Brand South Africa Promo, Case study RE-BRANDING A NATION by MSL China

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Industry Business equipment & services, Public awareness, Corporate Image
Media Promo & PR, Case study
Market China
Agency MSL China
Released September 2012

Credits & Description

Category: Public Sector
Senior Account Director, Shanghai Office Head: Harriet Gaywood (MSL China)
Senior Account Executive: Lucy Xu (MSL China)
Asst. Account Executive: Jessie Song (MSL China)
Media placement: Event/Press Pack - 178 Articles Incl Reuters, AFP, TV Asahi, Financial Times Chinese, Forbes China, - 6 May 2010
Media placement: Event/Press Pack - 25 Articles Incl Include U+ Weekly, Voyage, Expo, Laodong Daily - 1 September 2010
Media placement: Event/Press Pack - 20 Articles Incl China Business News, People’s Daily - 7 June 2010
Media placement: Event/Press Pack - 15 Articles Incl China Operation Daily, Xinhua News Agency And Etc. - 16 June 2010
Media placement: Event/Press Pack - 103 Articles Incl 21st Century Business Herald, China Business News, Inter - 5 July 2010
Media placement: Event/Press Pack - 116 Articles Incl China Economic Weekly, Phoenix TV, ICS - 18 July 2010
Media placement: Event/Press Pack - 23 Articles Incl Energy Of China, Sino-Global Energy Journal, Energy Technology - 19 July 2010
Media placement: Event/Press Pack - 102+ Articles Incl Including Reuters, AP, National Finance News, Radio France In - 26 August 2010
Media placement: Event/Press Pack - 26 Articles Incl People’s Daily, China News Service - 2 September 2010
Media placement: Event/Press Pack - 20+ Articles Incl China Economic Weekly, Wenhui Daily, Xinhua News Agency - 8 October 2010

Summary of the Campaign

Our challenge was to reinvent South Africa’s (SA) image in China, and demonstrate the country’s attractiveness as a tourist destination and business gateway to Africa. China’s media had focused on South Africa’s crime and social problems rather than its economic prowess. Plus, a journalist for Xinhua – China’s official state media – had recently been attacked while visiting South Africa (SA). The 2010 Shanghai World Expo provided an excellent opportunity to showcase a modern and relevant South Africa to the Chinese.

A strategic branding and communications plan drawing upon its growing industries, vibrant culture and emergence as a global economic player - key parallels with China’s own development story - was executed.

Result: Chinese audiences came to appreciate the 'new face' of SA, paving the way for the signing of a dozen deals in mining, finance, and energy. President Zuma professed that the stronger relationship with China would help SA attain 7% growth. The surge of positive media coverage, business and interest brought a 62% increase in Chinese visitors to SA in 2010. (Worth noting that the increase in Chinese visitors was despite China not participating in the World Cup and therefore tourism tied to this was limited).

The Situation
On the back of its growing appetite for raw materials, China represents SA’s largest export market. Nevertheless, earlier promotional activities in China were fragmented, negatively impacting trade opportunities. Government agencies delivered inconsistent messages and did not build respect at a national level, a diffuse approach that let stereotypes linger. Furthermore, stories of crime involving Chinese citizens hurt tourism numbers. Against this challenging backdrop, SA pinned ambitious hopes on this new campaign to portray its unique tourism and investment opportunities and rebuild its national image in China.

The Goal

Campaign goals were set on several levels, including targeting the robust state-run media system in China. Without addressing the strongly-held negative image of SA in the media, which often sets the tone for national opinion, all goals would suffer.
On an audience level, we needed to reach and influence Chinese business leaders in key sectors with compelling stories and SA individuals that can open up doors for long-term trade and investment, as well as a need to target affluent Chinese consumers who travel internationally.
Ultimately, our goal was to reinvent SA’s image in China, attract more tourists and business investment.

The Strategy
Our campaign mantra was "The Rise of a Modern Economy: KeNako - SA is open for business." By highlighting SA’s cultural appeal and economic emergence, we sought to create an association with China’s own story, fostering mutual respect.
We showcased the country’s industries, fashion, food, and culture to reflect the true face of modern SA. This was no easy task given the volume of negativity in media, stereotypes and intense competition at the Expo (200 other countries, to be precise).
Close-working relationships, or Guanxi in Mandarin, are essential for working in China and the agency deployed this philosophy while building Chinese media, government and business leader relationships with the Consul-General and Pavilion Directors, paving the way for positive engagements with SA ministers, leaders across industries, and cultural icons.

More than 100 distinct campaign initiatives were implemented in six months, including sharing of SA’s humanitarian values on Mandela Day, which provided an opportunity for under-privileged children to attend the Shanghai Expo. We held monthly Food & Wine Days to promote SA’s growing 'new world' wine industry – a key attraction for affluent Chinese audiences – and Department of Trade & Industry roundtables to foster collaboration in the energy sector, this being a joint priority for SA and China business leaders. Despite Football’s still limited appeal in China, we leveraged SA’s hosting of FIFA 2010 World Cup FIFA, to help build up the image of a respected, successful nation connecting with China’s own hosting of the Beijing Olympics.
The agency also facilitated President Zuma’s China visit, accompanied by the largest ever business delegation of 400 members promoting the message that "South Africa is open for Business."

Documented Results

Impressively, China media ranked SA as a "Top 10" Expo country. This 6-month PR-led media onslaught, resulted in more than 1,500 stories across multiple media outlets, it cut SA violence coverage by 50%, created a dynamic and diverse image of SA, and was equal to US$8.9 million in advertising with an ROI of 35x. The negative media image was dramatically changed, with 90% of messages being positive/neutral. Business-wise, more than 150 meetings between influential SA and Chinese business leaders, led to a dozen deals signed in mining, finance, energy and other sectors. President Zuma said the stronger China relationship would soon help SA attain 7% growth, making the trade mission to China one of SA’s most successful. The number of Chinese visitors to SA jumped 62% to a record 68,309 in 2010 versus 2009. In December 2010 the number of visitors was still up an impressive 47% versus a year earlier.