Brent McKenzie (University of Guelph)
The role of country branding is frequently the result of external perceptions, but ideally is most effectively shaped by the countries themselves. Slogans such as; “Welcome to Estonia”; “Latvia: Best Enjoyed Slowly”; and “Lithuania is a Brave Country” represent attempts at such branding by the Baltic States of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. Thus, the focus of this research is to provide an overview of each country’s successes and challenges in terms of solidifying a country brand identity.
One of the greatest difficulties faced by each of these three countries, in terms of establishing and marketing their country brand, is that they continue to suffer from an abundance of name terminology and descriptors as to who they are. Clouding the brand image of these countries are geographic labels such as “Eastern Europe”, “Central and Eastern Europe” or “Northern Europe”. In order to advance the understanding of tourism branding efforts in this region, this research draws upon both the academic and industry literature in the area of destination branding, as well as the findings from primary research undertaken in each country. Interviews conducted by the author with various stakeholder representatives in tourism boards, tourism providers, and tourists themselves, provides the interesting, but often contrasting perspectives on the Estonian, Latvian, and Lithuanian country brand. It is expected that the findings of this research will contribute to a better understanding of the impact that country branding initiatives have had in terms of developing successful marketing programs for each of the individual countries as well as the three as a regional destination brand.