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What is the role of the judges (judiciary) in our law?

Makers, translators, interpreters or misinterpreters of the law? Part 1

Row has erupted in the country (Botswana) when, on the 26th of September 2015, His Excellency, the President Ian Khama, suspended the quartet of Judges on allegations of having concurrently occupied government houses and undeservedly received accommodation allowances for a considerable period of time.

Suggestions from some quarters are that there is need to make arrangements to pay back the money as the matter is purely administrative and a mere blunder on the part of the staff at the department of Administration Of Justice. In that sense, to borrow Shakespeare‘s words, the judges are more sinned against than sinning’ (‘King Lear’ Act 5 scene 2 lines 57 – 60).

Begging to differ, other people are of the opinion that this anomaly is nothing but a tip of the proverbial iceberg of what is happening behind the scenes within the judiciary and therefore contend that nothing short of a deterrent measure will right this wrong.

But what does the constitution say about that development?

Section 97 of the Botswana Constitution provides for grounds and procedures to be followed religiously for the removal of judges of the High Court

‘A judge of the High Court may (and not shall) be removed from office only for inability to perform the functions of his or her office (whether arising from infirmity of the body or mind or any other cause or for misbehavior, and shall not be so removed except in accordance with the provisions of this section’ (subsection 2) and subsection 3 reads;

‘If the President considers that the question of removing a judge of the High Court under this section ought to be investigated then

(a) He or she shall appoint a tribunal which shall consist of a Chairman and not less than two other members, who hold or have held high judicial office

(b)the tribunal shall enquire into the matter and report on the facts thereof to the President and advise the President whether the judge ought to be removed from office under this section for inability as aforesaid or for misbehavior’

Subsection 4 provides that if the tribunal advises the President to remove the judge concerned he (the President) shall dismiss that judge.

As can be seen, the wording of the constitution is quite clear but what differs is the interpretation and that is the center of the debate. For example, what is misbehavior? And how can it be quantified? Unfortunately, the constitution does not have the interpretation section to define the word and it will be up to the Judges, and not President, to decide the meaning, using their own viewstandards given the value-laden or normative nature of the concept. But why this panic given that section 10 of our constitution presumes everyone innocent till proven guilty?.

This writer‘s interest lies not in the debate on whether or not His Excellency has acted ultra-vires the Constitution but on: who really makes the law, the politician or judge? Are judges translators, interpreters or mis-interpreters of the law?  Before addressing these emotive questions we need to refresh our minds by getting into the bible and then link our discoveries to the topic in question.

When Jesus Christ was rejected at Nazareth,’ he could not do mighty  works—because of people ‘s unbelief” This is Mark ,the evangelist, ‘s version (Mark 6:5).

After having noted that this presentation was not only unintelligible and absurd  but was bound  to leave a sour taste in the mouths of the early Christian community, Matthew sugar-coated it to read ‘— He could not do many mighty works—‘(Matthew 13:58).

It is in this context that Matthew is regarded a modified version of Mark whose language was rough and ready and riddled with grammatical slips and peculiar construction of various description .In the process, he  ended up  confusing  both the reader and himself  due to his failure to put himself across effectively.

As can be seen, Matthew ended up totally changing the complexion of Mark’s story through the insertion of the word ‘many’. Judges have similar powers, as we shall realise. In a related development ,Mark portrays James and John ,the sons of Zebedee ,as very ambitious people who went to Jesus demanding for the lion ‘s share in the kingdom of God (Mark 10:35-45)but Matthew exonerates them by saying it was their mother who did so(Matthew 20:20-28).

The two separate occasions by Mark reflect the weak or dark side of  both our Lord, Jesus Christ Himself, and two of his inner circle disciples, the former succumbing to anger while the latter are over-ambitious. No doubt, at the back of his mind, Mark did not intend to bring about this result but due to lack of education and stunted intellectual and linguistic prowess, he unwittingly produced that effect.

