6 Reasons Why the “Buy Jamaican Campaign” Needs Urgent Redesign

The buy Jamaican campaign, as well meaning and economically sensible as it may be for Jamaica (and Barbados and Trinidad where they have similar campaigns), says only one thing to consumers “Buy me because I am Jamaican, and we are family” – that is a very bad marketing pitch.

Buy Jamaica Christmas Campaign

Garrison Shopping

Buy Jamaican campaign is equivalent to Garrison Politics – “Vote Labour or Power because you are from here or there.” Support our cause because “we are in the struggle together”.  Come on board, not necessarily because the product is great, not necessarily because there is any value in it for you, but  because it’s us against the rest of the world.

Here are 6 reasons why Buy Jamaica, as great as it is, is just not yet good enough:

1. Buy Jamaican Is the Longest Way Home.

Jamaican Tourism

“You ought to buy Jamaican” is emotional manipulation at best. Have you ever wondered however, why “Buy Jamaican” needs to be said?

Here are 5 Jamaican products that no one needs to be emotionally manipulated into buying:

  1. Jamaica (the idyllic tourist version)
  2. Usain Bolt (Yohan Blake, Veronica Campbell-Brown)
  3. Blue Mountain Coffee
  4. Bob Marley and Reggae Music (not necessarily Dancehall, thanks much to all the bans and criminal charges of the major icons)
  5. Dr. Henry Lowe’s Prostate Cancer breakthrough

Do you want to know why these Titans stand the test of time, the recession and the pressure of every competing product? They stand because they are innately high-quality, incomparable and worthwhile products.

The “Buy Jamaican” campaign overlooks the fact that “if you build it (well) they will come.”

2. Buy Jamaican presumes that I will eat crap for national pride

I will not.

No Crap, pleaaaaase!

Have you ever heard the saying that, “Good marketing only makes a bad product fail faster?”

Isn’t that why the Blackberry Playbook cannot sell even with price cuts, while, the Apple iPad has been marked as the top selling gadget in human history? The fact is, good products sell. Bad products, sell a bit with advertisement, before crashing.

When I or someone I know purchase a product that tastes like crap, everyone on Twitter, Facebook and Google + will know that the product (as wonderfully Jamaican as it is) sucks royally.

3. Indiscriminate “Buy Jamaican” approval is bad for “Brand Jamaica”

Original or Counterfeit

It’s not only wrong to reward the lazy and incompetent for what they did not do, it has long term effects for Jamaica as a brand. Jamaica is known globally for quality in whatever it does, granting wholesale approval and endorsement of every random bag juice man soon makes people weary of all bag juices.

Representing Jamaica ought not to be a matter of right – like a spot in the Jamaican Olympics team, it ought to be earned.

Producers that rely on their “Jamaican Identity” as their only source of survival, without producing at the level that will ensure the survival of brand Jamaica, are no better than those who randomly stamp “Jamaica” on their counterfeits.

 4. Buy Jamaican Supplies No Real Benefit for the Consumer

No rebate?

No “10 Jamaican product wrappers equal a discount?”

No “1000 Grace labels and Grace will pay for you CXC in English?”

No Buy Jamaica card that rewards you in NHT benefits or gas points, or Air Jamaica flights, or hospital costs?


So who benefits when I buy Jamaica? (Ahhh, right the producer and the government). And I am suppose to care about their existence more than my own (clearly I do when I buy a more expensive product simply because it’s Jamaican) for what reason?  Simply because they are Jamaican?

As people say in the part of the country I come from, “Unnuh can siddung and wait pon it.”

 5. “Buy Jamaican” rewards the lazy, and ignores the industrious

Blue Mountain Coffee

I will spend on Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee, even though Jamaican High Mountain Coffee is cheaper and even though a host of foreign brands are cheaper. Why? The product is world-class.

Wouldn’t the Buy Jamaican Campaign do better if it were able to say, “Buy Excelsior Water Crackers because…,” before listing all the merits of the product in comparison to the competitor.

It is wrong to lump a lazy with the efficient, the incompetent with the competent.

6. Simply saying “Buy Jamaican” is inadequate

The statement is wholly reliant on my innate prejudices to work. There is very little national pride in me when I see the same product costing $50 less than the Jamaican alternative.

I have a suggestion: each manufacturer needs to print a big glossy attractive cut out to put in the supermarket, explaining why their product costs what it costs.  For example, why Jamaican Corn Beef cost more than New Zealand Corn beef (just a random product, I didn’t really check).

What do you think about a ‘buy local’ Campaign to encourage consumers to buy products primarily from their country? Do you believe we have a responsibility to support local producers?

Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Andrew Wildes (@AndrewWildes), a law student, journalist and aspiring author. Read more about Andrew at MaximizeMyLife.

