This week we’ve looked at techniques for branding real estate agents, restaurants, and personalities. Today, we examine the branding of an entire country.
The winter of 2006-2007 was my favorite winter of all time. That was the winter I spent living in the Cayman Islands, and took all of the photos in this post. But the Cayman Islands has faced some interesting branding challenges lately, and they aren’t easy to solve. Along with financial services, tourism is their main industry, and attracting those tourists is tough these days. Most come for the day on cruise ships, but far fewer stay for days at a time. Tourists that stay only a few hours don’t spend nearly as much money as those who stay a week.
Despite rampant gang violence, tourism in much of Mexico is healthy, fueled by massive all-inclusive hotels, spring breakers, and endless white sand beaches. Jamaica, despite plenty of negative press because of drug violence, continues to promote it’s beaches, culture, and people to tourists. With Bob Marley’s music and “no problem, mon” on their side, building their brand is easier.
The Cayman Islands doesn’t have Bob Marley. It doesn’t have many all-inclusive hotels. There are only a few beaches on the island, albeit spectacular ones. Spring breakers can’t afford to vacation there, and bars close relatively early. There are no mountains, lakes, waterfalls, rivers, or similar natural wonders unless you scuba dive. Only one public golf course exists. There is no nationally-known drink like tequila or Appleton rum to brand the country with. What’s a tiny island to do?
Well, I like what they came up with. Instead of attempting to compete against the point of strength of Jamaica or Mexico or other vacation spots, they are positioning against their point of weakness. With their “Cayman-kind” branding, the Cayman Islands is all about comfort and luxury. There isn’t much on the site about beaches and resorts. The underlying message of Caymankind is “if you come to the Cayman Islands, you won’t see all of the poverty you see elsewhere”. And that claim is largely true.
There’s just one problem: it doesn’t go far enough.
To be truely effective, it needs to go one step further, and promote the islands as the kind of place where you can walk down the street after dark and feel totally safe. They need to promote that there are no all-inclusives because leaving the resort is so safe, and there are too many world-class restaurants to sample to force you to eat at one hotel. Their marketing should encourage people to walk around, take a bus, rent a car, explore on their own, and never feel lost or worried about their well-being. You can’t do that in Mexico, Jamaica, or most Caribbean destinations.
Take it one step further. Become ”The Cayman Islands… The Kinder Islands”.
If they went that extra step, every advertisement would not just promote their island, but it would subtly reposition nearly every Caribbean island as crime-ridden, poverty-stricken, and confining.
That is how smart branding works. You position yourself relative to your competitors, and by promoting your position you inherently flaunt your competitor’s weaknesses. With every ad, you drive home the competition’s negative perceptions that ultimately benefit your brand.
It would alienate some tourists. They would think the Cayman Islands are snobby and stuck-up and overpriced. Fine. They don’t need to win the hearts and minds of every vacationer, they only need to win the hearts and minds of those wealthy enough to vacation in a paradise they can feel safe in.
What do you think of the Cayman Islands branding job? The only issue I have with it is that while it sells me on visiting Cayman, it stops short of convincing me that it is dangerous and unwise to go anywhere else.
(All photographs taken by Steve Jones)
- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad