GCIS budget vote 2004: International Marketing Council

15 June 2004

15 June 2004

For the International Marketing Council of South Africa (International Marketing Council), financial year 2004 has been a period of intensive activity. Established in 2001, the International Marketing Council's first two years consisted largely of building a framework for, and laying a foundation on which to build, Brand South Africa. Initially, we focused on building databases and establishing relationships - with media, key stakeholders and thought leaders. We formulated and finalised our strategies and conceptualised and produced our first mass marketing campaigns.

The year under review saw the 'domestic' roll-out of Brand South Africa, with a mass media campaign including advertising and public relations, and supported by a brand ambassador engagement process. The national web portal, www.southafrica.info, created in 2002, grew from strength to strength during this period and has proved to be a very valuable resource. Our key objective is to change perceptions of South Africa and, over the past three years, we have seen that this is beginning to take effect: There have been significant changes in this regard, from both a domestic and a global perspective, in terms of the perceptions and attitudes of South Africans, friends of South Africa and other important audiences. The tide of positive sentiment towards South Africa and what she has to offer is rising continually.

Branding and marketing a country is a demanding and challenging task, mainly because countries are non-proprietary brands with hugely complex stakeholder bases and very diverse target audiences. However, the marketing principles remain the same. In addition, when dealing with non-proprietary brands, there is a requirement to go much further in the extent and sensitivity of the communications effort. The market in which countries compete is becoming more competitive by the day and, consequently, countries the world over are under extreme pressure to sell their particular products.

The International Marketing Council team

Within this competitive environment, it would have been impossible for the International Marketing Council to carry out its responsibilities and achieve its objectives without a proper structure and management team in place.

The staff, a small team of 18(xx in Johannesburg and xx in Pretoria), has accomplished a significant amount in the year under review. To add to our strengths and capacity, as the demand and scope of Brand South Africa grows, we will soon be employing new staff members who will enable us to continue to deliver on our mandate. The positions to be filled are:

  • Head of Public Affairs: to focus on government liaison, thought leader engagements, ambassador programme management and management of any publications we produce
  • Senior Project Manager: to ensure that we leverage relevant events and that all of our ideas are maximised through all of our communications channels. This executive will ensure that we and our suppliers deliver on time, on budget and in line with our stated objectives, thereby ensuring synergy and optimum efficiency
  • Marketing Manager: to manage the domestic mobilisation marketing strategy for Brand South Africa, reporting to the Marketing Director
  • Additional Country managers: to represent the International Marketing Council in specific countries abroad. Their responsibilities will include media relations, liaising with embassies, key stakeholders and corporates, and leveraging media opportunities for South Africa. Simon Barber in Washington DC and John Battersby in London already fill two of these posts.

As an extension of our team, the Kagiso Consortium was appointed in 2001 for a period of three years. The consortium team is made up of:

  • Kagiso Branding & Marketing: Provides strategic direction to the Brand South Africa campaign from a consortium perspective.
  • Kuper Research: Measures national and international perceptions of South Africa, through regular research.
  • GCI South Africa and APCO Africa: Builds awareness of the International Marketing Council and the Brand South Africa campaign, and amplifies the domestic roll-out or mass mobilisation campaign by utilising public relations (PR).
  • Net#Work BBDO: Creates television and radio advertising campaigns, to build national pride and provide a 'call to action' for South Africans to create their own possibilities and to 'be a part of the rhythm of this nation'.
  • MediaCompete: Buys effective media space for the Brand South Africa advertising campaign, in order to ensure maximum possible reach.
  • BIG Media: Having originally created the national web portal, www.southafrica.info, the BIG Media team ensures that the portal remains a leading, high quality source of information on South Africa. This is achieved by keeping the portal updated daily, always providing visitors to the site with the most relevant news and information on South Africa.

The Kagiso consortium has been an integral part of the International Marketing Council's growth and success, as its resources have assisted our team to kick start processes. Our three year contract with the consortium comes to an end in June 2004. Past this date, we will be engaging one-on-one with suppliers, some of them part of the consortium today, to best supplement the skills we have built in-house.

Key tools

Since the inception of the International Marketing Council, a number of key tools have been developed.

Communications Resource Centre

In April 2002, we established a state-of-the-art Communications Resource Centre (CRC), which aims to enhance communication with key stakeholders, in order to promote and maintain the integrity of the South African brand. The CRC monitors international media mentions of South Africa and tracks the uptake of the Brand South Africa messages. Ultimately the goal is to create proactive, not reactive communication. It also facilitates the integration of our brand messages in stakeholder communication.

Information Resource Centre

Established as a management tool to address our knowledge management challenges, the Information Resource Centre (IRC), provides a content repository facility, which aids us in identifying, capturing, customising and disseminating evidence of the country's core brand essence, "Alive with Possibility". Towards the end of the year under review, the IRC was incorporated into the CRC.