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10 Responses to 6 Reasons Why the “Buy Jamaican Campaign” Needs Urgent Redesign

  1. Stevo Stevo says:

    Excellently written article Andrew. Good insight into the issue as well. I agree that 
    there are good sensible things in and about Jamaica that can be promoted w/o any prodding or coercion of the sort. However, as I pointed out to you, upon further research, i realized that the campaign seems to be promoting the buying of high quality Jamaican products and not an indiscriminate approach as said. However, the thing is you would have to read more into the campaign to find out, you don’t really get that by just interacting with the theme. As stated on the JMA website 

    “The goal of this Campaign is to encourage the support of high quality local products and to instil pride in producers and consumers as it relates to brand Jamaica.”

    Additionally, from what I have seen, these buy local campaigns have one major premise – this is good for the economy. However your article did not really state much about the fact this this might actually be good for the country in some way. Do you think that even a small percentage in increase in local purchases could play a tremendous impact on GDP?

  2. Avatar Andrew Wildes says:

    Stevo, I am glad you raised those points because I do not want readers to think I am opposed to us encouraging support for local products, or that I am in any way suggesting that all our local products are crappy.

    I am saying that despite its stated goal the campaign lends support to all Jamaican products – the good, bad and whatever.

    I think the campaign should be buy “high quality jamaican” products, essentially.

  3. Avatar Shaneekea says:

    Really like the post. ppl should see Jamaica for what it actually is.

  4. Avatar Jma says:

    Jamaica Manufacturers’ Association (JMA) Ltd. Response

    Andrew, firstly, let us thank you for helping us to give visibility to the Buy Jamaican Campaign and the Buy Jamaican this Christmas message. We have no doubt that you will find a gift that is of good quality and affordable to give this year. However, you seem to be misguided as to the relevance of the Buy Jamaican Campaign, which is not based purely on sentiment but the fact that local manufacturers continue to produce some of the highest quality goods amidst the challenges. Buying Jamaican is important to retain and create jobs, reduce our trade deficit and huge debt, drive demand and expansion and boost the economy. 
    The Buy Jamaican Campaign is not about garrison shopping but the total opposite. It is about empowering Jamaicans and providing gainful employment by producing what you consume to reduce your dependency on handouts from politicians. The message is that while we live in a free market economy and have a choice, we should choose to buy Jamaican to improve our standard of living and grow the economy. 

    Buying Jamaican is the longest way home because we are trying to change the mindset of people like you who do not support local products because you believe foreign is better or associated with quality. Do you really prefer to buy products from countries where you are unfamiliar with their standards and conditions under which they produce;  building their economies instead of supporting your own? 

    We are also disappointed that you believe our products taste like crap when we are renowned for our unique and superior taste worldwide and our biggest sub-sector in manufacturing is agro processing. It therefore presumes that no one is eating crap for national pride. 
    We are not rewarding the lazy and incompetent but we are rewarding the resilient and hard-working investors in the manufacturing sector that contribute 8.1% to GDP, employ over 74,000 workers, earn $US647.6 million in exports and contribute $56 billion in taxes to government coffers. The sector also outperforms other sectors in productivity. 

    As a part of the Campaign, the JMA works with Bureau of Standards to ensure that we manufacture products at international standards. We also have to be price competitive to export and compete with the same cheap, crappy imported goods in the local market.

    Don’t be fooled! The Buy Jamaican Campaign speaks to the quality goods that are made here and we proudly stamp our approval on Jamaican-made goods. We invite you to be an ambassador for the Buy Jamaican Campaign, as we need more energetic young people championing the buy Jamaican cause for national pride and development. 

    • Stevo Stevo says:

      Thanks much for your reply. If the association would like the opportunity to provide a longer and more detailed response highlighting the benefits in a guest post, we would be willing to arrange that.

    • JMA, it is undeniably true that your local commercial and manufacturing partners (especially NCB :]) are aware of the vision and national economic worth that the Buy Jamaica Campaign offers. However, the article is quite apt because I am not sure that the ‘wo/man on the street’ or even educated Jamaican consumers get this…though not entirely a fault of their own. A part of that challenge is precisely because we are not culturally wired to see the seminal relationship between consumer behaviour and economic growth.    

      Having said that, from a MARKETING perspective, the BJC isn’t ‘domestic’ enough, which I think is one of the substantive points that this article glaringly raises. Despite Omar Azan’s legitimate emphasis on quality products and job creation benefits, fundamentally the BJC does not offer a compelling and visible buy-in for the average Jill. Unfortunately, the (manufacturing) brand Jamaica that she sees is coupled with poor contact and customer support, local products lacking nutritional facts on the labels, and high price margins with minuscule consumer rewards. 

      If local products are truly great, and if buying Jamaican helps to grow the sector/’economy’ then there is great need to innovatively communicate this to the consumers and thereby impact their perception. 


      • Stevo Stevo says:

        Well said. The need is just to communicate it properly to raise market awareness. The objectives are very good, but the connection between action and the impact could be stronger. Plus considering that for some things the local products are indeed more costly than their imported counterparts, there really needs to be that strong sell.

  5. Excellent article Andrew! Despite your loaded language you have hit the nail right on the head.