An investigation into perceptions of South Africa's brand personality : a qualitative study
Thesis (MBA)--Stellenbosch University, 2011.
Since the first democratic election in South Africa in 1994, considerable investment has gone into South Africa’s brand. However, this researcher could find no literature on the description of South Africa’s brand personality as perceived by visitors. The purpose of this study is to provide insight into South Africa’s brand personality and encourage researchers to undertake a more in depth study of South Africa’s brand personality. It ultimately aims to assist marketers in differentiating South Africa’s brand and making it more competitive on the world stage. This report also seeks to encourage research in the field of customer service personality frameworks for destinations, based on destination brand personality. The design of this report is qualitative and exploratory. Participants of this study included a group of 15 arbitrarily selected visitors at the International Departure Terminal of Cape Town International Airport. A semi-structured interview was the method used to collect the data. A qualitative analysis included categorising the data according to similar adjectives and descriptions and then determining where best it fits (if at all) with Aaker’s (1997:354) brand personality dimensions. The findings of the research reveal that South Africa’s brand personality can be described in terms of Aaker’s (1997:354) brand personality scale. However, a relatively large number of participants described the personality as immature, contradictory and damaged. The researcher also discovered that there is a weak relationship between the brand personality and the core values of South Africa’s brand as identified by Brand South Africa (Shepherd, 2010a).This led the researcher to conclude that there are deficiencies in South Africa’s brand personality and it is not robust enough to be a sustainable competitive advantage in its current state. This researcher concluded that South Africa’s brand personality has a perceived weakness of inconsistency, is in a developing phase and the perceived personality is not an effective medium through which the country’s core values are being communicated. This research was limited by the relatively low number of participants, the collection of data in one location only and the absence of triangulation. This impacts negatively on the robustness of this research. The data collection also lacked representation across nationalities that would have provided an opportunity to make comparisons of the same. This report is not generalisable and the isolated nature of the research implies that the personality identified cannot be compared with other destination brand personalities to determine its relative strength or weakness. The practical implication of this research is that in identifying visitors’ perceptions of South Africa’s brand personality, marketers can use this information to mitigate the negative perceptions that manifest in the personality and emphasise the positive. The identification of the ‘developing’ nature of South Africa’s brand personality points to an opportunity to shape the brand according to Brand South Africa’s strategic objectives. The finding that traits associated with some of the core values like Ubuntu, Competitiveness and Determination are absent from the personality provides valuable insight into the gap between how the brand is positioned and the perceptions of visitors. The finding of the stereotypical perceptions of African and Western manifesting in the brand personality can be used as valuable insight in a nation branding initiative that aims to change these perceptions. Finally, the brand personality can form the basis of a customer service personality that is unique to South Africa.