When interpreting statutes judges often encounter problems of this sort and are forced to invoke the above Matthew- an approach. Students of statutory interpretation, I am sure, would recall terms ‘laps us linguae’ or ‘scrivener‘s error’ meaning ‘slip of the tongue’. 

What makes the situation worse is that the meanings of words are neither fixed nor final but vary according to the context in terms of time, culture etc. Just like the concepts deviance and beauty, which lie in the eyes of the beholder, the meaning of a word is influenceddetermined by what the reader would want it to mean.

I am sure that those into socio-linguistics would support my contention that words do not have meanings but we give meanings to words and words are just but symbols which represent phenomena. Also, words are a social convention which we use to express our thoughts. For example, a table could be something else but we call it such for convenience‘s sake.

This equally applies for what we write. As humans continue indulging in a social intercourse some words become obsolete while new ones come into picture and this is also influenced by the ever-changing socio-political, economic and environmental situation obtaining at any given time.

Do you still remember, for instance, the archaic Shakespearean or Chaucer‘s English? Also, do you remember how those with the poetic license can easily  combine and recombine ,in a very unique way, ordinary words, into new expressions  ,in as much the same way as man can combine and recombine objects into new devices?

The above scenario compares very well with the co-relationship between the legislators and the judges  and, how through statutory interpretation, judges totally stray from what Parliament meant or wrote ,by creating sense into the legislature’s ‘nonsense’, and this leaves us doubting who between the two arms of government, the legislature or the judiciary, is the supreme law making body. This task naturally leads us to the doctrine of separation of powers which we briefly delve into.

The term Separation of powers, which was coined by Montesquieu, the French philosopher, is the formal division of the 3 arms of government in the following manner: structure, function and personnel. The issue of checks and balances is also an integral aspect of this concept. With regards to structure, we mean the 3 arms exist as distinct entities which cumulatively make up one (government).

As an illustration, Parliament (legislature) is distinct from the Executive and the Judiciary. In terms of personnel, a member of one arm of government should not double cross it with the other arms as in being a Member of Parliament, a judge and a member of the Executive at the same time.

Their functions (duties) are markedly different also: Parliament makes the law, which we call a statute or Act of Parliament such as the Employment Act, the Public Service Act or the Penal Code; the Judiciary interprets that law so that it becomes crystal clear while the Executive applies and enforces the law.

This concept ensures that there is specialization and specialization brings about operational efficiency and effectiveness. Again, following the adage power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely, we are trying to guard against a situation where power is concentrated in one bodyarm as it will be subject to abuse.

By checks and balances we mean one arm should act as a monitoring mechanism to check the abuse of power by the other arm. In political science we use the concept trias politicas doctrine for separation of powers and its antonym is fusion of powers.

The concept ‘fusion of powers’ is designed in such a way that the 3 arms do everything jointly as was the case with monarchs during primitive times: the king was lawmaker (legislature), interpreter (judiciary)and enforcer(executive).This was the also the case with  the biblical Moses(Deuteronomy 16:18,numbers 18:13).We detailed this concept because it will be referred to ,more often than not , in the subsequent  presentations.

Without getting into the heart of legalese, the law comes into being through the initiative of the politicians in both the legislature and Executive. Meaning  through the hands –on- approach ,the Executive arm  eg the Ministry of Education initiates a Bill (proposed law)governing that department and it is taken to the August House for debating.

If it succeeds the Bill becomes law and this becomes so after the Presidential Assent and subsequent publication in the Government Gazette. Of course, the Attorney General, who is the principal legal adviser to the Legislature, also plays a role since in most jurisdictions he is the ex-officio Member of Parliament. We also have the Parliamentary legal committee which, in my view, must consist of people with legal minds so that some loopholes in the Bill are detected early and rectified before it graduates into law.

As a monitoring mechanism again, the President, who is the embodiment of the constitution would not assent to a   Bill that  is ultra-vires the constitution. On that basis, one can safely conclude that it is Parliament, and not the judiciary, that makes the law.

