by Andreas Markessinis
Before we can give birth to a brand for Greece, we must adress the first issue, that of name. We must define the name under which we will introduce our country. Far from being a mere cosmetics dispute, naming is a key factor to the potential success of a brand.
Lest we forget, this is not a Greek-specific issue. Other countries have experienced the similar problem, and even some of them still carry the issue unsolved. United Kingdom or Great Britain, Holland or The Netherlands, are two examples of the aforementioned. For reference, it’s worth mentioning that the UK’s late 90’s branding went under the “Cool Britannia” tagline.
In the Greek case, there are basically two options: Greece and Hellas. But while for those countries the name issue is merely a formality and there are no big concept differences between them, for Greece it is not only a question of option. Greece and Hellas are both valuable and marketable names, both have advantages, but they do carry different connotations.
Hellas is more associated with ancient Greece and Greek Antiquity, while Greece is more associated with our country’s history since the times of the Roman invasion, when our country became a Roman province called Graecia. The name Greece is most commonly used therefore from the Roman times until today.
The differences between the two names are not only historical though. There are also differences depending on who is referring to our country. While Greece is the most popular name for our country among non-Greeks, Hellas is favourite among Greeks. Foreigners call our country “Greece”, while we call it “Hellas”, they call us “Greeks”, while we call ourselves “Hellines”, and they call our language “Greek”, while we call it “Hellinika”.
The curious thing is, that in fact there is nothing in our language similar to the concepts “Greece” or “Greek”. All words in our language that orbit around our nationality begin with the “Hell-“ root. The “Gre-“ root appears only in foreign tongues. In the previous paragraph I said foreigners called our country “Greece”. Well, this is not exact. A minority of countries call our nation just like we do. The Norwegians, for instance, call our nation “Hellas”, unlike the Swedes who call it “Grekland” or the Germans who call it “Griechenland”. Thanks to Norway for not giving us a name as “Grekland”, which is so similar to “Finnland”, “England”, “Deutschland”, “Holland” and so on. Hellas is much more distinctive. In that, Hellas is a better name for a brand.
The names Greece and Hellas have a deeper, more subtle difference. People react different to the “Greece” and “Hellas” words. Generally speaking, “Greece” is perceived worse than “Hellas” is. Probably because many people think Greek Antiquity (Hellas) has been superior to the posterior Medieval and Modern, Contemporary Greece, Hellas is associated with ancient splendour while Greece is bound with the idea of posterior decline. Among foreigners, the “Hellenic” word is associated with ancient Greece while the “Greek” adjective is ambivalent.
For some, the good side of the coin lays in the fact that when branding Greece, the purpose is to somehow drown the negative aspects of the “Greece” concept (which so awfully has been marketed in the last decades), and to boost instead the positive aspects of the new “Hellas” concept. So it would be all ok if the “Greece” name carries negative feelings, because if the country is branded under the opposite option “Hellas”, the difference would not help but dynamize this all-new branding proposal.
Moreover, the name “Hellas” has some advantages over “Greece”. First, as we have seen it is better valued than “Greece”. Second, it is a word which could fit in most languages without changes (unlike Greece with Grèce, Grecia, Grska…), which would help when introducing the brand. It is also easily pronounced. Third, it breaks with the old “Greece” brand, which carries negative connotations. Fourth, “Hellas” is a strong, simple brand name. Fifth, it is a distinctive word which sounds 100% Greek, and which has no known similar word.
But “Hellas” has some handicaps too. There is a large amount of people who know what “Greece” is, but at the same time do not know what “Hellas” means. This is its biggest handicap. There would be an extra load of work to propagate the name “Hellas” to the world. In that, “Hellas” faces unconvenients which “Greece” does not. Another objectable is that there exists a known firm which has a very similar name, Hella, which produces accessories for cars among other products.
Branding under the “Greece” name has its advantages as well as handicaps. They are the same mentioned above for the “Hellas” brand, but turned upside down. As this is a comparision to two, wherever “Hellas” has advantages, “Greece” fails. And the other way around, wherever “Hellas” has handicaps, “Greece” lacks them.
Naming is key to branding and it is by no means a minor matter/issue. It could affect the brand’s eventual success and the audience’s adaptation to it. It should be determined in the first place before any real branding process can be enacted.