Country Branding and Country Image: Insights, Challenges and Prospects. The Case of Estonia

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Gaining understanding about customers ’mindset and information on their experiences is a precondition for the formulation of an effective country branding strategy. What potential tourists might learn and how they can be made to feel about a place can help small and not very well-known countries compete with bigger and more popular tourist destinations. The article focuses on the effectiveness of Brand Estonia and claims that it is still a challenge, despite the existence of an ongoing strategy. It also favors the revision of the brand identity selection and the promotion of Estonian brand, and supports a customer-based approach for their assessment. Documentary and empirical evidence show that the image of Estonia among its most important target audiences in the field of tourism does not match the Estonian brand identity. The gap in-between was evidenced by the results and content analysis of 24 in-depth interviews made with a selected group of people well acquainted with the country as well as some branding experts. This article contributes to the existing case study literature with findings that also manifest opportunities to strengthen the country brand, if its formulation develops a realistic brand identity and its promotion is based on accurate, unique and appealing ideas. It proposes academic support to innovative or alternative concepts for the country branding, and comments on applications of this study to more specific fields and further research.

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