When members of Parliament make the law it is not in their individual capacity but on behalf of the electorate and ,as such ,that law must prevail ,even if unreasonable? This is what democracy is all about! But is it really legislators who make the law?

When a case has found its way into court, the judges (courts) have the duty to apply that law in concrete situations and this is achieved through the interpretation of statutes.

In this exercise the court will be trying to deduce the meaning of a statute as worded in the text itself(textualism ); in principle ,maintain the message of that statute without attaching their own views (originalism);bring to light the intention of Parliament (intentionalism) plus unveil and advance  the purpose the statute serves(purposivism).

These are the main theories of statutory interpretation: (textualism, intentionalism, originalism and purposivism).Whichever way one looks at it ,when members of Parliament makes a law they have an intention in mind.

The problems which arise are, inter alia,:  has this intention achieved a certain purpose or objective as spelt out in the long title ,for example? Does the wording of the text really capture the intention of the legislators and does the interpretation accorded to the statute by the judges reflect originality when judged against that text?

Above all, which of these theories is most important? Most Judges hold the view that the purpose of the statute is more primary when compared with everything else and that both the text and legislators’ intention are secondary.

According to that reasoning the purpose is the end in itself while the text and intention are means to that end. A text is an expression of Parliament‘s intention and the intention is to bring about a purpose. If that intention does not yield desired results, judges must improve on it!. It makes sense!

Yes if the text is comprehensive (ble) and lays bare the meaning, that will be a good starting point and it is advantageous because information will be in its virgin state. The next stage is whether or not it brings to light the intention of parliament .If not then the text needs modification.

Suppose it does bring the intention but does not advance its (text) purpose? Again there will be a need to do something onabout the text. What will be the importance of having a statute that does not serve a purpose? That being the case, courts will be acting as a catalyst to achieve parliament‘s purpose.

The word intention, per se, means knowledge plus, and not or, the will. The ‘knowledge’ is the knowledge of the act itself while ‘will’ refers to the desire ,wish  or want .If either of these elements is missing then there is no intention to talk about.

It is a fact that ,unlike judges ,most legislators are misinformed about on certain legal issues(knowledge) ,though they might have the zeal to bring about a particular result  (will).In this case the ‘will’  is there but ,alas,  minus the knowledge.

The learned judges ,who are experts at that field ,therefore  become handy in helping the legislators bring about their purpose if ,for instance ,they suspect that the politicians are were not aware that what they wanted to bring about wasis against other provisions  or aspects of our law.     

What is interpretation, as opposed to translation? To interpret is to form an opinion from given facts or deduce the implication of what someone says. Translation, on the other hand, refers to merely reducing or converting one language into another eg from Setswana to English.

For example, preachers in Church are involved in interpretation of the ‘word ‘and people usually get locked up in disputes over an interpretation of the  same  words in the bible.(At times ,however, translation is involved if the bible has been  written in a foreign language).

In the same vein, judges are always arguing over the interpretation ,and  not translation, of a statutory provision, as we saw above. On that basis ,it is actually a misnomer ,if not a mischievous misrepresentation of the facts, to refer the court personnel in charge of converting one language into another to as court interpreters but, instead, translators.

If they were interpreters what would be the duty of the court? It is for the same reason that even witnesses are not allowed to interpret but simply state the facts as they are without forming an opinion! Judges give meanings to written words presented to them by Parliament through an Act.

Unfortunately ,as alluded to elsewhere, the authors of that document are mostly laypersons who do not have the slightest  idea about the characteristics of  a good law and are not even available in court  to clarify what they meant .In the light of a lapse of time all the authors of that statute might be dead ,just like Shakespeare must be turning  in his grave  and  mourning as he hears in his spiritual ear mis-readers or mis-interpreters of his writings. Tragic as it sounds, he cannot do anything to change it.

Tough luck again, because in any society that lays claim to the espousal of democracy, everyone, and judges included, is entitled to his own opinion, whether bad or good. As noted above, judges are not translators but interpreters of the law.

