Singapore · Australia

Country rebrands: how cultures shape brand identities

You and I have a story to tell, and these experiences that shape us have a way of influencing how others perceive and interact with us. The same is true for brands; your heritage can either do wonders to your business or break it. And with the right efforts, sharing your story can encourage three things: brand recall, brand recognition, and brand loyalty.

While cultural branding does drive awareness and earn you more dollars, it’s not always about the money; it’s about honouring your culture, cultivating a sense of belongingness, and promoting an emotional connection. These effects go a long way.

Some countries have done well in incorporating their heritage and history. Take Turkey, for example. They’ve ventured into a rebranding project that involved changing their official name to Türkiye (pronounced tur-ki-yeh) in a bid to preserve the culture and values of the nation. 

While it’s a move that makes no difference to the Turks, who have referred to their home the same way all these years, the rebrand strengthens the nation’s identity on the global stage. More than just a name, the phrase Türkiye accurately showcases the nation’s culture, people and values to an international audience.

With this rebrand, gone are the days of Turkey being associated with the large homonymous bird or the definition of “a stupid or silly person” as found in the Cambridge Dictionary. Today, Turkey has established itself as a destination that presents diverse experiences.

Turkey isn’t the only country to leverage cultural branding, though. Numerous others have made attempts to redefine their image.

Read more: Decoding 2023’s most loved and hated rebrands

India, for instance, renamed its city, Bombay, to Mumbai (referencing the Hindu goddess Mumbadevi), bidding goodbye to its past British colonial rule. 

In 2020, the Netherlands officially dropped its name—Holland—to unify the country’s image and prevent confusion. This rebranding effort sought to bolster national unity and present a cohesive brand to the world.

More recently, Switzerland joined the party by renewing its tourism logo after nearly three decades. What was once the golden edelweiss is now the word ‘Switzerland’, accompanied by a Swiss cross in the place of the letter ‘t’, set against a red backdrop featuring five different shades.

Though simple, this refreshed identity is successful at generating recall and recognition, as the familiarity of the Swiss flag has made the logo instantly recognisable.

What’s interesting is the shades of red in the background, as inspired by the optical phenomenon ‘Alpenglow’, which casts a horizontal reddish glow on the Alps at sunrise and sunset. It works to modernise the brand—Switzerland—and promote the country as a destination with more to offer beyond its breathtaking landscapes and natural environments.

Notice how every element came together to deliver a cohesive image that embodies Switzerland accurately?

By tapping into your brand’s heritage and allowing various associated elements to shine in their own ways, you can build similarly strong identities that resonate with your target audience. 

That’s what we did with Penang Culture.

To revitalise their image and assist them in projecting a more global outlook without losing their essence—an identity that showcases Penang in all its glory—we worked on redefining the brand while preserving its heritage. 

This included shedding its positioning as a ‘Street Food Paradise’ to command a higher perceived value and taking on a refreshed tagline ‘Authentic Flavours. Original Ingredients’. The latter highlights the brand’s efforts in ensuring deep-rooted ties with the local communities in Penang and cultivates a sense of authenticity that resonates deep inside with every bite.

From visuals that celebrate the people, stories, and flavours of Penang, to spaces that evoke homeliness and shared love for the city, Penang Culture was reimagined to connect deeply with its people here on our shores.

Today, as diners set foot into the restaurant, they can expect to be immediately transported to the streets of Penang sans the pricey flight tickets and long hours of travelling. 

We’ve crafted a space where both families and friends can gather and bond over a homely meal that embodies the spirit of Penang and tantalises the taste buds.

References

883 North Bridge Road #15-03

Southbank, Singapore 198785