Tag Archives: branding

Branding Kenya

Following up on our recent post, Rebranding Africa, I was most interested to read about a new government initiative, the Brand Kenya Board:

“Brand Kenya Board is tasked with the responsibility of identifying and refining the key attributes about Kenya, that contribute positively to the image and reputation of the Nation. A strong, believable and easily recognizable brand is all the difference between attracting positive attention or none at all. The board would like Kenya to be internationally recognized for its people, its natural resources and its position as a key player in the East African region’s socio-economic development. Athletics, culture, tourism, horticulture, development in ICT, telecommunication, education and our heritage can contribute generously towards improving the country’s attractiveness to holiday makers, nature conservationists, artists, investors and other nationals who would like to make Kenya their home.”

The Board’s mandate is “to ensure that an integrated national brand is created, harnessed and sustained in the long term”.   A large number of state institutions – from the Airports Authority to the Tea Board – are participating, and Kenya’s foreign missions (mostly embassies and consulates) have been tasked to collaborate. Kenya has a solid base (exports, tourism and Out of Africa!) on which to build, and the initiative seems like a strong move in the right direction. If countries with the potential (“assets”) and the capacity to engage in brand-building do so, there is hope that the negative stereotypes about “Africa” can be reversed, even if only on a regional basis.

Post written by Peter Bloch    , consultant to CAS-IP


“Rebranding Africa”

Ever since reading this African Business November 2009 cover story, its been on my mind.  Editor Anver Versi wrote:

Africa is still seen as a charity case waiting for salvation from outside the continent. This negative view persists despite the enormous progress the continent has made over the past decade both economically and in the political sphere. Why is this so? What can be done to change this perception to one closer to the reality of our continent?

The article addressed a range of issues; top of the list, perhaps, is how:

Africa’s dominant image has been created by the charity brands and the tendency of the foreign press to label the entire continent as warlike and corrupt.

Why “rebrand Africa”?  The most obvious answer it to encourage foreign direct investment (FDI) rather than aid.  While it is true that investors perceive parts of Africa as being too risky and lacking adequate governance, investors are flocking to Nigeria (which now has the 2nd largest film industry in the world) and to parts of East and Southern Africa.  And, of course, to Ethiopia and Sudan where Saudi Arabian, Indian and South Korean investors have purchased large tracts of farmland to grow food for export to their respective countries.

Africa consists of 53 countries; there is an immense variation in climate, culture, economy and governance.  To talk about “Africa” is misleading and results in generalizations which often entirely miss measurable progress in many countries and regions.

In the cover story of the June 2010 issue Versi harks back to his November call for the development of positive images to support the continent’s progress.  The focus of this report is on the long-awaited Africa Progress Report, led by Kofi Annan and launched in Johannesburg on May 25th.  Versi observes that what distinguishes this report from the many others is its clarity and its call for action in both leadership and the development of environments which are more business friendly.

The June issue talks about a number of success stories, including the “new” Lagos, Angola’s rise as an investment magnet and advanced high-speed rail in South Africa.  It also attacks a recent BBC documentary, Welcome to Lagos, for focusing almost exclusively on the slums.  Versi: 

“….(western media)…stick to a long-outdated template of Africa as a ‘dark continent’ full of misery, backwardness, hunger and despair.” 

It is as if a BBC documentary on Los Angeles focused on skid row and the new tent cities without revealing the vibrant beach and downtown business clusters or the mansions of Beverly Hills.

It would seem, then, that the first critical step in rebranding Africa is to ensure that western media tell things like they are and report on progress – which is substantial – rather than focusing on the tired negative stereotypes.  The success of any branding exercise, a critical IP tool in the market development toolbox, is often highly dependent on communications and how the product or service is portrayed in films, on TV and in the press. 

Individual countries, regions and the entire continent needs branded content and PR to build more positive images and start to counter the old stories.

Post written by Peter Bloch, consultant to CAS-IP

IP issues in the launch of MASA – The Malawi Seed Alliance

Peter Bloch, consultant to CAS-IP, is on the road in Africa working on several ICRISAT projects.  He sent the following update:

On behalf of CAS I’ve been working with ICRISAT over the last year on the Irish Aid funded Malawi Seed Industry Development project, and we decided to launch a stakeholder alliance to support the work – making certified legume seed more widely available.

