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STRONG SUIT: The Barbados brand

Dennis Strong

STRONG SUIT: The Barbados brand

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I regularly participate in online discussions. I prefer these to call-in programmes for the introduction of ideas and issues for fruitful discourse. I have decided to contextually integrate some of the issues that fit this column.
Senator John Watson has a Facebook group called FB Senate that I find informative and stimulating.
I commend Senator Watson for this approach to public dialogue and consultation. This article flows from a suggestion that we should be working toward establishing a “made in Barbados” identity as a preference among Barbadian consumers and in the global market. Branding is a hot marketing buzzword that in many instances is heavily skewed to a product orientation.
What follows is my contribution to that branding discussion. Please feel free to comment.
Back in the early 1990s, Barbados had a slogan “Barbados Works”. I was living in Toronto at the time and was researching for a location in the Caribbean to expand my business. I met people in Foreign Affairs, Barbados Tourism Authority (BTA), and Barbados Investment and Development Corporation, who were promoting Barbados. In fact, it was Gregory Armstrong of the BTA, on a flight from the Bahamas to Toronto, who eventually persuaded me to come for a serious visit.
A couple of points: At that time, the Economist magazine described Barbados as “one of the most under-valued investment opportunities in the world”. This, in comparison with many other options. Barbados was the best fit for my plans and I have been here since 1991. To this very day, I frequently recommend it to family, friends, colleagues and clients.
Unfortunately, the “Barbados Works” part has become tarnished as that reality has been diminished. A credible brand has to be built on reliable, sustainable excellence. It helps if it is unique. Barbados has unique assets that, when properly deployed, makes it a magnet for prosperity. Alas, I fear, we have become preoccupied with demonizing success instead of striving for it. People who do not understand how business can make things flourish, often consciously or unconsciously, impede its contribution.
In the case of international business, I believe the emphasis on job creation is misplaced. The value of the international business sector is in building foreign exchange, attracting direct foreign investment, tax contributions, familiarity with global best practice and the purchase of local goods and services. Some important nuances of international business modelling are being ignored.
For example, there is a vibrant community of committed, well-connected investors in Barbados from around the world. Many of these investors have bought homes here and encourage friends and others to visit and embrace Barbados.
Let’s not forget the increase in younger professionals repatriating to Barbados who have studied and worked abroad and are eager to exercise their experience and talents in and from Barbados and the region. These talented people also have excellent connections that can be beneficially nurtured here.
The present need is for a clear understanding of what Barbados can uniquely provide to well-defined segments of the international business market. This must be coupled with a focused commitment to ensuring a consistent, professional supply of what’s required. We have been promising but not delivering for some time. International businesses, investors and Barbadians have a reasonable right to expect that over time, our performance in this area would have improved. It has not. God bless.