We must have noted that in the process of interpreting statutes, judges employ various tools or aids, both intrinsic and extrinsic. Intrinsic ones are those within the statute itself such as the long and short titles, headings and the preamble.

Those outside the text are the extrinsic aids and they include the historical background surrounding that statute eg if it was crafted against the background of Apartheid.

This information could be drawn from textbooks and other pieces of literature. Dictionaries could also be referred to and even the Hansard. Judges also make use of cannons, maximums, and presumptions and, of course, the rules of interpretation which are the Literal, Golden and Mischief rules.

In a word, this article defined the concepts separation of powers, translation and interpretation of statutes and concluded that it is, on the face of it, Parliament which is the supreme law making body.

We also realized that it is only the court (judges) which has the powers to interpret, and not translate, the law since we have court personnel that is involved in the translation. We managed to browse through possible reasons why the interpreter (judge) might give words a different meaning from what a writer (Parliament) intended.

Next week we shall get into the rules of interpretation and see how judges depart from what Parliament intended and, in the process, make their own laws, laws never envisaged by the legislature, or misinterpret the law either deliberately or by accident. Deliberately — as a necessary evil in order to either help bring to light Parliament‘s intention or help achieve the Act‘s purpose. In the oncoming epistle, again, we shall also try to map the best way forward.

See part 2 of this discussion next week.

KUNGWENGWE –MAN-IA RETURNS
(KUNGWENGWE CHARLES STAR)
Email: maniareturns@gmail.com ckungws@gmail.com

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Opinions

IEC Disrespects Batswana: A Critical Analysis

10th November 2023

The Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) has recently faced significant criticism for its handling of the voter registration exercise. In this prose I aim to shed light on the various instances where the IEC has demonstrated a lack of respect towards the citizens of Botswana, leading to a loss of credibility. By examining the postponements of the registration exercise and the IEC’s failure to communicate effectively, it becomes evident that the institution has disregarded its core mandate and the importance of its role in ensuring fair and transparent elections.

Incompetence or Disrespect?

One possible explanation for the IEC’s behavior is sheer incompetence. It is alarming to consider that the leadership of such a critical institution may lack the understanding of the importance of their mandate. The failure to communicate the reasons for the postponements in a timely manner raises questions about their ability to handle their responsibilities effectively. Furthermore, if the issue lies with government processes, it calls into question whether the IEC has the courage to stand up to the country’s leadership.

Another possibility is that the IEC lacks respect for its core clients, the voters of Botswana. Respect for stakeholders is crucial in building trust, and clear communication is a key component of this. The IEC’s failure to communicate accurate and complete information, despite having access to it, has fueled speculation and mistrust. Additionally, the IEC’s disregard for engaging with political parties, such as the Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC), further highlights this disrespect. By ignoring the UDC’s request to observe the registration process, the IEC demonstrates a lack of regard for its partners in the electoral exercise.

Rebuilding Trust and Credibility:

While allegations of political interference and security services involvement cannot be ignored, the IEC has a greater responsibility to ensure its own credibility. The institution did manage to refute claims by the DISS Director that the IEC database had been compromised, which is a positive step towards rebuilding trust. However, this remains a small glimmer of hope in the midst of the IEC’s overall disregard for the citizens of Botswana.

To regain the trust of Batswana, the IEC must prioritize respect for its stakeholders. Clear and timely communication is essential in this process. By engaging with political parties and addressing their concerns, the IEC can demonstrate a commitment to transparency and fairness. It is crucial for the IEC to recognize that its credibility is directly linked to the trust it garners from the voters.

Conclusion:

The IEC’s recent actions have raised serious concerns about its credibility and respect for the citizens of Botswana. Whether due to incompetence or a lack of respect for stakeholders, the IEC’s failure to communicate effectively and handle its responsibilities has damaged its reputation. To regain trust and maintain relevance, the IEC must prioritize clear and timely communication, engage with political parties, and demonstrate a commitment to transparency and fairness. Only by respecting the voters of Botswana can the IEC fulfill its crucial role in ensuring free and fair elections.

