Guatemala Is A Country, Not A Throw Away Brand Name


Just because the United States of America has a few perception problems in other parts of the world, doesn't mean the country should go and change it's name to something that exudes a friendlier perception. Just because everyone refers to Australia and "down under" doesn't mean the country should adopt that name. Just because Iraq caught some crap from the rest of the world, the country isn't running out to change it's name so we all think differently about it.

A county's name is steeped in history and isn't something to be toyed with like a brand name but that's what Al Ries would have us believe. Because Guatemala seems to be suffering some perception problems among the rest of the world's populace who don't realize it's the center of Mayan culture as opposed to Belize, El Salvador and Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula who've co-opted the culture, Ries, aside from disliking the country's new slogan, "Soul of the Earth," thinks the country should change its name to Guatamaya. Yea, you heard that right, Guatemaya. That's like calling Australia Kangaroo. Or Brazil Bootyville.

Perhaps viewing Guatemala as some sort of helpless third world country that has no pride and doesn't care what it's called by pompous marketing blowhards in America, Ries would have us believe the name of a country is on the same level of importance as a product name and subject to the whim of fickle marketers who think a product name is the solution to all ills. While we're sure Guatelama and its citizens would love to increase its tourism business, Ries' suggestion does nothing but reinforce the world's view of American as a country with a serious superiority complex.

by Steve Hall    Feb-20-06   Click to Comment   
Topic: Campaigns, Opinion, Worst   

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Good point.

Me, I'm hoping that Ecuador will change its name to Funkytown. Because, I've always wanted someone to, you know, take me there.

Posted by: Weave on February 20, 2006 3:10 PM

Couldn't have said it better.
It's time the honourable Al Ries retired with grace.
Is he turning senile?

Posted by: Sunil Shibad on February 21, 2006 2:13 PM

Actually, when Al spoke to the buisness leaders of Guatemala they loved the idea of changing the name. The change would not be silly like Funkytown, but a serious connection to the roots of the county which the world deserves to know about.

As for Al retiring, forget it. His ideas are still on the cutting edge. Of course, I am more than a little bias, but we have lots of support from fans and clients to back it up.

Posted by: Laura Ries on February 22, 2006 12:15 PM


More often then not, it's the brilliant things in life that, prior to becoming brilliant, were perceived as, well, less brilliant. Perhaps your Dad will strike brilliance with this and the rest of us will look like fools:-)

Posted by: Steve Hall on February 22, 2006 12:58 PM

Guatemala Shouldn't change it's name

Posted by: Vanesa on March 10, 2006 1:20 PM

I think your distinction between a country and a brand name misses the point. Al Ries would be the first person to stress that changing names is something that you do judiciously. Ries has long been an advocate of consistency in branding. It doesn't matter whether the "branding" is for a country or a product, changing names confuses consumers. I'm sure Ries isn't taking the suggestion lightly.

If I were to question Ries's naming suggestion, it would be on the grounds of excessive descriptiveness. Ries himself has criticized the use of generic names. While "Guatemaya" is not a purely generic name, he chose the "maya" part of it precisely for its descriptiveness of the category. So I think his suggestion is vulnerable to criticism by his own criterion.

The larger points in his article make a remarkable amount of sense. His main point about Guatemala's existing branding effort is powerful and illustrative.

Posted by: Roger L. Cauvin on March 27, 2006 10:32 AM

Read again how you wrote the name of the country in the last line of your article.

Posted by: Olga on December 9, 2006 10:05 PM