Mugabe killling Brand SA

2008-04-23 00:00

I wonder how many people from around the world think that Zimbabwe is part of South Africa? Probably millions. Which suggests that it’s probably time for South Africa to change its name to anything but South Africa because I cannot imagine the damage Mugabe is inflicting on Brand South Africa with his ranting, raving and diabolical decision-making.

A colleague of mine has just returned from a trip to the United States where a number of people spoke to him about Zimbabwe and assumed that it was part of South Africa. And it isn’t just the Americans who get confused about our part of the world.

Having a chat to a French businessman in Paris a while ago, an experience not unlike eating a hot mielie on a bicycle, I was agog at his difficulty in trying to differentiate between South Africa and South America.

He was, I found out a little later, not alone in his complete lack of geographical knowledge when it came to anything beyond the borders of la belle France.

Then, of course, there are the Germans who know precisely where South Africa is even to the point of longitude and latitude down to 10 decimal points. The trouble is, most of them don’t call our country South Africa or even Südafrika but, literally translated, refer to it as “The Cape”.

All over the world, in fact, different nations have different ideas of what “South Africa” implies. The most common perception is that it is a region. This suggests that those who are entrusted with enticing foreign visitors to our shores might just be missing the boat by going on about visiting “South Africa”.

I don’t know how many stories I’ve heard about foreign globetrotters saying: “Sure, I’ve been to South Africa — just loved Victoria Falls, the Okavango, climbed Kilimanjaro — thought Kariba was outstanding.”

Wouldn’t it be fascinating to see some research on what potential tourists, different people from different parts of the globe, understand by “South Africa”?

Frankly, I don’t have a problem with the name “South Africa”. I am proud of it and prepared to get into fights in bars to protect its integrity. But, it really worries me that millions of people the world over might think that Mad Bob and I actually live in the same country.

So, unless he can be replaced pretty smartly, I will become more inclined to favour changing our name. But to what?

As a marketer, I would have to opt for something easily recognisable by foreign tourists and investors — a name they already associate with our region. Like “Mandelaland”.

Interestingly, a few years ago one of the organisers of the Kruger National Park’s centenary told me that there is plenty of evidence showing that as a brand name “Kruger Park” means a lot more to foreigners than “South Africa”.

And given the way so many South African criminals and motorists behave like animals, that might be really appropriate for a new name.

The choice is clear — either the name Mugabe disappears from eyes of foreign beholders or the name South Africa does. Because he is killing our brand. — News24.

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