 

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Opinions

Fuelling Change: The Evolving Dynamics of the Oil and Gas Industry

4th April 2023

The Oil and Gas industry has undergone several significant developments and changes over the last few years. Understanding these developments and trends is crucial towards better appreciating how to navigate the engagement in this space, whether directly in the energy space or in associated value chain roles such as financing.

Here, we explore some of the most notable global events and trends and the potential impact or bearing they have on the local and global market.

Governments and companies around the world have been increasingly focused on transitioning towards renewable energy sources such as solar and wind power. This shift is motivated by concerns about climate change and the need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Africa, including Botswana, is part of these discussions, as we work to collectively ensure a greener and more sustainable future. Indeed, this is now a greater priority the world over. It aligns closely with the increase in Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) investing being observed. ESG investing has become increasingly popular, and many investors are now looking for companies that are focused on sustainability and reducing their carbon footprint. This trend could have significant implications for the oil and fuel industry, which is often viewed as environmentally unsustainable. Relatedly and equally key are the evolving government policies. Government policies and regulations related to the Oil and Gas industry are likely to continue evolving with discussions including incentives for renewable energy and potentially imposing stricter regulations on emissions.

The COVID-19 pandemic has also played a strong role. Over the last two years, the pandemic had a profound impact on the Oil and Gas industry (and fuel generally), leading to a significant drop in demand as travel and economic activity slowed down. As a result, oil prices plummeted, with crude oil prices briefly turning negative in April 2020. Most economies have now vaccinated their populations and are in recovery mode, and with the recovery of the economies, there has been recovery of oil prices; however, the pace and sustainability of recovery continues to be dependent on factors such as emergence of new variants of the virus.

This period, which saw increased digital transformation on the whole, also saw accelerated and increased investment in technology. The Oil and Gas industry is expected to continue investing in new digital technologies to increase efficiency and reduce costs. This also means a necessary understanding and subsequent action to address the impacts from the rise of electric vehicles. The growing popularity of electric vehicles is expected to reduce demand for traditional gasoline-powered cars. This has, in turn, had an impact on the demand for oil.

Last but not least, geopolitical tensions have played a tremendous role. Geopolitical tensions between major oil-producing countries can and has impacted the supply of oil and fuel. Ongoing tensions in the Middle East and between the US and Russia could have an impact on global oil prices further, and we must be mindful of this.

On the home front in Botswana, all these discussions are relevant and the subject of discussion in many corporate and even public sector boardrooms. Stanbic Bank Botswana continues to take a lead in supporting the Oil and Gas industry in its current state and as it evolves and navigates these dynamics. This is through providing financing to support Oil and Gas companies’ operations, including investments in new technologies. The Bank offers risk management services to help oil and gas companies to manage risks associated with price fluctuations, supply chain disruptions and regulatory changes. This includes offering hedging products and providing advice on risk management strategies.

Advisory and support for sustainability initiatives that the industry undertakes is also key to ensuring that, as companies navigate complex market conditions, they are more empowered to make informed business decisions. It is important to work with Oil and Gas companies to develop and implement sustainability strategies, such as reducing emissions and increasing the use of renewable energy. This is key to how partners such as Stanbic Bank work to support the sector.

Last but not least, Stanbic Bank stands firmly in support of Botswana’s drive in the development of the sector with the view to attain better fuel security and reduce dependence risk on imported fuel. This is crucial towards ensuring a stronger, stabler market, and a core aspect to how we can play a role in helping drive Botswana’s growth.  Continued understanding, learning, and sustainable action are what will help ensure the Oil and Gas sector is supported towards positive, sustainable and impactful growth in a manner that brings social, environmental and economic benefit.

