What’s in a Name?

Iceland wants to change their name. That’s right, their name.

For most Americans, Iceland doesn’t mean much more than a blip on their Northern Atlantic radars. We know it for some amazing music, namely Bjork, Sigur Ros and the past year’s sensation Of Monsters and Men (one of our favorites here at the Catchfire office), but it’s not much of a destination for us Americans. It’s no surprise with a name like that. It’s cold enough here in the Northeast, why would we want to vacation to a country with “ice” in it’s title?

An unfortunate name isn’t Iceland’s only source of bad press. The past few years have been tough with their recent financial collapse, subsequent democratic government overthrow, and finally two volcano eruptions that interrupted air travel for days on end.

So, yes, when you hear that Iceland wants to change their name, it shouldn’t come as that much of a surprise. And to come up with a new name, they’ve opened up a contest on their website.

What can a rebranding do for them? Two things:

On one hand a complete overhaul like this can raise the nation’s PR on the outside. The right name should reflect who the country actually is—an adventure destination, a cultural center point, and an incredible source of natural beauty–not a wintery netherworld (it’s actually has a temperate climate thanks to the Gulf Stream). I stress the right name—some of the entries in the contest may be going a bit too literal—I’m not sure that “Niceland” is going to stand up too well in a context like the UN. What they have ahead of them is a big task—they have to come up with a name that will inspire and attract tourists, while standing on its own in official contexts. It has to be simultaneously fresh and solid. I mean come on folks—we’re not rebranding an amusement park here so Bjorkland, Elfland, and Adventureland aren’t gonna cut it.

As well as an outward face to the rest of the world, a rebrand would signify a fresh season for Iceland. It could be a chance to get past all the recent bad history. It could be a chance to inject fresh purpose and inspiration into their national identity.

We may not all be struggling nations, but we can learn some valuable lessons from this small island in the North Atlantic about the importance and potential of a rebrand. Think about it. I think we might be able to help.

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