I read that Iceland is running a contest to find a new name for itself because the current name is discouraging tourists from visiting the country. Also, in recent times Iceland's volcanic eruptions and financial collapse have not helped its tourism industry—hence the desire for rebranding with a new name.
This got me thinking about two things – the role of a name in creating a brand, and the mammoth task of branding a country.
I believe a name has little to do with the attributes of a brand, because if it did, a company like Yahoo! would have never been taken seriously. It is the overall image that an organization creates through its products, marketing and PR that give a certain brand value to the name. However, would corporate branding strategies apply to a nation? Sure.
A country’s political landscape, commerce, culture, tourism and media play a big role in defining a country’s brand. To the Western world, for years my country, India, was known as the land of elephants and snake charmers. It took a lot of effort to lift that image and be recognized as a developing nation. And now again, the country is associated in parts as a nation full of slums (thanks to Slumdog Millionaire *rolling eyes*), and in parts as a nation for cheap labor, outsourcing and IT geeks. The Indian government has started a massive tourism campaign called ‘Incredible India’ to showcase the country’s real beauty which thrives in its diverse landscape and culture.
Strategic branding is very important for countries, but I don’t think a new name would suddenly make a country seem appealing to tourists. Iceland's weakening economy and volcanic eruptions are not going to disappear with the new name. Highlighting the country’s gorgeous pastoral beauty, unique culture and yummy pancakes will surely draw tourists!
Priya Shah is a former journalist turned PR professional from India, currently pursuing her Masters at NYU and trying to find her way in the Big Apple.