While small holder farmers in Malawi now purchase maize seed every year, most legumes are still grown from farm-saved seed (grain).  Experience suggests that trust in the source is a major factor in the adoption of new varieties and new crops.  In order to support small new seed companies and new seed retailers (mostly agrodealers), we proposed the development of an umbrella brand which could be used by all stakeholders in the supply and distribution chains.  ICRISAT agreed, and this plan will be supported by a marketing campaign to let farmers know about the benefit of buying certified seed and where they can buy it.

The issue I am very focused on right now is a practical application of my response to Ethiopia’s G.I. legislation (https://casipblog.wordpress.com/2010/01/22/ethiopia’s-gi-bill/) as follows:

It would be highly desirable to allow agrodealers who have passed through one of ICRISAT’s Seed Production and Marketing programs to display the MASA logo with a caption such as “MASA certified seed dealer”.  But as this branding exercise is all about trust and reliability, how can we ensure that a dealer does not pass grain off as certified seed by using one of the MASA branded seed bags we plan to distribute?  A few days ago I went out to Kasungu and discussed this with a group of five agrodealers who had participated in the first training.

Agrodealers in Malawi

Standing, from left : Elias Mpumila, Noel J. Sambo, Mathews Malata. Seated, from left : Mary Kazombo, Goodwin Kasale.

When I asked them about the “trust” issue, they made these observations:

  • the success of our businesses depends on our relationships with the farming community;
  • if we sell our customers a product which does not perform we risk losing business;
  • it is very much in our interests to make sure customers are satisfied with the products and services they buy from us.

This makes a lot of sense but does not rule out the odd scofflaw who decides to profit by selling grain in a seed bag marked with the MASA logo as certified seed.  One of the Alliance partners – NASFAM – proposed that we trade mark the MASA logo and name;  we had planned to do this, but – as in the case of Ethiopia – we will not have any enforcement mechanisms, so the risk factor needs further consideration.

Several days after writing the above, I met with another group in Dwangwa who had formed an agrodealer association.  They had invited two tribal chiefs to join the discussion and it soon became evident that the association viewed entry into the seed market as a significant development for the local economy.  When I raised our concern about possible misuse of the MASA branded seed bags, the two chiefs responded by telling me that this would not happen – they would raise the issue at community meetings.  After further discussion it became evident that informal “self-policing” would take place in this area and that we could encourage similar activity in other regional markets.

As the benefits so far outweigh the risks, we are moving ahead to trade mark the MASA brand, develop a license agreement and signage for the agrodealers, and ensure that appropriate MASA-branded seed bags are ordered prior to the harvest.

Post written by Peter Bloch, consultant to CAS-IP

Ethiopia’s GI Bill

Ethiopia is in the process of ratifying a Geographical Indication Bill to protect indigenous products.  According to Addis Fortune

“Among these location-branded products are Tigray and Masha white honey, Harar senga (bulls fattened to be butchered), Dendi garlic, Limu coffee, Assosa mangos, Ankober sunflowers, and Debre Brehan brandy.” 

 (Thanks to Shlomo Bachrach (http://www.eastafricaforum.net/) for the link) 

The article describes an ongoing project intended to identify products which might benefit from GI protected branding.  This looks like a good idea and might result in increased incomes for producers.  But the value of IP protection – whether a trademark or a GI – will eventually be determined by the ability of the owner to enforce the grant of rights. 

Corporate trademark owners such as Volkswagen, Levi Strauss and Starbucks invest in protecting their global brands by employing investigators to ferret out black market products and other infringements of their IP.  One of the best examples of a GI that is backed up by heavyweight enforcement is owned by Consorzio del Prosciutto di Parma (association of Parma Ham® producers, CPP).  In a well-known 2003 case, CPP successfully sued ASDA: 

“UK supermarket Asda has lost a battle to sell authentic Parma ham under the Parma brand, when the meat is sliced and pre-packed in Britain.” http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/3043283.stm 

CPP has protected production methodology, origin, packaging AND how the ham is sliced! 

The CPP is a powerful producer group because its members sell large quantities of Parma Ham, generating sufficient revenues to protect the GI.  If indeed Ethiopian producers procure GIs for products such as Ankober sunflowers, will sales volume generate sufficient revenues to adequately police usage of the name?  Even well known global brands such as Kiwi (shoe polish) are not policed in Africa; although Kiwi polish is widely available, it is all counterfeit.  Presumably Sara Lee Corporation (which acquired a number of UK brands from Reckitt and Coleman) cannot justify the cost of enforcement in Africa. 