Loago Tshomane is Manager, Client Coverage, Corporate and Investment Banking (CIB), Stanbic Bank Botswana

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Opinions

Brands are important

27th March 2023

So, the conclusion is brands are important. I start by concluding because one hopes this is a foregone conclusion given the furore that erupts over a botched brand. If a fast food chef bungles a food order, there’d be possibly some isolated complaint thrown. However, if the same company’s marketing expert or agency cooks up a tasteless brand there is a country-wide outcry. Why?  Perhaps this is because brands affect us more deeply than we care to understand or admit. The fact that the uproar might be equal parts of schadenfreude, black twitter-esque criticism and, disappointment does not take away from the decibel of concern raised.

A good place to start our understanding of a brand is naturally by defining what a brand is. Marty Neumier, the genius who authored The Brand Gap, offers this instructive definition – “A brand is a person’s gut feel about a product or service”. In other words, a brand is not what the company says it is. It is what the people feel it is. It is the sum total of what it means to them. Brands are perceptions. So, brands are defined by individuals not companies. But brands are owned by companies not individuals. Brands are crafted in privacy but consumed publicly. Brands are communal. Granted, you say. But that doesn’t still explain why everybody and their pet dog feel entitled to jump in feet first into a brand slug-fest armed with a hot opinion. True. But consider the following truism.

 

Brands are living. They act as milestones in our past. They are signposts of our identity. Beacons of our triumphs. Indexes of our consumption. Most importantly, they have invaded our very words and world view. Try going for just 24 hours without mentioning a single brand name. Quite difficult, right? Because they live among us they have become one of us. And we have therefore built ‘brand bonds’ with them. For example, iPhone owners gather here. You love your iPhone. It goes everywhere. You turn to it in moments of joy and when we need a quick mood boost. Notice how that ‘relationship’ started with desire as you longingly gazed upon it in a glossy brochure. That quickly progressed to asking other people what they thought about it. Followed by the zero moment of truth were you committed and voted your approval through a purchase. Does that sound like a romantic relationship timeline. You bet it does. Because it is. When we conduct brand workshops we run the Brand Loyalty ™ exercise wherein we test people’s loyalty to their favourite brand(s). The results are always quite intriguing. Most people are willing to pay a 40% premium over the standard price for ‘their’ brand. They simply won’t easily ‘breakup’ with it. Doing so can cause brand ‘heart ache’. There is strong brand elasticity for loved brands.

 

Now that we know brands are communal and endeared, then companies armed with this knowledge, must exercise caution and practise reverence when approaching the subject of rebranding. It’s fragile. The question marketers ought to ask themselves before gleefully jumping into the hot rebranding cauldron is – Do we go for an Evolution (partial rebrand) or a Revolution(full rebrand)? An evolution is incremental. It introduces small but significant changes or additions to the existing visual brand. Here, think of the subtle changes you’ve seen in financial or FMCG brands over the decades. Evolution allows you to redirect the brand without alienating its horde of faithful followers. As humans we love the familiar and certain. Change scares us. Especially if we’ve not been privy to the important but probably blinkered ‘strategy sessions’ ongoing behind the scenes. Revolutions are often messy. They are often hard reset about-turns aiming for a total new look and ‘feel’.

 

 

Hard rebranding is risky business. History is littered with the agony of brands large and small who felt the heat of public disfavour. In January 2009, PepsiCo rebranded the Tropicana. When the newly designed package hit the shelves, consumers were not having it. The New York Times reports that ‘some of the commenting described the new packaging as ‘ugly’ ‘stupid’. They wanted their old one back that showed a ripe orange with a straw in it. Sales dipped 20%. PepsiCo reverted to the old logo and packaging within a month. In 2006 Mastercard had to backtrack away from it’s new logo after public criticism, as did Leeds United, and the clothing brand Gap. AdAge magazine reports that critics most common sentiment about the Gap logo was that it looked like something a child had created using a clip-art gallery. Botswana is no different. University of Botswana had to retreat into the comfort of the known and accepted heritage strong brand.  Sir Ketumile Masire Teaching Hospital was badgered with complaints till it ‘adjusted’ its logo.

