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FREEDOM OF INFORMATION; WHITHER BOTSWANA PART 1

KABO MOTSWAGOLE

It is now common and also in the public domain that, there are certain entitlements and privileges which accrue to us by virtue of us being human; these entitlements have been commonly called universal, fundamental or human rights. Among the myriad of human rights that we have is the ever illustrious ‘freedom of expression’. This right is not by any means complex; even the most immature of minds can lightly or readily comprehend its constituents and possibly the aftermath of its violation.

Freedom of expression means or includes the right to have ones thoughts known, to disseminate them, also the right to receive and be given information of whatever sort. Information has been hailed in most parts of the world as the lifeblood and the oxygen for any mature and responsible democracy. In the western world and other mature democracies of the world there has risen talk and endorsement of freedom of information and laws and their implications.

Customarily governments conduct their business in utmost and dire secrecy. It did not come as a shock to discover that among a legion of epithets in different languages used to describe government, there is in Swahili a word referring to government that means deep/fierce secrecy.

The ordinary person seldom knows what is deliberated upon in those dreadful corridors and high offices. The little that he knows is the bread crumbs that the pressman divulges to him after trying with extra-human effort to solicit and extract information from those who are at the helms of power, its supposed custodians.

Should it occur that a certain soul charged with the mandate of keeping ‘confidential’ government information decides to whisper its contents into the ears of his neighbor, his fate would have by then been long decided upon, judgment upon him will be swift, he shall be a castaway, an abomination to those who once entrusted their lives to him. How pitiable!

This culture, like a warm and humid environment for germs, is a perfect breeding place for a specie of a pathogen; which is reputed for sucking the life out of even the once glorious mighty democracies and models of good governance, it does not stop at the command of the faithful few zealots, who profess knowledge in good governance, the Rule of Law and Constitutionalism, it is a trailblazer in its path, only full disclosure will rid government and its various permutations of this horrid and dangerously cancerous creature commonly known as corruption. Corruption, not only breeds and grows in secrecy, it thrives and forges against all odds in secrecy.

These remarks do not stand in isolation and have been raised in international fora. The UN Standards recognise the need for both measures to inform the public about their right to information and to “to address the problem of a culture of secrecy within Government”. Commonwealth Principle 2 recognises this as a positive need, namely to “promote a culture of openness”.

The Joint Declaration of the special mandates calls on the government to “take active steps to address the culture of secrecy that still prevails in many countries within the public sector”. It also calls for steps to be taken “to promote broad public awareness of the access to information law” and generally for “the allocation of necessary resources and attention” to ensure proper implementation of the right to information laws.

Progressive democracies have therefore in light of the discontent arising from the governed attributed to the continued secrecy of government affairs, ventured out to enact Freedom of Information laws (FOI). The move by these select forerunning countries is intended to sensitize governments and citizens alike that information from every sector of the government; be it from the Judiciary, Executive and or the Legislature should be decentralized and disclosed to any concerned or interested member of the public at their request.

The purpose of such initiative being also to state further that governmental information of whatever nature does not belong to those who govern alone as they are but mere custodians, but that it also belongs to the governed, that the former also have an inherent right to know and have access to such information recognizing that if such access is granted to them they will have a meaningful participation in national issues and projects of national concern.

Also reminding those who hold the reins that age old Jefferson mantra that, government is by the people for the people and none should ever think of himself as having some sort of ownership over any of it sectors. This has in its spirit the enduring and inescapable need for public oversight of public institutions.

It is from these premises that Freedom of Information laws gained their prominence. In our hearing these propositions sound almost preposterous and one may hasten to dismiss us as overly imaginative and ambitious. It is after this discourse that we hope that the ordinary man eating tripe and fat cakes at the main mall will know of his right to governmental information, it is hoped that analogies will help whosoever may read of the need for us as the Republic of Botswana to have our own FOI law.

Entitlements (Executive and Public Bodies)

Today when government officials, say the Executive conduct their meetings and there pass or adopt resolutions on certain upcoming national projects, the ordinary Motswana cannot and will not under any circumstances know why those projects were approved. This is so because those deliberations are more often than not, classified and shrouded in deep secrecy. It is often a possibility that in those deliberations there were some dissenting voices and reasons for whatsoever resolution.

Under an FOI law, one is entitled to write a request to the appropriate officer to be granted access to the deliberations of Cabinet and know why that particular decision was adopted by Cabinet. In this way there can be a control on dangers such as insider trading by ministers, particularly those who have business interests as most of them in Botswana do.

