Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Building brand T&T

Express editorial logo373

Mark Fraser

Some years ago, cricket phenomenon Brian Lara put his powerful brand to work by lending his name to a privately-owned cancer treatment centre. Today, soca superstar Machel Montano is ratcheting up business by making his name work for him in a series of new ventures.

Two years ago, Montano crowned his 30-year anniversary in soca with the launch of a new rum, 3Zero, in collaboration with partners in the entertainment and rum business. This Carnival, he followed up with the release of a limited edition of caps, which was quickly followed by another collaborative business venture involving fine Trinidad chocolate produced by Soular of Maracas Valley.

Other big-name local entertainers have earlier made themselves into entrepreneurs, investing their earnings and reputations in diverse areas. But Montano’s latest business project is distinguished for being based on a traditional, indigenous agricultural product. The limited edition chocolate is now testing the market as “happy food”, taking its pitch from Montano’s 2014 hit, “Happiest Man Alive”.

According to his mother, Elizabeth Montano, the identification with local products is particularly important to the artiste.

For the encouragement of local music, local agriculture, and local business, this start-up deserves our applause. In markets throughout the world, entertainment and sports personalities are extending their revenue possibilities by maximising their power as brands in everything from clothing, footwear, furniture, perfume and other retail products of all kinds. Savvy businesspeople who understand how difficult it can be to break into markets with established brand names, seek out associations to build buzz around new products and catapult them to public attention.

In this milieu, our home-grown brands have been slow on the uptake and it is to Montano’s credit that he is willing to explore the economic opportunities of his personal brand as part of a business diversification strategy.

Even as exploratory initiatives, Montano’s forays are important for giving local producers a branding edge in the market. We can only hope that it opens the eyes of other personalities to the possibilities of diversifying their personal brand while providing businesspeople with innovative ideas for marketing their products.

Branding is one of the most critical challenges facing Trinidad and Tobago, both as a producer for the domestic and export markets as well as a tourism destination. In their quest to break into new markets and attract business, our entrepreneurs, big and small, are depending on two new State agencies, InvesTT and ExporTT, to put muscle behind them and support their efforts. To a significant degree, the success of this country’s diversification plan rests on how effectively these two agencies support our manufacturing and service sectors.

By stepping outside the comfort zone of the soca stage, Machel Montano has demonstrated a self-confident savvy that is the hallmark of the entrepreneur. We can only wish him well and hope that others will be equally inspired to step out of their crease and take the risk.