Rebranding and branding are two closely related marketing techniques traditionally associated with products and services. Recently, these marketing techniques have been imported by some state governments in Nigeria, taking up the challenge of branding and re-branding their various states, creating a new face and facilitating potential investors.
Nigeria had its first taste of destination branding with the Heart of Africa initiative which eventually dovetailed into the Re-branding Nigeria project.
States branding and re-branding trend is increasing day by day with states like Ondo, Rivers, Imo and most lately, Osun states, Ekiti State under the administration of Mr. Kayode Fayemi has also joined the convoy of states enthusiastic to give their destinations innovation and drive a unique perception.
The ‘New face of Imo’ campaign, by Ikedi Ohakim’s regime, designed to change the status of the state from a civil service state to an investment-destination. The state government has, in a subtle way, decided to use the Oguta Wonder Lake Resort, located at the outskirt of Owerri, the state’s capital city to drive this re-branding process.
In 2009, Ondo proclaimed a new dawn with logo and payoff. At the colourful event that gave birth to the new brand elements of Ondo under the leadership of Governor Olusegun Mimiko who said the name "Ondo State", laced with a sun-like design is spelt out in bold orange colour, which, he said, stands for vibrancy, brightness and progress.
This change of political administration in the South-West of the country has witnessed sudden rebranding approach in the zone with Ondo unveiling a new brand Ondo State with a payoff, "Ise Loogun Ise" which means ‘Hardwork is antidote to poverty’ from "Sunshine State", the former slogan of the state.
Last year, Rivers State government launched state’s rebranding campaign which aimed at mobilizing citizens towards modification of attitudes from bad to good, re-packaging of the state’s cultural and economic potentials, creating attractions for business with the aim of making the state recover its glory that was lost to high crime rates experienced in the past. The state governor courted most condemnation when he decided to rebrand the state at the twilight of his term in office. However, the state still engaged in the branding of Rivers, which are the logo and payoff.
Subsequently, on February 6, this year, the Osun State Government decided to rebrand the state, strategically changing the slogan and epithet of the state from her previous payoff - "State of the Living Spring" for "Omoluabi" - a good-natured gentleman.
Recently, Ekiti State government under the leadership of Dr. Kayode Fayemi, also embarked on destination branding of the state towards consolidating on its virtues and attributes, which the people of the state are known for recently, when it unveiled a new identity. The identity comes with a new logo, colour and six elements that represent the unique selling points of the state and its people; thereby, adopted the "New Dawn" as against her previous unique selling proposition, "Fountain of Knowledge."
Following the creation of the 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Abuja, each Nigerian state was given a unique selling slogan. Some of which are Cross River State is the "People's Paradise," Lagos is "Centre of Excellence" Delta is the "Big Heart," Edo, is "Heartbeat of Nigeria," Adamawa State as "Land of Beauty," Akwa Ibom State adopts "Land of Promise," Anambra State is given "Light of the Nation," Borno State is "Home of Peace," Bauchi State rides with "Pearl of Tourism" and Bayelsa State gets "Pride of the Nation."
As much as the image of Nigeria and the state government needs to be upgraded at home and abroad, observers believes that rebranding is certainly not the solution as it amounts to treating the symptoms rather then the root cause(s) adding that the ideas behind the scheme are cosmetic, abstract and not convincing.
According to Ebuka Okwe, a marketing expert, "Yes, it is good to re-brand and reposition a brand, either personal or corporate. But then the re-branding has to be backed with concrete and positive actions that would affect the lives of the people and change public perception of the state in the prospects’ minds. I think this is possible for the states to create development at the grassroots level, most of those states have been experience positive change"
Gbenga Adeniyi, a political analyst said: ‘I think it’s not time to for all of these states to be branding or rebranding. These should be the time for every state to concentrate on the eradication of major problems in their states such as unemployment, lacking of small scale businesses support, lack of agricultural development. I think these is not the right time to go into branding and re-branding of states when the socio-economic platform for business survival, properties and life security as well as good roads, water and education are yet to be at least 60% in most of those states.’
Speaking further, he stressed, ‘We can not claim we want to create a new face for our states when there is no new concrete development in terms of infrastructures. Investors will always want to come to a place where they are at least sure of surviving socio-economically. We need to brand or/and re-brand but not yet.’
Sandra Akinola said, I think the reason why all those states are re-branding is to create a new impression that it is a new era of government. They want to be heard, that does not mean that its everyone of them that are really working. Those to be sincere, the newly installed governor of Ekiti and Osun state are showing that they are committed and I think they will really help their state and the country at large in development.
Bamidele Omolola, a political science student said, ‘I think the need for branding should be left beyond for now because I’m sure so many states in the country will start the lyrics of branding and re-branding despite nothing to show for it, after the country at large of suffered several years under the military rule. I believe the governors have herculean task to challenge with rather than re-branding. A lot of things need to be done before we can say it’s time for us to re-brand the logo, slogan and so on because it make no change when the people are living in poverty and lack of infrastructures.