Despite the recent efforts of the Rebranding Nigeria campaign, there seems to be no clear path for the authorities in different States to embark on, or follow up the establishment of their distinctive brands as States.
The purpose of this article is to provide a practical framework for states in Nigeria to start considering Destination Branding as a tool in selling their own natural resources to Nigerians and even the outside world.
There are usually very close emotional ties between people and the places they live, every community is a place where residents may have lived their lives, where they went to school, married, had children and built their career. As a result, the memories linger on after many years of departing from that area. The beauties of the environment, the nature and endowments are not sights to be easily forgotten.
Today, States are in a competition for a share of the world's commercial, political and cultural benefits in a single arena. This makes the image of every society very important. People are known for falling back on the prejudices and fundamental beliefs about a State in their decision making. Just like in marketing, destination branding becomes a basis for making decisions concerning their patronage. If the reputation of a State is poor, uncivilized, retrogressive and corrupt, it becomes difficult for such people to make any significant impact outside their own neighbourhood. But a society with a positive reputation finds it easy, because their brand goes ahead of them, to open doors of opportunities, create trust, respect and an expectation of quality. The reputation of a State has a direct impact on every aspect of its endeavours and plays a very vital role in its economic, social, political and cultural success.
The concept of destination branding therefore, is the drive towards being a unique State among states, through the development of cultural, monumental and other institutions existing in that State. It can also be referred to as place or area branding. It is a destination's competitive identity, which makes it distinctive and memorable, differentiating it from others through instruments such as logo, symbol, word mark or other graphics which are the core essence and enduring characteristics of a particular State. The idea is an instrument required for an effective management of perceptions and by extension a vehicle of social change and orientation. Destination branding leads to the attainment of "brand equity", this represents the positive, powerful and strong reputation of a place. Furthermore, it conveys the promise of a memorable travel experience, which is uniquely associated with a place or state. The process sums up that a State can continue to trade at a healthy margin for as long as its brand image stays intact. It is an indication that a State has a loyal customer base, therefore production and development of its products can continue through innovations and proper communications; using promotional tools by destination marketers to gain distinctive and competitive advantage, creating a space for the expression of a relationship between the patronisers and the State.
States need to develop the travel and tourism potentials individually without waiting for the federal government. There is a large body of international consumers, as well as a highly informed professional cadre of tour operators in the background ready to transact; but when States and regions refuse to develop their potential and reputation, the opportunity is usually lost to States that are keen on such development. The beauty and general outlook of a State is a viable tool in the management of perceptions concerning their image and a determinant of the acceptance level of their messages in the outside world.
Destination branding deals with the capturing and building of reputational value overtime. Any ordinary tourism promotion, without a particular long-term strategy in mind apart from growth, is possibly going to end in a vicious cycle, which may lead nowhere. Unlike brand management, it is aimed at selling the destination to a larger public, the failure or otherwise depends on the underlying brand strategy. It Is usually difficult for any nation, without the participation of the States, to make any meaningful progress or attain brand equity, except part of the promotional tasks is assigned to States. The basic principle of destination branding is that every act of promotion, exchange or representation needs to be seen not as an end in itself, but as an opportunity to build the country's image and reputation, through a strategic and inviting tourist attraction.
The fundamental tool of understanding, measuring and even managing the national brand, is destination branding and it is the primary task of State governments. To achieve a reputation and a good national brand, the States has to go through a proper and adequate coordination of all the units of the federation in the process of creating a positive brand for the nation. This is not an activity for the centre only, but a concerted effort of all the components of the nation. Tourist and monumental sites in every State has to be developed to meet the requirements of the millennium, the national rebranding campaign should incorporate all the States of the federation. Some countries haves spent millions in branding and rebranding, yet, no meaningful success has been achieved, due largely to the myopic approach and lack of integration of the States.
The management of a nation's image cannot be done through communications only; its tourism and cultural heritage must be brought into perspective. Its music, art, and other cultural products can be harnessed from the local level to the national, and then a sure path has been opened for development. A destination with a positive and powerful image has less work to be done, and less money to spend on its promotional activities. This is because, already, their worth is known, they only require guiding patronisers towards their products. Though, this advantage is not without responsibilities, a well branded destination must live up to its reputation and even exceed expectations through constant innovations to protect its brand against competitors. Cross River State has a bold new logo, "The Nation's Paradise", Ondo State, "The Sunshine State". These are marks of their identity, symbol and sign of a proper destination brand, incorporated in their tourist attractions. Building a good reputation provides a steady flow of revenue to fund other projects and can also be an avenue of creating employment for Nigerian youths.