going out for a drink. Driving round the island Everything is an adventure. And kost importantly Dominicans cant do anything to f that up even if we tried.

As for the pure economic reality. As long as you have a country which has over 25% unemployment, the desire to preserve Nature becomes less of a priority than just the basic desire to eat.

If we ignore this, Dominica will one day be seriously devalued when someone really examines our Nature credentials and scores us on our application rather than our aspiration.

TropicallyTied said...

KG but Dominica IS a land of Nature, I don't think that's "focussing on what Dominica can be". There's no getting away from it regardless of how much we trash the island, nature pervades every aspect of life here and is precisely the reason Dominica is also land of adventure. I totally agree we need a serious reality check when we say things like Dominica is the "Nature Island of the world" and we need to get real about what we label as eco or decide to greenwash.
But regardless of how our marketing departments decide to brand us, "improving our attidude" is not important just so we can be true to our brand, it's vital else we risk loosing all the things the "real Dominican" takes for granted.
Re "preserve Nature becomes less of a priority than just the basic desire to eat", surely the two go hand in hand. If we don't preserve our lands and food security then yes there will be literally nothing to eat.
We also need to get real about the type and quality of jobs that oil refineries and big hotel chains will bring and get real that Dominicans would actually want to do that kind of work. Unemployment may be high but that doesn't mean there aren't jobs it just means people don't want to do them for whatever reason.
Maybe we should educate our youth to create their own employment instead of educating them for the type of work that they won't find here. With the internet it's a global job market. You would make a good role model ;-)
And as I said, I agree Dominica is an adventure so see no problem as branding it as such and I thought we already did.

KG said...

The tag, Nature Island of the World is not just about the terrain. Its about how we treat it.

Thats my core point. Nature may pervade but the crapaud is nearly extinct, bananas and farming are dying, foreigners are who protected the turtle from extinction and our dietary habits have changed to the point where obesity is now a real problem.

What you are saying is very very sensible but unfortunately there is a losing battle being fought. For years a certain group of people have fought this battle that you are talking about whilst the country erodes further and further.

We can seek to redress the situation whilst selling Dominica as it is and not how it should be. And the Nature part of the equation has deterioriated immensely. Even whilst people have come and gone saying we should keep things as they are and educate people on what they should preserve.

Most rivers in Dominica are a pale shadow of what they used to be.

Look at Planning. They cant stop quarrying even when its hugely detrimental because the players involved are so influential to the immediate infrastructure of the island, that they have to turn a blind eye.

The adventure is not just inherent in Dominica, we live our lives as one big adventure.

I agree with most of your other points, but as our wise friend Obama said...we have to recognise the urgency of the now.

TropicallyTied said...

Do you mean give up on trying to preserve our rivers, forests, turtles, whales, agriculture, dive sites, historic architecture etc or do you mean just give up the current "nature isle" brand and give up the pretence that we are living up to that brand?

And how will ramping up the adventure "brand" help?
If the appeal to our conscience and intelligence that we are trashing the very things that make us different to "the same tired sun sea and sand formula" hasn't worked then how will rebranding help to "redress the situation" and how would rebranding help fight obesity?

Would rebranding bring in more income and investment?
And if it did would that be used for preservation and education?

If we don't have the rivers for river tubing, the waterfalls for rapelling, the forests for hiking, and nothing to see when scuba diving then what will be left for the adventure except driving the unfinished roads in search of it?

I'm all for us to get real about the things that happen under the guise of the Nature Island brand but am intrigued why you think rebranding will help change attitudes.
Tell me more.

Also re the "no recycling policies". Although we do not have recycling centres or policies etc I have seen far more recycling go on in Dominica as just part of life than I have in USA/UK. Because certain items are not easy to get hold of and funds are tight I find many Dominicans do not have a "throw away" attitude and things are fixed instead of thrown away and replaced. Also old bottles, containers, plastic bags etc are very often reused many many times over.

KG said...

Rebranding doesnt mean you stop working on the things that are deficient. It means that you talk closer to what you are selling.

Look, we used to say we have 365 rivers. We try not to these days for a good reason. We only have about 20 rivers AT BEST. If you can call many of them rivers. Most are just brooks and streams.

Now if you market based on having rivers and someone comes here for river life, they will be severely dissapointed. If you market based on the adventure to be had in Dominica and river tubing is part of it, THEN, that is authentic, because I can tell you that the same person will notice that there is a quarry right on the damn river and yet will feel less cheated about what they are sold.

You are telling me, that we should continue with the Nature Island tag, marketing rivers, and educate people and work on making our rivers better.

Thats just not realistic. Right now we are simply preserving rivers. We cant make new rivers emerge or stop the attrition per se (just the rate), especially in the absence of policy.

Why rebrand ? One because by concentrating on things we deliver accurate to the marketing, we can deliver great results everytime.

People will be less and less willing to pay extra for a 'eco' holiday that has clear contradictions, when there is a clear path adventure holiday to be had.

Activity tourists do more and spend more.

The other thing is that Dominica cannot market that Nature isle theme to the rest of the Caribbean properly. The average middle class person in the rest of the Caribbean can feel more in step with having an adventure in Dominica.

Guyana and Belize have as much and more nature than Dominica can dream of. Yet they are not as accessible, they are more dangerous, and the experience can be packaged much easier into the adventure theme.

We still differentiate, this time authentically

TropicallyTied said...

I agree it is time to get real about how we market Dominica but I still feel we already market ourselves as an adventure tourism destination and also think we CAN market authentically as a "Nature Isle" because all the adventure things we mention rely on nature including the rivers.
Yes I agree some of the old slogans have to go like "365 rivers", "Nature Island of the world", the green washing and sticking "eco" in front of everything but compared to many of the other Caribbean islands I don't agree that if "someone comes here for river life, they will be severely dissapointed", we still have really beautiful rivers.

Also Adventure tourism branding wouldn't include our Kalinago community and some of our other community tourism initiatives.

KG how come "Dominica cannot market that Nature isle theme to the rest of the Caribbean properly."? - I got the impression places like Martinique and Gaudeloupe were a good customer base.

And if we rebrand to JUST "Island of Adventure" (which still relies on us being island of nature), what level of "Adventure" are we talking about? Are we ready to start letting tourists REALLY have an "adventure" here?
Are we ready to maintain that careful balance between a) trying to make nature squeaky safe incase anyone hurts themselves and sues, homogenising & santising the "adventure" part out of the experience and b) taking risks and cutting corners on safety in order to make the package finacially viable.
"Real" adventure tourism comes with it's own set of issues for authenticity and the environment too.

We also still need to keep it real about this new brand of tourist. "Activity tourists do more and spend more." We said that about eco tourists but regardless what brand of tourist we attract, they still have to know where we are, get here, get their luggage and be offered something they want to spend all this money on.

I also think we have to be realistic about how far tourism can go in curing our financial woes in light of the increasing pressures being put on tourists travelling to the Caribbean. e.g. the APD tax (
Let's think of something REALLY different for Dominica, something way way out of the box...I'm thinking.... ;-)