With such a law the public can be rest assured that no minister can use information on tenders to his own enrichment (as some stand accused), to the detriment of the ordinary Motswana and later turn to state that they also as Batswana is also entitled to tender and share in the wealth of the country like us all. That being a clear case of conflict of interest and duty which arises from the fact they are not ordinary Batswana, but custodians of certain pieces of information which come into his possession by virtue of his high office.

Further on, with the advent of an FOI law other public bodies will be rendered duty bound to disclose and or to publish the contents of their deliberations, this requisition comes up in FOI laws of other countries and International standards. The UN Standards, for example, state that Freedom of information implies that public bodies publish and disseminate widely documents of significant public interest, for example, operational information about how the public body functions and the content of any decision or policy affecting the public. Briefly put an FOI law in Botswana would entitle us to information from our various public bodies.

If ones seek to know why a certain company in which a minister is a Director continues for a disturbing number of years to win tenders, they as a citizen or even a non citizen like in other countries; will be entitled access to the contents of the PPADB minutes which awarded those tenders, to get the rationale, and the decision to award. Today when the pressman darkens the Board Secretary’s door he’ll be fed useless and shallow bread crumbs when he seeks to know what informed the decision of the Board to continuously award tenders to a single company.

It is now a matter of public knowledge that administrative governmental procedures were brutally violated to procure funds set for disasters in establishing the now notorious spy agency DIS. Who really abused the said procedures? What did they do that they ought to have not? Members of the public are only left to wonder why the agency was against all odds hurriedly established.

Were there no other effective agencies before the arrival of DIS? What of Special Branch? Was it ineffective to combat other forms of advanced crime? Who recommended its eradication to give way to DIS? Was a consultant involved to compile a report on the state of our national security? Was the report one to debate in Parliament? Is it worthwhile that the public be left in the dark? Can’t a disclosure to them be more beneficial than any risk that may ensure from not knowing what is in the said report?

These matters which present themselves for determination are not mere yappery but are deep seated questions which need be addressed lest government continues even further to act in reckless abandon and in the end unleashing upon the citizenry. This concern must be even seriously considered in dealing with such a powerful and loaded institution like the Executive. No wonder in the US FOI law focuses more on disclosure of information by the Executive.

Legislature, Judiciary etal

Parliament sessions are generally open to the public, but the common man should not forget while sited in that air-conditioned pristine environment, that while on those grounds he is deem a stranger by the very law enacted, by persons he voted into power who is there at the mercy of the Honourable Speaker of the National Assembly.

She may, by powers vested in her clear the public attendage and bar the doors. Behind those doors the law making body may then deliberate and those deliberations will ever remain secret until they are rendered useless by lapse of time then disclosed.

The contents of those debates of will forever be shut from public perusal, we ordinary men will be left wondering what the people we voted to power were deliberating upon in our absence. An FOI law if it be adopted shall entitle the citizen to petition the relevant officer to be granted access into those records of Parliament that she is desirous to peruse.

In terms of FOI law principles which will be dealt with in another installment of this article; only limited exceptions to access to information are allowed, that is to say in some instances even national security considerations will not pass unless they are brought under serious scrutiny to see if the need for the public to know overshadows to a great extent the risks that may ensue from the disclosure.

In the Judiciary where the business of judging and interpretation of laws is carried out, the public is normally allowed to sit in and observe justice in administration; this is in accordance with the principle of fair and open justice also with the undying need for public oversight of government.

The pressman enjoys coverage of all matters that he is allowed to attend as a member of the public; he may also with the permission of the Registrar and or the Court bring his cameras into the court room and capture those sacred moments. However if the proceedings be in camera like those deemed to be so sensitive as to not qualify for public consumption, the citizen can only fantasize about what was deliberated upon.

In other matters such as the appointment of judges of both the High Court and the Court of Appeal the ordinary man only learns from his neighbour that His Excellency the President is the one who appoints judges of both the High Court and the Court of Appeal acting in accordance with the advice of the Judicial Service Commission. He is left clueless and is sent to sea as to what those mysterious characters on the Commission may have said or opined to warrant the endorsement or appointment of a particular person to the Bench.

To him these matters are a ‘holy cow’ he even fears to imagine what the members of the Commission may have said to motivate their case before His Excellency. Why shouldn’t the ordinary Motswana be informed on matters that affect him personally? Shouldn’t he know what was said of the man who will later adjudicate upon his case?

