Yesterday I opened up the Jamaica Observer to find a two-page spread, on page two and three, no less, extolling a new campaign for Sandals. The Observer owner, Butch Stewart, also owns Sandals resorts, which are spread across the Caribbean, including on the North coast of Jamaica.
If you own your own newspaper, you have the pleasure of advertising your own products and services in its pages in the form of news stories. Sometimes editorial interference by the newspapers owner is justified, sometimes it is cringeworthy. In this case, however, I think this is newsworthy, but for critical reasons obviously not explored in the story.
Jamaica has always been associated with Bob Marley. The link is inextricable. A friend of mine who has traveled the world recently told me that Bob Marley merchandise is everywhere. The markets of Marrakesh, Ukraine, a small town in Norway. The man and his music are branded forever, as is his native land.
Now a multi-national corporation is furthering that brand, selling a sanitized version of Jamaica that only tourists see. I wonder how the Marley family feels about it. Indeed, one of the offspring (Skip Marley, a grandson) has lent his talents to the venture. Three Little Birds is the song used in the campaign, which apparently airs somewhere on earth every five seconds.
I presented at an academic conference last year on branding Jamaica and one of the things that kept surfacing was that the nation needs to get away from branding itself as the land of sun and sea. In other words, there is much more to this beautiful country than the resorts. Well, this Sandals campaign won’t do much to help this case. The commercials are beautifully done, but could have been shot in any Caribbean country. I wonder how both the Marleys and the Tourist Board feels about this.
I will leave you with some words from an executive associated with the Tuff Gong label:
…Executive label manager of Tuff Gong International Myshjua Archibald explained that the Marley group is also thrilled by the union.
“This is exciting for us at Tuff Gong and the rest of the Bob Marley Group of Companies. And, you know, this commercial campaign is perfect evidence of not only the musical impact, but the cultural and social impact that Bob Marley has had worldwide for what’s coming up three generations now,” Archibald said.
“So the ‘No Worry’ ad campaign is historic; of course, not only because of the joining of Marley and Sandals, but even more than that, what it has done is, it has incorporated the energy of a young Marley, like Skip Marley, and they have taken what’s a perennial for Jamaica, and they have actually made it firmly a part of modern pop culture. So this is something that we are really excited to be a part of.
“We are all very happy to be a part of what has now happened with the icon, the legend, and now the legacy together in one moment to create the ‘No Worry’ campaign.”