My interest and like for marketing started from the Marketing class I took at Cave Hill Campus back in the late 80’s. That class was conducted by the late Professor, Stanley Reid. The passion and enthusiasm he brought to the subject was contagious.
Most students, I am sure, couldn’t help but be interested in what was being taught. Prof. Reid showed that he was an embodiment of what he was teaching.
He marketed himself and the subject of Marketing.
In today’s world, with ever-changing technologies, the tools of Marketing are probably vastly different than what we learnt in the 80’s. Nevertheless, I am sure the theories and concepts are still applicable.
In our daily lives, it is necessary, in some way or the other, to apply concepts of marketing. We market products, services, concepts, ideas, suggestions and we even market ourselves when the need arises. The success of our abilities at marketing is determined by the outcome.
One can have the best product, service or idea but poor marketing can cause failure in getting attraction to it. On the reverse, one can have a not so good item or concept but with strong and clever marketing, one can reap success. There are numerous examples of both and we can learn from them all.
Marketing involves having intimate knowledge of what we want to market and, more importantly, it must involve having a passion for marketing whatever it is. Marketing also involves having a good understanding and appreciation of who you are marketing to. The potential and capacity of one’s intended market and the opportunities that abound in that market.
I recall a story that speaks to the heart of marketing. And whether it is true or not, it has certainly conditioned my approach to many events I have faced in my life. The story is told of a shoe salesman who travelled to another place to sell shoes. When he got there, he noticed that everyone went around barefoot. He left frustrated and told his company that the place had no potential as no one wore shoes. However, another shoe salesman, on arriving in that place and finding the same situation, was ecstatic. He told his company that the place had plenty potential as no one wore shoes.
I come from a community that is made up largely of the descendants of migrants. I myself am the first generation of a migrant. My father came here from India in the 1950’s. One of the unique features of this community is their success in the itinerant trade over the years. Selling on credit, house to house, village to village, is how most of the East Indian Muslim migrants from the earliest arrivals to recent times have been able to achieve their livelihood.
Chapter 16 of Sabir Nakhuda’s book “Bengal to Barbados” explains the itinerant trade practised by these East Indians in Barbados. What is fascinating about this story is that it cannot be explained why the very first East Indian got involved in this type of trading in the first place. Sabir’s research has shown that the first known East Indian to arrive in Barbados was from West Bengal around 1910. The area which he came from was all agricultural, not commercial. We also know that getting items on credit from merchants in Barbados was not possible for many persons on the island at that time, especially among the majority poor population.
That first East Indian migrant saw an opportunity and grabbed it. His business model was to be followed by the other East Indian migrants over the succeeding decades, all of whom came from agricultural villages in western India. Today, these salesmen affectionately known as “the coolie man”, successfully market their goods and sell on credit to a wide cross-section of Barbadians.
My interest in writing on this topic of marketing was sparked over the recent holidays as a discussion I was a part of, brought up the high numbers of visitors who flock to the famous Cuz on Pebbles beach. Eating at Cuz, it seems, is on the bucket list of things to take in while in Barbados. The long lines of visitors just waiting to buy a simple fish sandwich bears testimony to the power of a name and a reputation, marketed in such a way that it is a must do. No frills, no large billboards, no glamour and glitter, just a plain outlet with the name ‘Cuz’ on it sitting in a carpark, yet with tremendous appeal and demand so created by great reviews all over the internet.
If we pay close attention, we can truly say that Barbados has a lot it can market to the world. Barbados itself is described as a brand. People want to come to Barbados. The island’s name is featured in several popular movies when holidays are mentioned. Barbados is a ‘must come’ destination not only for the rich and famous but for all types of travelers who truly want to experience the world.
Being a brand and marketing it as such makes it even more vital that we ensure that this place we call home is the best it can be. We certainly have a head start, our name, our fame and our reputation. We cannot afford to lose any part of that. Potholes affect that reputation, so does sewerage in our streets, crime, bad service, a poor transport system, unhealthy surroundings and poor infrastructure (water, electricity, phone, health services, etc.)
If we get those issues right, not even perfect, because I don’t think any country can truly be perfect, then we can market our brand Barbados with pride and passion. We can also market the many things Barbados has to offer, the small, seemingly insignificant things to the larger, more significant attractions. All has their place and all has economic potential once we can harness it.
If Barbados, an insignificant dot on the map of the world, can be on the bucket list of places to visit on this globe for thousands if not millions of people and Cuz, a small canteen selling only fish sandwiches, can be a must stop for those visitors, then I believe that each and every one has a capacity to do or make something that is marketable to the world. All it takes is the passion to make it happen.
(Suleiman Bulbulia is a Justice of the Peace. Secretary of the Barbados Muslim Association and Muslim Chaplain at the Cave Hill Campus, UWI. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org)