Yo, Czech It Out

Every single person in the world expressed puzzlement last week at the news from Prague. In a marketing initiative that literally will alter the map of Europe, the Czech Republic is rebranding itself Czechia.

There were two reasons put forward:

“Czechia” rolls off the tongue so much easier than the cumbersome “Czech Republic” -- although it clearly does no such thing.

Dismayed after the Boston Marathon bombings that the Chechen perpetrators were confused for Czechs, the country needed a way to distinguish itself from the semi-autonomous Russian republic. It did so by creating a near homonym for Chechnya.

As reported in the Guardian and elsewhere, the authorities' process considered and rejected “Cesko,” which is the colloquial shorthand used by actual Czechs, and “Bohemia,” which is but one large region within the country. Among the monikers apparently not given serious consideration were Czechostan, Czechtopia, Chexplex, The Nation Formerly Known as Half of the Former Czechoslovakia and of course, North Austria.

What none of the bewildered could deny was the boldness of the initiative. 

After all, people scoffed when major consumer brands took on new identities, and yet has not Altria added “altruism” to your immediate associations with Philip Morris, previously limited to “flavor” and “lying murderous scum?” When Research in Motion rechristened itself BlackBerry, the company’s declining fortunes immediately reversed and it now dominates the mobile-phone industry worldwide. The media colossus Gannett spun off and anagrammed the non-newspaper assets either Tegna or Nangeta or GnatEat, I don’t recall. And, yes, when Kentucky Fried Chicken became KFC, the grease immediately stopped soaking through the napkins.

So don’t be so dismissive. For one thing, Czechia is probably significantly stronger than the Gannett approach, which might have yielded RebelzHiccups. The other thing is, instead of doubting Czechia, shouldn’t we be thinking about other countries with non-trivial image issues that could also do with a little brand-identity spruce-up?  

Russia: Plummetingoil prices and international sanctions have crippled the economy and forced Vladimir Putin into creative new ways to become an international pariah, including, but not limited to, invading sovereign countries, buzzing American warships in international waters, supporting mass-homicidal Syrian maniacs, murdering ex-crony oligarchs in their cushy exiles and doping athletes in every national sports team. Suggested rebranding: “Meldonia.”

Turkey:  Under the increasingly authoritarian grip of Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the country is clamping down on free press, prosecuting a bloody war against its own ethnic minority, deploying special forces secretly abroad and using human refugees as a bargaining chip for concessions from Europe. Suggested rebranding: “Russia.”  

United States:  With a growing economy, stable democracy, fertile environment for business, historically unprecedented security from threats foreign and domestic, mammoth infrastructure, and ever-expanding human rights, it is in an uproar led by right-wing media, theocrats and xenophobic demagogues to make itself “great again,” mainly by heavily arming fearful citizens and sifting out the brown people. Suggested rebranding: “NRAland.”

Bonus suggested slogan: “Have a Koch and a Smile.” 

6 comments about "Yo, Czech It Out".
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  1. Steve Schildwachter from Enterprise CMO, LLC, April 18, 2016 at 11:37 a.m.

    If they really think Czechia is a better name, fine, but it seems like the main reason is to distinguish themselves from other countries, like Chechnya.  The thing is, "Czechia" sounds much more like "Chechnya" than does "Czech Republic".  Either way, why go down to the level of people who don't know what's on a map?  (I remember the story of a U.S. postal worker admonsihing a patron for addressing a letter to Austria, saying, "We don't allow abbreviations for country names, so you'll just have to write it out: A-u-s-t-r-a-l-i-a.")

    But at least they're doing it of their own volition.  Remember the time Al Ries suggested that, for marketing purposes, Guatemala should change its name to Guatemaya?

  2. Dean Fox from ScreenTwo LLC, April 18, 2016 at 11:43 a.m.

    I guess they had to reject the much simpler "Chex". The domain and trademark are already taken.

  3. Jerry Gibbons from Gibbons Advice, April 18, 2016 at 11:58 a.m.

    I can't remember a column where you expressed your sinse of frustration or humor better.

  4. Ford Kanzler from Marketing/PR Savvy, April 18, 2016 at 12:25 p.m.

    Great! A superbly humorous blending of marketing communications wisdom and liberal political satire! But then our current electoral scene lends itself too well to humorous commentary. (Why did John Stewart have to quit The Daily Show before the election unfolded?)  :)

  5. Patrick Scullin from Ames Scullin O'Haire, inc., April 18, 2016 at 5:07 p.m.

    The country blew an opportunity to have agencies pitch its account, get some spec creative and pick a name easy peasy.

    That's the beauty of capitalism!

  6. Jonathan Hutter from Northern Light Health, April 19, 2016 at 8:21 a.m.

    This has got to be some elaborate, late April Fool's joke that you and The Guardian are in on.

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