America posesses one of the most influential media markets in the World. Through the dissemination of electronic, digital, hard copy and conceptual media the USA has dominated and in some instances created markets that have influenced populations all over the world. It’s influence comes in the form of books, magazines, fashion, television, news, internet, search engines, social media, radio and more.
At the heart of media, is the bedrock of communication. And the US has not been slack concerning its investment in media communications both as a commercial and military commodity. According to data by Statista, the digital media market is set to reach $292,402 million dollars this year. However, the US market is slated to usurp nearly 30 percent of that number. This is not merely because of the value of the USD, but also the level of investment given to the market.
At the heart of media, is the bedrock of communications.
Part of the reason US media galvanized the planet, is because very little research and development is devoted to commercial, scientific and military media communications in other media enclaves. The United states, followed by China, Japan and Germany spend the most on Reasearch and development respectively. The US spends nearly half a trillion dollars on R&D, which means when other nations are figuratively “sleeping” US scientists are studying tech, strategy, ICT, military science and communication strategies. However, China is catching up, it spends about 60 percent of what the US spends in R&D according to data from UNESCO. Despite its spending, China struggled to combat the narratives that were hurting its brand during the height of the trade war and the pandemic. Was it engaging the right strategists in its nessaging?
However, China is catching up, it spends about 60 percent of what the US spends in R&D according to data from UNESCO.
While the US does use targetted Media to influence, it focuses more on mass media. Targetted media is most often used in military and propaganda campaigns in the Western tradition. Many believe that mass media is content that is made palatable for all audiences–but that would not be correct. The US focuses its media squarely on its own ideals and beliefs and exports that wholesale to the world. It is quite an effective tool in converting media consumers to Western concepts, marketing and products.
Viewers of American media unknowingly internalize Western themes, attitudes and biases without even noticing it. The insatiable appetite for “American” products that originate in China is a telling example. The US imports nearly 471.8 billion in goods from China according to data from the Office of the US Trade Representative. China remains the largest supplier of goods in the US. Yet in many foreign enclaves acquiring these “American” items represents both prestige and quality although they are actually Chinese goods! That is the power of marketing and media–to build a US brand off of an imported Chinese product.
That is the power of marketing and media–to build a US brand off of an imported Chinese product.
Many nations are unaware of how to craft a strategy to brand itself and it’s various markets through communications media. And Many are not aware that it is not enough to engage a top marketing and media firms like BBDO, Ogilvy or Burston-Marsteller. These and other big box firms have been contracted for years on major projects throughout the developing world in Southeast Asia, China, Africa and South America. Yet many of these countries and regions still face horrible media exposure. In many cases, the homogeneity of many big box marketing firms’ C-suite and rank and file tend to make transformative engagement and successful caampaigns and strategies difficult, hit or miss and ineffective.
These and other big box firms have been contracted for years on major projects throughout the developing world in Southeast Asia, China, Africa and South America. Yet many of these countries and regions still face horrible media exposure.
Instead, developing economies and emerging powers must engage more organic media and seek communication professionals that have their best interests at heart as well as a better understanding and appreciation for new paradigms of mass media, marketing and communications.
Ghana is a great example of an African state that has begun a slow but steady media and branding ascent. It is clear that someone in Ghana’s leadership has been heeding better media advice than those proffered by big box consultants in previous generations. The Gold Coast nation raked in $1.9 billion dollars just on it’s Year of Return pilot alone. Despite the fact that several West African nations have slave dungeons and years of Colonial lore, Ghana has been able to commodify these features more efficiently.
Ghana was on a path to success in these areas long before the first celebrities appeared on its shores. It has been hosting and engaging black Americans and black Caribbean for years building the foundation for understanding its own market and how that intersects with these populations. Ghana has a listening ear to good media strategy. Ghana began telling its own stories and connected that story with their Diaspora to earn incredible results. If it were not for Covid-19, it may have earned 4 billion dollars in 2020 on Year of Return activities alone.
Does Ghana have something that other African nations do not? Yes and no. Ghana has simply been able to tell an authentic story that the entire world can appreciate. It has stayed true to that story and it has been an attractive selling point that “sells itself” without selling out. That is the effect of true Mass media. True mass media is so loyal to itself that it also attracts the masses. The Year of Return saw not only black Americans and Caribbeans visiting, but also white American, European, Asian and other foreign nationals crowding its shores wanting to “return” too.
True mass media does not pander to other ideals, but is media that becomes so engaging in its own narrative, that others are drawn into it. Believing, supporting and promoting your own narrative is the beginning of a true, exportable mass media. Even the 2018 production of Marvel’s Black Panther which grossed over 1.3 billion was the result of that narrative of an intersecting African and African Diaspora populations. An attractive, and titillating narrative that is both relatable and exciting. So many possibilities for adventure, romance, drama and mystery in the narrative alone promises to yield fat dividends for smart, strategic nations like Ghana.
Ghana’s a great story, indeed, just likr the American narrative; but what is your story–in your country? Top media and advertising executives did not discover Ghana’s narrative, it was grassroots and homegrown. That is why developing economies and growing power economies need more organic media communications strategists to accomplish its objectives. Big box media and marketing companies have not been producing results for these markets principally because they are more invested in their own Western mass media narratives–and that’s OK–some things you have to do for yourself. It’s OK to start small and build capacity over time. Nations and companies can accomplish more with a small dedicated team of professionals than a gargantuan investment in a cold, disengaged big box media house.
While creating targeted media to attract monied investors or charity tourism is a perfectly fine endeavor (and one big box companies will likely advise); a better alternative, with better long term results would be creating a mass media the world aspires to attain.
Lela Winston is a communications strategist and media professional who will help your company, government agency or department strategize a lucrative way forward or consult with your team of professionals in working groups and strategy sessions.