Re-Branding a Country: Iceland Needs a New Name

Does your home country need a new selling point? Do you want to convince the rest of the world that your nation isn’t just a few isolated communities of moose herders and backpackers who live on a massive ice cube out in the middle of nowhere, hanging out in igloos and curing their own meat? Why not just shake that Etch-a-Sketch up and start at the beginning with a brand new name?

The nation of Iceland, best known for giving us stately glaciers, volcanoes and otherworldly pop stars like Björk and Sigur Ros, has something of a PR problem.

The country went through some major growing pains over the past five years: A complete economic collapse followed by the democratic overthrow of an unpopular government, all topped off by a pair of massive volcanic eruptions that disrupted travel plans all over the world.

At this point, Iceland’s economy desperately needs some new revenue, and its leaders would love to encourage tourists from Europe and the Americas to visit the country for its unique culture and serene natural beauty (it’s not all ice, you know). As part of this nationwide re-branding project, the country’s tourism bureau sponsored a contest to improve Iceland’s “chilly reputation” by creating an entirely new name for the struggling country. So far suggestions include:

  • Rockland
  • Niceland
  • Catch-a-Cloud Land
  • Spiritland
  • Volcanicland

Hmm…you’re not there yet, guys. It’s a shame they can’t take Greenland. Viking Erik the Red’s decision to give that massive frozen tundra a name designed to conjure images of grassy plains and dense forests may have been the greatest PR fake-out of the 10th century!

What do we think about this unusual exercise in re-branding? Will it work, or is it just a nationwide stunt?

P.S. It’s not a crazy idea; cities and countries rename themselves all the time. (Did you know that Istanbul was once called Constantinople?)

@PatrickCoffee Patrick Coffee is a senior editor for Adweek.