Branding a country’s identity: Monetising the Jamaican language

Long before the sensational Usain Bolt sprinted to fame on the track, the 'land of wood and water' has been a dominant brand in its own right. Illustrated by a striking black-green-gold combination; the resilience of its people, food, music, religion, natural resources and fashion - these are just some of the reasons this little island stands out. Representing only .004% of the world’s population, in pure Jamaican language, "wi likkle but wi tallawah".

Not without its fair share of not-so-good news, in the form of less than desirable economic performance over consecutive years and deep seated injustices, punctuated by allegations of corruption and misappropriations. However, Jamaica - a piece of land sitting 90 miles North of Cuba yet so far away in political views, is undeniably magical, a traveler’s paradise.

The country has ran many successful marketing campaigns in the past but beyond tourism, it doesn’t seem to benefit much from this awe-inspiring brand awareness which are attributable to its cultural endowments. Reviewing data provided by the International Trade Centre proved startling. In 2014 Jamaica exported a mere US$105,000 in the Tariff category, "personal, cultural and recreational services" to the world, while Europe alone imported US$29.2M over the same period in the category. In fact, with a population of 4.3 million, Croatia’s import alone exceeded what Jamaica exported to the world.

Read: Branding success for ethical entrepreneurs

The Jamaican company, Patwa Culcha International Limited, is on a mission to disrupt this unpleasant reality as we create products and services inspiring Jamaican pride worldwide.

One should never discount the value of language to a people’s culture; it is a gift to mankind that knits a society together in an intricate and inexplicably profound way. It is a large part of the cultural fabric of a society, carefully knitted to give insight into its historical experiences and practices.

Traveling to numerous countries, observing reactions on most if not all occasions while interacting with non-Jamaicans, has cemented the point that there is a fascination with the Jamaican language.

And it’s not just the average Joe on the streets. For example in the African and African American Studies, Harvard University has offered Jamaican Patois as a course of study for a number of years.

For us, it is more than just a language spoken in informal settings or one that suggests a person may not be from the upper echelons of society. It represents a viable business opportunity to monetise this colorful language.

Read: How modern day focus groups impact branding

At Patwa Culcha International Limited, we speak a 'fashionable Jamaican language' with 'Jamaican messages making the world smile' through the Patwa Apparel brand. Interesting and colorful expressions are etched on items of clothing with their corresponding English translations. Our language extends far beyond the overused phrase of "no problem mon" or "irie mon". One example of our conversation starter which inevitable evoke a smile from those with whom contact is made is "Nuh badda mi" interpreted as leave me alone. This is just one of the pieces that speaks volume in the Immigration lines in airport during my travels for example.

I love Jamaica and the exciting opportunities that exists within our culture. Walk good!

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