Brand definition

Creating a country positioning, or brand definition, for South Africa, was one of the first major steps as we developed the Brand South Africa campaign. South Africa's brand definition, developed using Unilever's methodology as the guide, provides the template against which to measure all communications, and forms the basis for our strategy in selling South Africa to the world.

National web portal

Our official, national web portal, www.southafrica.info, was launched in 2002. As far as we know it is the first of its kind in the world, in that it combines tourism, investment, trade and general information on South Africa. We created this 'gateway' to provide a leading, one-stop portal aimed at marketing South Africa and providing comprehensive, up-to-date country information. The portal also pulls together, and provides links to, numerous other online resources which market South Africa.

In addition, there are a number of interactive features on the portal, some of which are linked to specific campaigns. An interactive South African map - a web-based mapping search engine - is a sophisticated, quick-loading interactive facility that allows users to go from national to provincial to local level in searching for route directions, street addresses, and entities ranging from accommodation and restaurants, through hospitals, to police stations.

Special attention has been given to a range of major events, whereby BIG Media has published, in each case, a dedicated web page on the portal, pulling together related news, features, information and links.

In most cases, this has been built around an interactive campaign that encourages visitors to make their own positive contributions to its content. These include: A 10 years of freedom page, with a "South Africa: 10 years ago today" feature, updating daily with press clippings from "Today 10 years ago"; a "Dear FIFA" campaign, enabling South Africans to tell FIFA why they thought South Africa should win the bid; a good luck message campaign for the Springbok Rugby World Cup team; and a birthday message campaign for Nelson Mandela's 85th birthday, which enabled South Africans and people of the world to email a birthday message to Madiba.

Operational highlights


2003 saw the launch, in April, of the Brand South Africa national pride campaign on radio and, in May, the launch on TV, of our "Today I woke up." advertisement. Initial feedback on the campaign confirmed that it had been well received and the advertisement was soon in demand. Since its launch, we have had over 100 requests from corporates wishing to integrate it into their own communications initiatives. In addition, the TV advertisement was acclaimed by the Unilever Institute for being the first advertisement ever to communicate effectively with individuals at all levels, from LSM one through ten. The radio campaign telling the stories of individuals' successes is broadcast in all eleven official languages, maximising reach and message amplification.

As a continuation of this campaign, the focus of which is building national pride, and as part of the country's 10 years of freedom celebrations, we launched a new advertising campaign in March 2004, which encourages South Africans to 'be a part of the rhythm of this nation' by learning the particular rhythm featured in the advertisement. Feedback on the rhythm advertisement has been excellent. Research shows that people from all walks of life love it and join in whenever they hear it playing on the radio or see it on TV. Many media - across radio and TV - have proven to be strong allies, partnering with us to encourage 44 million South Africans to unite in one action, by drumming the 'rhythm of this nation' and to believe in the country's possibilities.

Corporate support

Our TV ads have been used in internal communications, corporate events and in some instances for international audiences. Organisations like KPMG, the BBC, the CSIR, Hollard Insurance, TISA, the Department of Environmental Affairs & Tourism, SA Rugby, Coca Cola, Discovery Health, the SA Consulate General in New York, the South African Textile Industry Export Council and Ethekwini Municipality were amongst the many that have approached us to use the advertisement in their communications.

Valuing the brand

During the period under review, Professor Roger Sinclair, a Witwatersrand University academic, used his BrandMetrics methodology to calculate the value of South Africa as a brand. The aim of this exercise was to provide the International Marketing Council with a benchmark from which to measure the improvement in, and movement of, the brand over time. Based on Professor Sinclair's methodology, Brand South Africa is estimated to be worth R379.5 billion today.

Brand South Africa's estimated value places it alongside some of the world's top commercial brands, like Coca-Cola, Microsoft and IBM. Using and adapting the methodology usually used to value commercial brands, Professor Sinclair deduced that 16% of South Africa's income is derived as a result of the strength of South Africa as a brand.

The international evaluation was achieved by looking at South Africa's income stream - three sources account for the bulk of this income: earnings from exports, tourism and foreign investment. Extensive market research was conducted to determine the extent to which a brand's country of origin is a feature in spending and investment decisions and, therefore, how powerful the South African brand is in shaping these decisions. This exercise was a world first, as no other country in the world has had its brand measured in monetary terms.

Thought leaders

Our growth and our ability to gain maximum impact for Brand South Africa depends to a certain extent on external or foreign factors. As the year came to a close, the International Marketing Council brought Dr Hischam El-Agamy, Director of Corporate Development for the International Institute for Management Development (IMD), to South Africa, to communicate an outsider's perspective on the country, as it is reflected in the IMD International World Competitiveness Yearbook 2003.

