Position Kenya to boost foreign exchange earnings

My greatest inspiration in advertising came from a series of articles on ‘positioning’, one of marketings most powerful concepts, written by Al Ries and Jack Trout in the sixties. The duo stated that the concept was based on a need for people to simplify information and organize it within that supercomputer called the brain. New information has to be stored into a logical and comfortable place in the mind or risk being discarded altogether, and the significance of this for brands is as enormous as the gap between massive profits and a hemorrhaging P&L (profit & loss) account.

Every product category is a ladder in people’s minds and the top brands sit on the highest rungs; so Safaricom will occupy the top spot of the mobile services category, Java for cafés and Vera Sidika for socialites. Brands naturally want to gain the summit of their respective ladders because that represents dominant marketshare, a bigger chunk of the revenues and increased sponsor endowments or appearance fees.

Being the first, like Coca-Cola in the carbonated soft drinks category, is always a plus, as is being the best, the most popular or the biggest. If your brand has any of these qualities, which is not easily replicable by competitors, then it has to be at the core of your positioning strategy to squarely land you in the top seat.

Kenya is known for a lot of good things including producing the first black president of the United States, nurturing the worlds greatest long distance runners and having the most spectacular big five wildlife reserves. We are also known to to be a Twitter powerhouse that acts for the good (such as the successful Kenya for Kenyans famine response where hundreds of millions were raised in a couple of weeks), and that humbles the mighty (when the hash tag ‘someone tell CNN’ elicited a personal apology to the country by the CEO of the global media group).

However, it goes beyond unique features and also focuses on the relevance to the organizations objectives and the needs of its stakeholders, customers or supporters. Tourism is our second largest foreign exchange earner after agriculture and Kenya is the top safari destination of the world. The number of tourists have been growing sporadically over the years depending on the mood swings of the developed nations and the travel bans that occasionally thwart our ambitions. Last year we saw 730,000 international arrivals, up 16% from the previous year. In order to sustain double digit growth we need to create infrastructure for the new and younger type of tourist, because we currently cater mainly for retirees and octogenarians who want easy going safaris with frequent game sightings.

Perhaps this was what inspired Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Arts and Culture, Joe Okudo when he advised the counties to promote their monuments to attract international visitors and the spending power that they bring. Not only should we promote the monuments but we should also develop ecosystems that provide comfort and entertainment, encouraging people to stay longer and dig deeper into their wallets. Hotels, amusement parks, museums, restaurants and night clubs increase tourist preference and make it easier for people to enjoy lifestyle and nightlife activities that are attractive to younger tourists.

We should be inspired by the Lourve in Paris, which had 9.3 million visitors in 2014 alone! It is one of the top most visited palaces in the world and for good reason. Having been established as a museum in 1793 with 537 paintings it now has over 380,000 objects and displays which goes to show that creating monuments is not something that you discuss with your wife over breakfast and implement by lunchtime.

The county governments that heed the words of Mr. Okudo will develop long term plans, allocate adequate resources to see them through, and provide incentives that are attractive to investors in hospitality, transport and entertainment. Needless to say they also need to sell the vision to the residents and ensure that they have the support of all the stakeholders. The Louvre wasn’t built in a day.

One of our unique attributes that is hard to replicate is the cluster of long distance running talent that has dominated the global scene since 1968. Think about how Michael Jordan raised the fortunes of the City of Chicago in his heyday and to thank him they erected a monument in his honor, which has since attracted even more visitors. We should therefore consider creating infrastructure around the High Altitude Training Centre in Iten to allow, not only Kenyans, but the rest of the world to come and pay homage to the birthplace of some of the worlds greatest athletes. We could build a museum devoted to track and field sports and commission statues and other public works of art to honor those who put us on the world stage. In this we could then reap the benefits of our unique positioning by enhancing our tourism numbers and thus laughing all the way to the Central Bank.


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