Is South Africa a bad name?

2012-04-23 08:37

Chris Moerdyk

In the middle of a highly emotive talk show on radio last week about changing town and street names in South Africa, someone threw in a curve ball and suggested that it is time for the country to change its name as well.

There have been calls in the past for our name to change to something like Azania in an effort to appease those revolutionaries who believe that "South Africa" still translates directly into "Apartheid".

In my opinion, however, we should not even consider changing our name unless there is some sort of tangible benefit other than giving revolutionaries a nice warm feeling.

A new name should make us prouder than we are already; it should increase foreign investment and make more tourists come and spend their money here.

In short, changing the country's name should be a marketing decision with a guaranteed return on investment because just changing the name to give people warm feelings will cost billions that, instead of just appeasing sensitive egos, could be used to build houses, schools and toll-less highways.

In terms of branding, there might seem to be quite a strong argument to change our name because the majority of the global population, according to some research I saw a while ago, still thinks South Africa is a region and not a country.

Which is quite embarrassing because that means a lot of people think that Zimbabwe is an integral part of South Africa.

The point is, other regions are called South America, West Africa, North Africa and East Africa. Not Southern America, Western Africa, Northern Africa and Eastern Africa.

So, our region that is called Southern Africa, of which South Africa is just one of many independent, is completely out of step with pretty much the rest if the world and confuses foreigners.

Having said that and from a marketing point of view, will changing South Africa’s name result in a long-term positive return on investment ?

Frankly, no.

Because marketing history has shown that brand names actually have nothing at all to do with the success or failure of a product, service or country.

After all, just look at some really famous brands with really silly names. Mercedes Benz for starters. Think about it - if you had to build a brand new luxury car today would you even think about calling it Mercedes or any other woman’s name? Agatha Benz? Mary Benz? Angelina Benz?

There are hundreds if not thousands of now famous brands that have really silly names yet enjoy the loyalty of millions of consumers.

I mean, hands up anyone who would have thought of calling a computer company Apple? It could only have taken a brilliant entrepreneur to have the balls to do that and certainly is not the sort of name that a marketing committee would have come up with. Steve Jobs could have called his company Pomegranate, Raisin or any other such inappropriate name and it would have been just as successful as it is today.

And how about Google? Or Yahoo?

Or, for heaven's sake, Virgin?

The point, very simply, is that a name does not make a brand - the brand makes the name.

Which means that whatever we call South Africa - be it Azania, Mandelaland or The Republic of Number One - our future prosperity will depend on our honesty, integrity, humility and productivity and whatever we are called will make no difference at all.

Yes, apartheid did give South Africa a bad name. But right now, crime, corruption and a patriarchal rapist culture is giving us a bad name as well.

Changing our name won’t change our stripes.          

- Follow Chris on Twitter.

Send your comments to Chris

Disclaimer: News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24.

  • anthony.weineck - 2012-04-23 09:13

    You really don't see how Steve Jobs calling his company Apple is a thousand times more appropriate than pomegranate? Think of all the connotation of an Apple - health, simplicity, ubiquity... The same goes for both Google and Yahoo, and I feel you're not being completely honest in refusing to admit it. Beyond that, you're on the right side of the debate - changing the name of the country would be incredibly foolish - except I sincerely doubt there's a real debate, so much as you're trying to manufacture one.

      Mfundi - 2012-04-23 10:33

      No Ceorl, it really could have been raisin and it still would have been successful. There is an argument here it's just that it went over your head. I have heard the same debates that Chris is talking about. Debates about how it would make more sense to change the name of our country to Azania, which of cause I disagree with because it's obviously a waste of Money and we have formed an Identity with the name South Africa. I really like being a South African not an Azanian(sounds like tribesman from a south american jungle). Azania has a nice meaning (God hears)but that's not a good enough reason for us to replace Sout Africa with it.

      Sydney - 2012-04-23 10:39

      @Mfundi, not to mention that on a secular state Azania would not be appropriate. It's bad enough that there are religious lines in the national Anthem.

  • JaredVN - 2012-04-23 10:40

    We can call it Zimboonia - perfectly descriptive of those who blight the country with their incompetent, corrupt and criminal "leadership."

      Sharon - 2012-04-23 11:33

      nah, ZimZum has a nicer ring to it.

      Denny - 2012-04-24 12:57

      I'd like to tentatively suggest DennyLand :D Alternatively, we could sell off naming rights to a big corporation. Republic of Coca Cola Burger King-dom Ebay of Plenty

  • Thabiso - 2012-04-23 11:21

    lol, republic of number one. I like da 1, i'd vote 4 da one

      Anthony - 2012-04-23 14:02

      yes that will do numder 1 in rapes, number 1 in murders, number 1 in theft, number 1 in

  • Loo - 2012-04-23 12:20

    FFs PPL .. were in Africa .. Were the South tip of Africa .. Are we NOT ?? Why and I ask Why spend billions again changing this as our name reflect a Geographical Location.. What in petes name does that have to do with politics, apartheid or anything to that effect. IMAGINE the financial implication !!!!!!! Are they MAD !!!!!?????? .... Wait lemme not ask that, the answer is too obvious

      Mfundi - 2012-04-23 13:21

      Calm down... It was a discussion on a radio show.

  • Niel.Kal - 2012-04-23 12:44

    I rate we just leave it alone. In Rome they killed thousands of innocent people, and Germany change there, just leave it the hell alone and spend the money on stuff like hospitals, schools , housing and all the important stuff.. Apartheid happened and that’s over, leave it alone...however, Banana has a kinda nice ring to it....??

  • Trinity Thinawanga Tshilande - 2012-04-23 12:51

    Real talk!

  • jannie.robbertze - 2012-04-23 13:01

    Absurdistan is my choice.

  • Sharon - 2012-04-23 13:31

    Changing the box won't improve the contents! South Africa has well earnt its reputation in the rest of the world. Being the crime, rape and corruption capital of the world is no small feat, and takes endless dedication to uphold... First you fix the rot, then you can paint!!!!

  • ramsine1 - 2012-04-23 13:31

    Changing the name of South Africa would be a wrong at this stage. The freedom fighters were looking for a "united nation" not a "new nation". They just wanted to take what they had and make it a better place not to completely transform it. I say let's stick to South Africa, less complicated.

  • Clarence - 2012-04-23 13:39

    LOL, good suggestions right there, I like the Republic of Number one.

  • Paul - 2012-04-23 14:05

    A rose by any other name would smell as sweet!

  • Andrew - 2012-04-23 22:09

    New name? Why not make it official: RAPE CAPITAL OF THE WORLD (Seems like SA has some bigger problems than renaming)

  • Rob Baerveldt - 2012-04-24 12:44

    How many of the silly name companies have changed their name? What would the cost be to make such a huge name change?

  • Gallant LeVogue - 2012-04-25 09:14


  • Michael - 2012-04-25 19:12

    Interesting topic Mr Moerdyk. I like your line of reasoning, the brand and marketing angle. Azania! Or better still, please be upstanding for the Azanian national anthem. No! Save money, keep the old name.

  • Blessing Tavengwa Mutwira - 2012-04-26 19:52

    yada yada yada Zimbabwe this Zimbabwe that . SA is gonna be worse than Zim wait and see . Zuma is taking this country to the dogs. What Mugabe did will be nothing compared to what will happen to SA.

      Greg Hegland - 2012-04-30 22:44

      "Here Here" the people have spoken!

  • MRwest Side - 2012-05-06 15:40

    u talk about rape and corruption,what about racism????????

  • pages:
  • 1