Tuesday, June 26, 2018

The Cost of a Name Change

On April 19, 2018, one of the world’s last remaining absolute monarchs announced that Swaziland will be officially known as the Kingdom of eSwatini. 

King Mswati III (left) had added – I’m not sure if it was an afterthought – that too often, Swaziland was confused with the similar-sounding Switzerland, when referred to abroad. 

I wasn’t concerned about the name change – after all, Bheki Makhubu, a journalist and editor of local magazine The Nation, said that the King’s pretty much doing what he likes with the country. 

The King already treats the state of eSwatini as his personal property – besides, people are already used to the king referring to his country as eSwatini anyway. 

I was concerned about the cost of the name change. 

According to South Africa-based intellectual property lawyer and blogger Darren Olivier: “There’s value in that, there’s intrinsic value in that identity and what it means for the people”. 

But at the same time, he also admitted there’s a cost to pay. Like many, Olivier had wondered exactly what the price tag for eSwatini will be. 

In his blog, he had estimated that it will cost the country $6 million to change its name. 

He calculated this based on the country’s taxable and non-taxable revenue at about $1 billion. For a large company the average marketing budget costs around 6% of its revenue, he surmised. That would be $60 million in this case – and rebranding budgets typically take up 10% of those marketing costs. This gives the $6 million that may ultimately have to be found by the eSwatini government. 

As Olivier had pointed out, for a small country that is largely agricultural – with about 70% of the population depending on subsistence farming, growing food to feed their families – that is “not insignificant”. 

He said his estimate was very “back of the envelope” and based mainly on assumptions about how rebranding works in corporate contexts such as when a company changes its name – but it was a potentially useful bit of guesswork given that no-one really knows what kind of bill King Mswati III’s people will be left with. 

Jeremy Sampson, executive director for Africa at marketing firm Brand Finance opined: “The paperwork, the website, signage on government properties, government agencies – there’s a huge, huge expenditure here and one’s got to ask right at the beginning is this really necessary”. 

For sure, everything has a price.

Anyway, a country's gotta do what it's gotta do!

Yesterday, in Group A, the World Cup match between Egypt and Saudi Arabia saw the former losing to the latter 1-2. The result didn’t matter because both countries had already been eliminated. In the other match, Uruguay easily whipped Russia 3-0 – in any case, the two countries have made it to the Round of 16. 

In Group B, Portugal drew 1-1 with Iran and the match between Spain and Morocco saw both teams scoring two goals each. Of course, Portugal and Spain progress to the Round of 16 too.

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