Submitted by Kim Young as a comment to the BU blog Defending The Bajan Brand
You know David, I share the views of some of your commentators. First, I think I understand what you mean by “reputational management”. I suspect that you are alluding to the good reputation Barbados has on the international scene as a Country with Standard and Poors, WHO, PAHO, major UN bodies etc. We have good governance GENERALLY, a country with good infrastructure, a decent longevity rate, medical and other social, environmental and cultural infrastructures that support the people of the country and its guests.
On some points I have to disagree. I do not agree that Barbados is properly branded. I never did. Indeed, when I lived in New York I have never seen a Bajan product at all. If you are referring to Barbados as a tourist destination, it is “branded” to some extent in England in particular (where I now live) as a tourist destination particularly since we were once a colony BUT, and this is a big but, the budget or the mismanagement or whatever is responsible makes Barbados as a brand , in terms of its marketing, rather inferior. I have never seen a poster in the major train stations ( my station is perfect – Gloucester Road Tube) but I see Jamaica, Majorca, Egypt, St Lucia, Greece, Spain. Barbados products – I shop at Waitrose, just around the corner here in Kensington. I have seen every possible brand of product and never a Bajan except Mount Gay Rum at £17 a bottle and a badly presented box of sugar @ £2 per box. Had Plantation Sugar packaged it like they do in SuperCentre, Holetown, and sell it for Barbados $17, they could sell it in London for £5 at least. That silver boxes sugar is used in the Queen’s box at Ascot yet they put a crappy box in a supermarket. The Brits would gobble up the pewter tin of sugar to just show it off if nothing else. That is good branding.
I see every product by Grace, Trinidadian products galore and nothing from Barbados. Kensington is a wealthy area in London, I cannot speak for other areas but if the products are marketed in London, why always in West Indian communities. That is not branding, that is selling a known product to your own people who know the brand already. I see no Banks beer alongside international beers from as far away as Nigeria in Waitrose? Why no pepper sauce and I have to be Jamaican pepper sauce? Jamaican seasoning, Jamaican Ginger Beer.
I could go on. What are the fat salaries at the BTA for? We need proper marketing of Barbados to potential tourists (including myself , so to speak) who can go to Dubai and Egypt for less than we have to pay to come to Barbados.
Reputation-wise, I think Barbados may be suffering from the Peter Pan syndrome at this point. I agree that the island has had good stable government (no coups d’état) and is a good place to live. However within recent times we have seen a drop in our stature in the eyes of our Caribbean neighbours. This, especially regarding the question of immigration and other issues. We have to manage immigration without being seen as arrogant xenophobes.
I could go on and I will but I have got to buy groceries. Three quarters of them will be made in the UK, 1/4 in France. I can buy Walkerswood Jerk seasoning and Grace products at Sainsbury’s but cannot find a a Bajan product. By the way, can someone explain why the very same product in London is cheaper to buy here than it is to buy in Barbados (I mean imports), that is insane. We relieve tariffs on CARICOM goods, we do I pay more in Barbados and less in London.
Even shilling oil for when I get a stuffy nose (and I know it is not Bajan but is sold in Barbados and is part of the overall Bajan culture) I buy in Leicester Square in China Town which is a bra in itself. If I felt poorly, I would have to go all the way to Dalston to get something when I can buy paracetamol in Boots. Where are the Bajan products? Where is the marketing of this country as a top tourist destination? Where is Barbados…I am often asked.
What we have branded best is reputation distortion of each other and a decidedly nasty way of carrying the desire to destroy each other over to the Bakan communities in other Countries. Never have I heard such nasty gossip by two Bajan women as I had in Hammersmith in a pharmacy. Some things never change.
If in the vernacular of Barbadians, they pronounce Barbados as BAR-BAY-DUS, then its phonetic pronunciation should be thus. BAR-BAY-DOSS is the phonetic pronunciation of the rich, former British colonists. I thought it was Independence time. Anyhow….