 

 

So if the landscape of rebranding is so treacherous then whey take the risk? Companies need to soberly assess they need for a rebrand. According to the fellows at Ignyte Branding a rebrand is ignited by the following admissions :

Our brand name no longer reflects our company’s vision.
We’re embarrassed to hand out our business cards.

Our competitive advantage is vague or poorly articulated.
Our brand has lost focus and become too complex to understand. Our business model or strategy has changed.
Our business has outgrown its current brand.
We’re undergoing or recently underwent a merger or acquisition. Our business has moved or expanded its geographic reach.
We need to disassociate our brand from a negative image.
We’re struggling to raise our prices and increase our profit margins. We want to expand our influence and connect to new audiences. We’re not attracting top talent for the positions we need to fill. All the above are good reasons to rebrand.

The downside to this debacle is that companies genuinely needing to rebrand might be hesitant or delay it altogether. The silver lining I guess is that marketing often mocked for its charlatans, is briefly transformed from being the Archilles heel into Thanos’ glove in an instant.

So what does a company need to do to safely navigate the rebranding terrain? Companies need to interrogate their brand purpose thoroughly. Not what they think they stand for but what they authentically represent when seen through the lens of their team members. In our Brand Workshop we use a number of tools to tease out the compelling brand truth. This section always draws amusing insights. Unfailingly, the top management (CEO & CFO)always has a vastly different picture of their brand to the rest of their ExCo and middle management, as do they to the customer-facing officer. We have only come across one company that had good internal alignment. Needless to say that brand is doing superbly well.

There is need a for brand strategies to guide the brand. One observes that most brands ‘make a plan’ as they go along. Little or no deliberate position on Brand audit, Customer research, Brand positioning and purpose, Architecture, Messaging, Naming, Tagline, Brand Training and may more. A brand strategy distils why your business exists beyond making money – its ‘why’. It defines what makes your brand what it is, what differentiates it from the competition and how you want your customers to perceive it. Lacking a brand strategy disadvantages the company in that it appears soul-less and lacking in personality. Naturally, people do not like to hang around humans with nothing to say. A brand strategy understands the value proposition. People don’t buy nails for the nails sake. They buy nails to hammer into the wall to hang pictures of their loved ones. People don’t buy make up because of its several hues and shades. Make up is self-expression. Understanding this arms a brand with an iron clad clad strategy on the brand battlefield.

But perhaps you’ve done the important research and strategy work. It’s still possible to bungle the final look and feel.  A few years ago one large brand had an extensive strategy done. Hopes were high for a top tier brand reveal. The eventual proposed brand was lack-lustre. I distinctly remember, being tasked as local agency to ‘land’ the brand and we outright refused. We could see this was a disaster of epic proportions begging to happen. The brand consultants were summoned to revise the logo. After a several tweaks and compromises the brand landed. It currently exists as one of the country’s largest brands. Getting the logo and visual look right is important. But how does one know if they are on the right path? Using the simile of a brand being a person – The answer is how do you know your outfit is right? It must serve a function, be the right fit and cut, it must be coordinated and lastly it must say something about you. So it is possible to bath in a luxurious bath gel, apply exotic lotion, be facebeat and still somehow wear a faux pas outfit. Avoid that.

Another suggestion is to do the obvious. Pre-test the logo and its look and feel on a cross section of your existing and prospective audience. There are tools to do this. Their feedback can save you money, time and pain. Additionally one must do another obvious check – use Google Image to verify the visual outcome and plain Google search to verify the name. These are so obvious they are hopefully for gone conclusions. But for the brands that have gone ahead without them, I hope you have not concluded your brand journeys as there is a world of opportunity waiting to be unlocked with the right brand strategy key.

Cliff Mada is Head of ArmourGetOn Brand Consultancy, based in Gaborone and Cape Town.

cliff@armourgeton.com

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