I have always thought that the most difficult branding projects are the place branding ones. As such, I have written quite a bit about the unique challenges of these beasts. The reality is, unfortunately most of them are destined to fail and this is proven by hard data. Months ago, Czech Republic revealed its new promotional logo. So far it seems like people are not falling in love with it. Let’s try to figure out why…
Positioning, branding and promoting a destination require us to go beyond stereotypes, which evoke people’s lower nature. By “stereotype”, we refer to oversimplified ideas or images about a person, culture or country. The below stereotype maps paint a hilarious YET sad truth: Foreigners think that “Czech people drink a lot of beer, have a dark sense of humour, are beautiful yet, inborn pessimistic.” Such beliefs are childishly simple and building a brand on such a primitive ground would be like throwing gas on the fire.
An alternative approach would be to evoke people’s higher nature, talk about the beauty of the Czech Republic and its unique contribution to the world. As David Cooperrider, the founder of Appreciative Inquiry said: “Human systems grow in the direction of what they persistently ask questions about.” Therefore, place branding’s primary job is to make sure that foreigners as well as inhabitants question “positive things.” I think such a thing could happen only if Czech Republic discovers its “archetypal meaning.”
“Archetype” is a psychological term coined by Carl Jung, and refers to recurrent symbols or motifs in literature, art, or mythology inherited from the earliest human ancestors. Archetypes stem from the “collective unconscious.” As soon as two people get together and form a human system, the collective unconscious emerges and affects the way they unknowingly live and experience life. Every human system has a collective unconscious. Cities and countries are no exception. Therefore, countries do have archetypes. Then, what could it be that of Czech Republic’s?
Try to imagine an archetype as a timeless storyline. It constantly repeats itself. Therefore, a great place to start would be Czech national history. We could spot the recurring themes that are unique to Czech Republic. Here are some key events or facts that give us hints about the Czech archetype are:
- The origin of the Bohemian lifestyle (home of the adventurous and the seekers of the pursuit of artistry)
- Prague Spring (Caring for humanness during communism)
- Velvet Revolution (Peaceful liberal democracy revolution)
- From Czechoslovakia to Czech Republic (Peaceful separation)
- Innumerable festivals (Joie de vivre)
- Reputation for excellent beers (the pursuit of perfection)
- Scientific and cultural richness (Creativity)
Let’s pause here today and take some time to reflect on what we heard. On the next article, we will figure out what to make with all these facts and determine the Czech archetype.