Brand strategy: The Netherlands no longer want to be called Holland

Our neighbors the Netherlands, colloquially, would no longer like to be named Holland. The Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced this. The unusual naming decision is a political issue. The government argues that more and more compatriots do not feel adequately represented by Holland, since Holland actually only represents two of a total of 12 Dutch provinces.

With the announcement of the new marketing strategy, a national image campaign started from the Dutch Offices for Tourism & Convention (NBTC), which is suppose to anchor the official country name worldwide in the minds and in common usage. The Eurovision Song Contest in May in Rotterdam is suppose to bring „The Netherlands“ into focus as is the Olympic Games in Tokyo in July and August.

International brand positioning is sought after

Officials say that they have much more to offer than cheese, tulips and windmills. The old brand name Holland, combined with the tulip logo, reinforces these clichés. As the daily De Volkskrant reports, they want to be perceived less provincially and instead create an international brand that positions the Netherlands “as a co-designer of pioneering solutions for global challenges”.

A brand name with Tradition

The Dutch want to get rid of what some company can only dream of: a popular, centuries-old brand name that arouses clear ideas and a lot of sympathy. Holland was the epitome of economic success 350 years ago. And when the Kingdom of the Netherlands was founded in 1815, Holland became a widely accepted synonym for the entire nation. Over 40 percent of the Dutch still describe themselves as Dutch.

Image campaign hasn’t lit up yet

The “nickname” Holland is quite deeply rooted in the national identity and also one hears it abroad rather than the unwieldly official name. Nothing should change here anytime soon, since the image campaign started rather hesitantly (at least that is how it works) and started in an uncoordinated manner. The national logo has been changed and the new brand strategy has been announced – but it is not being consistently accompanied by communication. The official website of the tourism association can still be reached via the old address holland.com. And the new logo, which consists of the NL Netherland word mark (and ironically continues to consist of a stylized tulip), was not there until the beginning of February.

Can this name change work?

The desire for a name change is perfectly understandable and legitimate. But whether this can be accomplished so easily is doubted. “The ‘Holland’ brand has been firmly anchored in the minds of people for generations and has a positive connotation,” explains Sybille Kircher, managing director of the Düsseldorf-based naming agency Nomen International, which offers professional naming and brand development for companies and products. “Language habits are difficult to change. Especially when the new brand name is longer and more complicated than the old one.” While Holland consists of only two syllables, “the Netherlands” has four syllables, which significantly reduces the chances of acceptance.

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