It has been 26 years since the movie ‘The Firm’ premiered and the Cayman Islands brand is still trying to outrun the shadow of Hollywood’s negative perception of it being a country that facilitates criminals.
But industry leaders say the tide is turning.
“I think it’s changing, to be positive; I think it’s slowly changing. The government is doing well, but it is going to take a while,” said Paul Byles, director at consulting firm FTS and a former Chamber of Commerce president.
Last week, the Cayman Islands as a brand came under the microscope at the Cayman Islands Marketing Professionals Association’s annual conference at the Kimpton Seafire Resort.
Panellists explored the perils and rewards of nation branding and they all agreed that while this country has a solid brand, there are areas in need of attention.
Byles, who was part of the panel looking at ‘brand Cayman’, said if this country’s multicultural, cosmopolitan construct is to be harnessed, then the people have to do better when it comes to working together.
“We have to do a better job at ensuring that we are living together and we like living next to each other, and I don’t think we do a very good job with that,” he said.
Byles pointed out that Cayman has a “little bit of a split” and, depending on the state of the economy, that “split becomes harsh sometimes”, adding, “When the economy is great, the split becomes soft and you don’t see it as much.”
While he said that split in the community is not unique to Cayman, “We need to do a better job as people, as a government and everyone else, as say ‘well, actually, we’re all in this together, we love each other, it’s great, it’s fine’.”
He said Cayman must get away from pointing fingers and focus on building on the good within the community to grow the nation’s brand.
Byles also stressed that a proper education campaign on the financial services industry is key to protecting brand Cayman and it should start from the primary schools.
Kaitlyn Elphinstone, Cayman Enterprise City’s vice president of marketing and public engagement, agreed, adding that focusing on the people that make up the islands is an important element in brand Cayman.
Director of Tourism Rosa Harris said the Cayman Islands’ brand is strong in quality and “it is a brand that persons want to be associated with”.
She reminded participants that everyone who lives in Cayman is a brand ambassador.
“Everything that we say, everything that we post, the world is listening and can search and find it. And if we are all to be ambassadors of our brand, we have to understand that, yes, we have to be truthful; we’re not perfect, but we also have a responsibility to manage our brand,” she said.
Mike Ridley, head of growth and partnerships at advertising agency The Community, said there also must be a balance between development and the environment.
He referred to Dart’s proposed, so-called ‘iconic tower’, saying he does not think that is needed here.
Ridley said Cayman’s environment is an asset that needs to be protected.
“Nothing can happen without the environment. The environment is important,” he argued.