Will the knowledge not give him a sense of ownership in his government? Can this practice of deep concealment guarantee these structures insulation against nepotism, politicization personalization and manipulation? Is it not disclosure of their affairs that would insulate them from these evils or worse? Without such antecedents the contribution of the citizen to the good governance of his Republic can never be meaningful.

In a not so distant past a number of High Court judges left the bench. The powers that be were shockingly tight lipped as to what necessitated the departure of those judges. It is said that judges enjoy the most awesome treatment in most matters which we ordinary men cannot attain.

From this background one is left but to wonder as to what may cause one to leave such gracious and plump place like the bench. No report was published by the Registrar to the public as to why they left; any publication by the pressman speculating on their reasons of departure was hastingly dismissed by him as untrue, ill-founded and not worthy of publication. That was how far he could go. With all fairness to the man, how could he possibly go any farther? He is not obliged, only FOI law will place upon him this heavy burden to disclose.

In the wake of major cases such as Kalafatis’ case, CMS case, Nchindo’s case and Kgafela’s case two major public figures were appointed to the High Court bench namely Regional Magistrate Lot Moroka who as he then was presided over the case and Director of Public Prosecutions Leatile Dambe who in that capacity prosecuted the case.

That the duo is competent and qualifies and are worthy of the appointment they now enjoy admits of no argument. But one is left to wonder, didn’t this appointment affect matters which already handled by these officers? Had they have sufficiently completed the said matters when their time to ascend to the bench came? Was it not appropriate to appoint them after such matters were truly and clearly acted upon by them?

These questions are only natural to the common man; his rescue from wonder and misery lies with a Freedom of Information Act, which law will grant him the right and entitlement to governmental information and would have the opportunity to read even further why some decisions are taken. We only hope that such an Act will not as is proposed in South Africa limit access but allow access to information.

Leonard Sechele became the DPP, he succeeding Leatile Dambe, (who established herself then as a Prosecutor of renown) it is said that the former was legal counsel of the spy agency. The Law Society of Botswana pleaded no knowledge to these set of facts.

Shocking it was! Why Sechele? Did he pass as the most able person in matters of prosecution? Would his prior involvement with the embattled and much resented DIS not compromise his objectivity when he is called upon to inherit the files of Mma Dambe who had already initiated prosecution against some of DIS officers or when he is seized with new matters involving his former colleagues at DIS? What informed the highest office in coming to such a decision? It is in the minds of many to know why the most immediate officer at DPP was not appointed to the seat of the national prosecutor.

Truly a myriad of questions would not find their answers; it is in these circumstances that the author is bold enough to state that Botswana needs an FOI law which is in his opinion long overdue. Procrastination, sitting and only wishing that certain things could not happen in our beautiful Botswana is only suicide. There is need for Parliament to act now and avert even worse dangers. Time has never been so opportune for Botswana to adopt such a law.

Other entities in information

Professional bodies such as Botswana Health Professional, Council of Nurses and Midwives, Botswana institute of Accounts, Association of Engineers and all the related shall all come under scrutiny or are they not some sort of a bodies entrusted to see to some interests of the public? The rumors that when a member of the public reports one of their colleagues for dishonorable and unethical conduct, the report is hurriedly brushed aside and not thoroughly considered would all come into the open with advent of a Freedom of Information law because it and only it will not countenance damaging secrecy.

Access

In other Jurisdictions, persons; both natural and juristic, are allowed to have access to government records and archives which contain information about them, they can correct and edit information about themselves; the law obliges them to state matters which are confirmed truth. This is for the simple reason that this way crime can be combated easily as the State will know who to look for and where. Further this gives the citizen a sense of security, belongingness and ownership. He would feel that the government is surely looking to his interests not its own interests or the interests of another to his detriment.

If there are private companies which have courted government on national projects such as the construction of roads, buildings, or any joint partnership that government has any company; the public will as a rule and a principle of FOI law be entitled to access the particulars of such agreements and memorandums. This way you can know the terms under which the public school that your child will go to was built.

The culture of serial prohibitionism, gagging and reckless intimidation by the present government, through certain objectionable Forms to be signed under the clout of national security that now prevails in government enclave needs to cease, but it is only by virtue of an FOI law that these utterly disturbing matters can be tackled. Should we as a nation fail in this regard then we might as well forget about the having a public with unremitting vigilance and oversight of government action, then we should relegate our victory against corruption to fairy tales having no place in real and modern society.

KABO MOTSWAGOLE
Attorney at law

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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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