Think of a soft drink.
Bet you thought of Coca-Cola.
Not that it’s the only soft drink in the world.
Nor that it’s the world’s best soft drink.
But it IS the world’s best soft drink brand.
And therefore, it’s the brand that most people choose.
Now think of other product categories. Most have a leading brand. A brand that defines its category. A brand that first comes to mind when consumers think of the category. It is not necessarily the biggest brand in its category, but it is the protagonist of its category. Cigarettes? Marlboro.
Shoes? Nike.
Coffee? Starbucks.
Beer? Heineken.
Computers? Apple.


Consumer choice has exploded.
Brands facilitate decision-making in this world of multiple choice.


What to eat.
Where to eat it.
What to drink.
What shoes to wear.



Where to go on holiday.
Where to invest.


Brands that dominate their category are brands that express the essence of the category. And they do so with vision. With clarity. And most of all, consistency. They connect brand DNA with consumer insight and expectation.


Does a brand have DNA?
Yes! Just like a person, a brand is a living breathing organism with its own DNA. It’s own undeniable truth. Powerful brands are believable brands because they are true to their DNA. Human beings are stuck with their DNA forever. Not so with brands. Nike was not “born” with the “Just Do It” DNA just as Apple was not born to “Think Different”. This DNA was developed through the vision of management applied consistently over time. Not just in advertising, but in EVERYTHING THE BRAND SAYS AND DOES. Look at the design and functionality of Apple products. They communicate so much more about the Apple brand than advertising could ever do.


When we hear the phrase “Brand Greece”, we probably think of advertising done by the Greek National Tourism Organization. That’s a part of what Brand Greece represents, but it’s only a part. Think of how the Olympic Games affected the image of Greece in 2004. And how the crisis is affecting it today.


The Olympic Games had a powerful impact on the world’s understanding of Greece. Unfortunately we lost the opportunity to make that a lasting impact when we turned media centres into shopping malls. Let’s not lose the opportunity presented by the crisis.


Opportunity? Yes.


I am not a blind optimist. But I am a believer. I believe in the power of imagination. And I believe in the power of human endeavor. And this is where the opportunity lies.


Greece is on the brink of bankruptcy. But we are not a bankrupt nation. We are Greeks. People with the power to imagine. People with the intelligence to turn imagination into reality. We imagined the Acropolis. We imagined the Olympic Games. Now it’s time to imagine the future.


I studied economics. But I have learnt of the importance of social psychology.
People do great things when they feel great about themselves. Soccer teams do great things when they feel great about themselves. And nations do great things when they feel great about themselves. Screw economics.


Right now we feel bad about ourselves. We are demotivated. Why? Because we think that the world thinks badly about us. And because we have nothing to believe in as we deal with the rubble of the crisis.


Here’s the opportunity. The world now understands that Greece is not the economic villain that it was a few months ago. There’s an understanding that the Greek crisis is a symptom of fundamental issues in Europe. The symptoms just hit here first. So let’s imagine our way out of it first.


It starts with reversing world opinion. No advertising campaign can do it. It will take a lot more than that. We need imagination. We need vision. We need action. Not necessarily accomplishment, but action.


Look at South Africa. On the brink of total disaster and collapse, the nation came back. The pariah of the world became the Rainbow Nation. With imagination. With vision. With action. Not necessarily short term accomplishment, but action.


The vision was provided almost singlehandedly (and singlemindedly) by Nelson Mandela. Out of the divisive mess caused by apartheid came the Truth and Reconciliation Committee. Seeking not legal justice, but a higher form of moral justice. Catharsis. It’s a Greek word.


“Leaders deal in hope.” Napoleon said that.
Our leaders need to provide vision. Vision which will stimulate imagination. Imagination which will lead to action. Not necessarily to short term accomplishment, but to action. Avis never said “we are the best’. All they said is “we try harder.” That’s enough to win over an audience. As long as you back it up with action.


And this is what will start to build new elements of DNA for Greece.


This gets me back to advertising. This new DNA must be expressed in how the country communicates. As a tourist destination and as an investment destination. The world will start to think differently about Greece. And we will start to feel differently about ourselves.


It’s a world of multiple choice.
Brands influence decisions. And the most important decision that Brand Greece can influence is how Greeks feel about themselves and what they will imagine and do in order to create Greece of the future. A Greece of creativity, innovation and change.


Let’s not forget the past. But let’s not bask in it either. We need a future vision which ties the things that the world loves and admires about ancient Greece with things that the world will love and admire about future Greece.

We imagined the Acropolis.
We imagined the Olympic Games.
Now it’s time to imagine the future. 

Zorba? Let’s park him for now.



  1. ahmet

    Pathetic article…"brand names" and capitalistic way of thinking is destroying our society and our planet, and there are still people wanting to continue on this…Guys you should understand that the capitalism is over, is not working anymore,we are not "brand names", "consumers" and all these you have in you minds.WE ARE INDIVIDUAL,DISTINCT HUMANS wanting to leave in harmony in our SOCIETIES.

  2. Peter Economides

    Ahmet, I agree with you that a country is not Coca-Cola. And that people are individual and distinct. But the fact remains that how people feel about themselves determines how they behave. And that how they behave as individuals and collectively determines how a country is perceived. And that makes the PRINCIPLES of branding applicable. As a discipline for thinking about nations and humans and societies …. Unless of course you disagree with sociology and psychology and reject that as being capitalist too … I would love to hear your thoughts on this. Seriously.

  3. aprioriposteriori

    Dear Peter congrats on the effort! With all due respect to communication and advertising powers, and generally media and branding and image wise projects and efforts, in our hearts we all know that what we truly love about a nation or a country is its authenticity. And authenticity as such cannot be branded as much as we try. Now, if you will all is branding and we are all walking brands just that our forefathers didn’t know that their natural traits and tradition will once be branded a brand. The Greece case may be attributed to any country in the world, but let me tell you something (as i come from one which was constantly stigmatized as negative and terrorist) no brand project has helped change this, as there will always be stupid people narrow minded and ignorant of other nationalities and other culture or heritage. Only word of mouth and personal lobbying can help change the image – branding costs too much and may turn out counterproductive. I love Greece for all its open and hidden beauties, i don’t need to see its logo to love its food, music, islands, cities and people, i love them as i feel like at home when im there. and no adv can convince me, same way i dont like nike but adidas – simply because I do, no one wants to be copy cat – personality matters, not brands (I know you’ll say personality = brand, but in essence it doesn’t). Good luck and remember that Greece is a pure gem of Mediterranean – not just an apple 🙂 ps though I like the parallel well done!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s