One Love! One Heart!
Let’s get together and feel all right.
Hear the children cryin’ (One Love!);
Hear the children cryin’ (One Heart!),
Sayin’: give thanks and praise to the Lord and I will feel all right;
Sayin’: let’s get together and feel all right. (Bob Marley)
Branding is a marketing concept that describes the process of presenting and promoting a type of product or service with a particular quality to an ever-increasing audience. The Business Dictionary (2017), more formally defines branding as “The process involved in creating a unique name and image for a product in the consumers’ mind, mainly through advertising campaigns with a consistent theme. Branding aims to establish a significant and differentiated presence in the market that attracts and retains loyal customers.” Everyone on planet earth immediately matches the opening song to the black, green, and gold flag waving in the breeze under a clear blue sky, the oceans sparkling blue and so inviting, along with the food, the music, and the people. It is Brand Jamaica. Jamaica boasts a lot of history and culture, but none more internationally recognized as the conscious lyrics of Bob Marley, and the soulful tunes of Reggae music.
So why is branding so important to a community of people who are gathering at JAMPRO’s New Kingston offices in Jamaica this week? It is because the power that sells Brand Jamaica is their passion and their wealth – music. Jamaican music is celebrated around the world, attracting people from all walks of life. It has no boundaries as the music can be found in church services, school productions, street dances, and in promotional campaigns all around the world. I sit in amazement in the midst of this community of people who are gathered. We are so obviously from different walks of life, yet all of us are chasing a dream. We look different – some in suits, some in typical Rastafarian dress and colours, and others in casual wear. We sound different – some speaking in a rough Jamaican patois, others of us in the inherited English with a variety of accents – American, British, and local ones too. We are Jamaicans of all sizes, shades and colours. There are also a number of obvious foreigners in this community of Jamaican music entrepreneurs. Everyone is willing to share their expertise and to learn how they can grow their personal brand while selling Brand Jamaica.
The motive is simple in this community. Jamaican music is big business, and we all want our share of the pie. But this pie is created from our love for Jamaica and things Jamaican. It is what keeps people coming back to Jamaica. Love is what has Jamaicans writing, singing, and playing their instruments. And, the soul is always inspired by love. It is inspired by the majestic hills and the clear blue skies. It is inspired by pain and sorrow; and by joy and peace. It is also inspired by children laughing and singing, and dreaming of a brighter tomorrow. It is even more inspired when it received its rightful recognition for the contribution that it has made – giving voice to the lives of the people and faces to the music. It is this unifying Brand Love that has an entire room in a building in New Kingston, Jamaica, filled with creative people willing to work together. To protect the brand, JAMPRO and JIPO have to collaborate to ensure that the creators of the music will feel valued, respected and protected. They have to make sure that all the stories that are shared have enough blood, sweat, and tears in them to ensure that the music entrepreneur knows the challenges involved in building their personal brands; but also ensure that the successes shared are enough so that all members in this community recognize that the sacrifices made do yield sweet rewards.
However, in this room, I am a novice. I listen and I observe a lot. I speak as little as possible, because when I do speak, I feel like the proverbial sore thumb in the crowd. I am ignorant of the business of Jamaican music, but I am not ignorant of its power. I am more interested in how this community manages its intellectual property to sustain their enterprises. So, as I learn about building brands, and by implication Brand Jamaica, I have to wear Brand Love. I have to be open to understanding about all the parts Jamaica’s heritage that make me uncomfortable, all the parts that I was raised to question and to reject. I have to listen without judging so that Brand Love will allow them to keep teaching me about their business. And, as I embrace it, as I sit in the middle of this community speaking about their intellectual property, their investments and their sacrifices, my personal brand is validated. I discovered that the power of my personal brand only makes sense in relation to Brand Jamaica because the world sees me as Jamaican first. Friend, Brand Love requires patience. I was taught these lessons only because I was willing to stay long enough to be uncomfortable; to listen keenly until I heard the information that I came seeking; and to speak when I am spoken to so that the community receives my Brand Love.
Friends, if you are looking for answers to difficult questions, then try to Brand Love. If you are branding your life, then Brand Love first. If you are branding your family, then Brand Love first. If you are branding your business, then Brand Love first. If you are branding your nation, then Brand Love first. People will join you. People will be attracted to you. People will see that no matter the colour or the sound – Brand Love keeps singing pure and true.