 The Ethiopian coffee trademarking program was well conceived and generated a high level of attention from the international press.  But there is still little evidence that this initiative resulted in any income gains for producers.  A number of NGOs provide IP training in developing countries, and it might be advisable for them to position IP as one tool of many in the market development toolbox.  Without sustainable marketing plans and enforcement programs, these IP-centric initiatives are unlikely to be successful. 

Post written by Peter Bloch, consultant to CAS-IP

Starbucks & ‘Charbucks’; protecting a brand

The coffee retailer Starbucks has always vigorously protected its brand name.  While this is a wise business decision, they sometimes go too far.  In this case, a small roaster in New Hampshire (Wolfe’s Borough Coffee) created a blend they called “Charbucks”, referencing the darkness of the blend.  Starbucks went after the small company and lost.

Now, according to Bloomberg, the case “was revived after a federal appeals court vacated part of a ruling favoring the smaller company”.  You can read the story at: http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601087&sid=a5LBaVSt8NkQ&pos=7.  Also visit the FindLaw site for case summary and links to the full decision.

Starbucks has taken legal action against dozens of alleged infringers of their IP.  Perhaps the most ridiculous was an attempt in 2006 to claim ownership of the term “double shot”.  Matthew Williams (“I live coffee”) commented on http://www.coffeegeek.com that:

“I don’t think Starbucks (or any other company) should be allowed to trademark the name of a particular product that is based on a common usage idiom (units of measure in this case). Imagine a company making hotdogs trademarking “footlong” or a snack maker trademarking “cupcake.””

Post written by Peter Bloch, consultant to CAS-IP

Oxfam and “The other green revolution”

Oxfam, the UK-based mega NGO, reports on its success in the Sahel where soil management, erosion control and tree planting have transformed the agricultural environment.

“African farmers have reclaimed farmland lost to drought in the Sahel, bringing hope for the future of this arid region and a model for fighting hunger worldwide”

On October 29th Oxfam hosted several panel discussions in Washington DC to enable the innovators to explain the history of the project and to engage with donors and other NGOs in a discussion about how to replicate this kind of success.

FRAME covered the event on Twitter and comments can be found at:

FRAME observed that:

“After the devastating droughts of the 1970’s and 1980’s, African farmers in the Sahel region mobilized to reclaim their land from the encroaching desert. Thirty years later, their work has secured 13 million acres of farmland, fed 3 million people, recharged village wells, and supplied useful and valuable tree products. Despite growing populations and the threats of climate change, food security has improved in the Sahel region.”

As more land is lost to drought, this work may have far-reaching implications for food security in sub Saharan Africa.
Oxfam is far more visible in the UK than it is in North America.  They have played a signicant role in making England a big market for Fair Trade products.  Even chains like Tesco and Waitrose carry FT products in at least five categories, and Sainsburys has a partnership with Twin Trading about (the co-founder of Divine Chocolate) to develop FT products.

OxfamAmerica played a major role in building consumer support for Ethiopia’s coffee trademark initiative (click here for our blog posts on this subject); if you search http://www.oxfamamerica.org for “Ethiopian coffee” you’ll find a dozen links that describe the history of their involvement.

Oxfam understands branding better, probably, than any other NGO.  Check out their range of activities – which includes global warming, emergency aid and poverty in the UK – at:

Post written by Peter Bloch, consultant to CAS-IP

The branding of commodities; adding value through differentiation

Sebastian Derwisch sent me a link to a very intelligent and provocative paper by Sumit Gupta on Branding Commodities.

The paper can be downloaded at this brandchannel.com page and then look for the paper by title*, “Branding of Commodities by Sumit Gupta”.

*(the link directly to the pdf breaks but via their web page I can view in Google docs and download it?  Not sure why that is… — Kay)

Small holder farmers around the world are engaged in producing commodities such as tea, coffee and cocoa.  The challenge for Northern marketers is to differentiate their products from those of the competition, and we have seen a wide range of strategies designed to add value.  The market for chocolate is particularly interesting because the premium sectors in both the US and Europe are gaining share from the low end products.  Thus Cadbury in the UK purchased Fair Trade brand Green and Black, and in the USA Hershey purchased premium brand Scharffenberger.

Gupta probes the challenges involved in branding commodities, and discusses product differentiation strategies in depth.

In his conclusion, he observes that:

“Branding of commodities offers additional value both to the consumers and the producers. Branding leads to commodity differentiation and hence enables consumer preference. This translates into greater choice and quality for the consumers. To the producers branding provides the opportunity to increase gross margins by increasing the value perception of their product.”

Post written by Peter Bloch, consultant to CAS-IP