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"You had me at Ahoy!"

15 March 2013, 10:00

I think Somali pirates are missing a trick.

Without so much as an “Arrr” or a parroted shoulder in sight this new breed of sea robber is cavorting up and down the East coast of Africa, doing a horrible injustice to the romance and mystique of Cap’ns Blackbeard, Hook and Sparrow.

With Hollywood willing to pump millions more into the world’s most successful pirate franchise, and with Johnny Depp slurring his way into the heart of entertainment history, those torn-jean and t-shirt clad impostors around the Horn of Africa would do well to remember the power of branding and make every effort to piggy back on the fame of legends (in life and fiction) who used to sail the seven seas.

Be honest now.

Wouldn't you feel much better being captured by an eye-patch-wearing, wooden-leg-trotting, swashbuckling-sword-wielding, rum-drinking, wench-wooing, gold-tooth-sporting, land-lubber-hating, shiver-me-timbers-shouting, avast!-yelling, Davy-Jones’-Locker-fearing work of authenticity – as opposed to some failed fisherman carrying an RPG, AK47 and the grin of a madman?

At most you are fortunate to get a few with gold teeth and a love for rum and women but, overall, you’d have to admit that when it comes to pirating with panache and plundering with pizzazz, our friends from the sunrise coast have a lot to learn.

If we believe the definition of a brand to be “an identifiable entity that makes specific promises of value” then it is safe to say that “Sea Robbers Somalia (SRS)” is a brand in crisis. Think of it in the same breath as SAB’s “Lion Lager”.

Once they veered from the proven recipe and presented the market with a wholly unsatisfying blue and silver “modern spin” on the original, market goodwill and (critically) sales sank to the bottom of the brand loyalty ocean faster than you can say, “Yo-ho-Yo-ho a pirate’s life for me!”

Alas me hearties, I digress.

Apparently the modern pirate M.O. is to attack with speedboats in groups of eight to ten (or so), with cargo ships and the occasional oil tanker their target, a far cry from Spanish and British vessels carrying royal reward.

According to the BBC, these “pirates” took a total of 1,181 hostages in 2010 and were paid several million dollars in ransom.

Business continues to be good to this day – but it can be so much better if just a little thought and effort went into the overall production of your every-day raid.

Give us some spine-tingling “Yarrs!”

Swing onto boat decks with ropes, brandishing swords that have been to distant lands, sporting scars from adventures untold. Let Hans Zimmer or Klaus Badelt compose a thrilling music score, let Michael Kors design your hats and pants, your boots and flags.

Demand ransoms paid in gold and silver, and return your hostages with stories to tell, suffering from nothing but rum withdrawal whilst constantly yelling obscenities at cursed landlubbers who have lost the will to be free.

Give us that, all ye pirates of Africa . . . and we’ll sail to your waters in droves.

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