The International Marketing Council hosted two functions at the JSE Securities Exchange SA during which Dr El-Agamy inspired his audiences with a presentation on South Africa's impressive, but little known competitiveness rankings. The presentation aimed to encourage the business community in particular, to focus on the country's many inherent successes, strengths and skills, and to actively promote these. His visit was well received by our stakeholders and the media. We obtained extensive coverage on his opinion.

The South African Story

Also towards year end, coinciding with Dr El-Agamy's visit, we officially launched The South African Story, a booklet filled with interesting facts that illustrate how much South Africa has achieved in its 10 years of freedom, with supportive quotes from some of the world's key opinion leaders. We compiled this booklet for South Africa's many 'ambassadors', to ensure that they are armed with the mind opening facts necessary to change perceptions about South Africa, when they interact with our target audiences, including the international business community, international tourism associations and foreign traders and investors. The booklet has quickly proven to be a success and a valuable tool.

At their request, and for their account, we printed 100 000 copies for South African Airways (SAA), who distributed these on all of their flights on Freedom Day, 27 April 2004 and the week following. This project has enabled the International Marketing Council to reach a far wider target audience than we would have been able to achieve without this partnership. Similar requests for special print-runs of the booklet have been received, and are currently being assessed.

Financial review

During the year under review, the International Marketing Council managed its funding and budgets by ensuring that it concentrated on obtaining the best value for money in all activities.

Also during this period, a Scorpions investigation was launched to resolve a fraud case involving former employee and financial manager, Rakesh Sukhdeo. The investigation is now complete and the issue has been resolved.

The International Marketing Council took its first steps towards generating revenue from external sources, to truly become a private/public partnership. We have cemented a number of partnerships that have begun to generate funding for the organisation.

These have centred on The South African Story - partnerships such as that with SAA described above - and a 'business success stories' initiative. Through the 'business success stories' we have developed a radio and TV concept that allows companies to partner with Brand South Africa. We produce and flight the work and the companies co-fund it with us.

We focus on the companies' public relations and corporate social responsibility projects that are assisting to create a South Africa that is 'Alive with Possibility'. For example, we recently produced sponsored BMW and Tiger Brands advertisements that are aligned to the Brand South Africa messaging and advertising. We are confident that the business success stories initiative will lead to both increased funding and a greatly extended reach for Brand South Africa.

The year ahead

The coming year will be one in which we see the International Marketing Council's goal in building consistent messaging for South Africa becoming established domestically and internationally, taking root and slowly expanding. To date, we have made perceivable inroads within South Africa, but the task has only just begun. Our focus now will be on beginning to reach into the global market. The International Marketing Council board has approved our international roll-out strategy and we now move towards implementation, engaging thought leaders and influential networks to amplify messages. The timing is impeccable! As South Africa celebrates 10 Years of Freedom, which in itself is a magnificent marketing opportunity, it provides a wonderful platform on which we can capitalise.

Brand South Africa is gaining momentum, with more individuals and organisations approaching the International Marketing Council for endorsements and support and asking for co-operation on the various projects in which they are involved, so the process to change perceptions about South Africa gathers a power of its own.

Moving forward, we have no intention of abruptly moving our focus from local to international. Our local focus will continue as we move into international markets. The reality is, however, and always will be, that we have to engage our people to help us to achieve our lofty ambitions. Building Brand South Africa into what we want it to be will take decades of consistent and cohesive work. Whilst we are proud of what we have achieved in the past three years, and during the year under review in particular, there are still many challenges ahead and we will continue to maximise as many of the opportunities that present themselves to us as possible, in order to amplify our messages about the country.


South African tourism, a key stakeholder and communicator of South Africa abroad, has developed its positioning, in tandem with the International Marketing Council, with complete alignment in the messaging and positioning. This is vital, as the majority of visible communication about the country is tourism based. We thank South African Tourism for the wonderful spirit of partnership that has been established in this process.

The International Marketing Council is also currently developing an investment template with the Department of Trade and Industry, another of our key partners.

I am confident that the International Marketing Council is well positioned to continue delivering on our mandate in the year ahead. In closing, I would like to thank the International Marketing Council team, the members of the Kagiso Consortium, the Chairperson, Wendy Luhabe, and all of our board members, for their ongoing commitment, input, encouragement and support. A big thank you too, to all of the committed brand ambassadors, both individuals and organisations, with whom we have had the privilege of interacting during the past year.

We have touched many lives, heard heart-warming stories from South Africans who feel empowered by our work, and have been surrounded by positive people and positive projects, all aimed at making this country a better place for all of us who are lucky enough to live in it. It is a privilege to work for the International Marketing Council and for our country and I am humbled by the many extraordinary people who share their lives and successes with us. Without them, we could not succeed.

Yvonne Johnston

Chief Executive Officer


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