THE BLOG
04/02/2015 07:33 GMT | Updated 04/04/2015 06:59 BST

It's Not the What or the How but the Who: Why Kenya needs to Leverage its Best People to Tell the Country's Story

It started off with a tweet. Conceptualising my very first marketing event in Africa, I racked my brains as to what I could do to drive sponsors of a brand awareness campaign on Kenya's south coast: the country's once-booming tourist haven; now a sleeping dog that only springs to life intermittently, as if startled in the night.

I could engage big-name sponsors such as Safaricom - East Africa's biggest mobile phone company and ubiquitous in Kenya - and engage brands such as Nokia and Samsung, too. This would then help to drive an attention-grabbing, CSR-oriented event hosted by Skydive Diani, giving people the thrill-of-a-lifetime in one of the best dive spots in the world.

We could unfurl banners promoting Kenyan tourism mid-air during a skydive and capture the imagination of people. It would be big, bold and brimming with originality.

For this is what's Kenya's coast currently needs. Diani Beach, a tropical paradise just south of Mombasa, has been seriously affected by its proximity to the country's second-largest city and the spectre of terror: tourism receipts - the second-biggest foreign direct investment earner - are down, livelihoods have been hit and hotels closed.

Whilst I became intoxicated with what I could do and how I could execute it, it dawned on me. It wasn't the what or the how at all, but the who!

Marketing gurus often like to cite the 4 Ps as the strategy to successfully serve their customers: price, product, place and promotion. But I'd like to chuck another 'P' into the marketing mix: people. And Africa generally, and Kenya more specifically, needs to leverage its very best people, of whom there are many, to drive inspirational marketing campaigns; to look deep within its soul and sing and shout with passion about what it does well. And, despite what you may have heard to the contrary, it does a lot well.

Herein was my rationale in reaching out to four young guys from Nairobi. Sauti Sol, voted Best African Act by MTV last October and Kenya's answer to One Direction, with more heart and a serious amount more soul, are many a teenage girl's wet dream and the envy of every male urbanite in Nairobi. What they also are is one of the country's best cultural brands and the missing who in my drive to create awareness around the country's coast.

I engaged Bien, Delvin, Chimano and Polycarp, via their publicist on Twitter, to help dream up a campaign that would paint the Kenyan coast in a fresh and funky new light. They agreed, with a little hesitancy at first to the thought of jumping out of a plane from 12,000ft. But when I told them what I had in mind - whilst breathing in the breath-taking splendour of the Indian Ocean and eye-popping vistas of the coast, their coast - they said yes.

And the great thing is they care. They're the band with a "social consciousness" (Forbes Africa) and whose CSR awareness campaigns include crystallising the importance of education via their Soma Soma initiative, meaning 'Learn, Learn' in Swahili.

This, and their unique brand of Afro pop, are helping them get noticed from Paris to Las Vegas, and differentiate them from the saccharine-coated pop of the western world. Their hits, Sura Yako ('Your Face'), and Nishike ('Touch Me'), have also notched up more than one million views on YouTube.

Tourism should be fresh, fun and brimming with character; these boys have got it in spades. It is why the quartet became my who, set to become a series of articles and video about the event.

Africa has long been tinged with the scent of negativity associated with vile characters such as Uganda's Idi Amin and Liberia's Charles Taylor. Kenya, too, has triggered headlines in recent years and months that it could do without, but it has an opportunity - as the country continues to attract international brands and businesses, unphased by the perceived threat of terror - to leverage that fifth 'P' and change perception. It has many already doing good things, and a growing youth population waiting in the wings.

And now it has Sauti Sol: the 'voices in the sun', as the Swahili-Spanish translation goes, whose star is on the rise and rise.

*This piece originally appeared on Kevin's blog, www.universityofinspiration.com