Following the post on Iceland’s image, I went ahead and posted the following in two LinkedIn channels:
“I’m curious, what words pop up when you hear the name ‘Iceland’? It doesn’t matter if you know something about the country or not.”
The results far surpassed expectations and currently has 72 comments and 159 words (including duplicates and variations) generated. I want to thank everyone for contributing to this spur-of-the-moment ‘survey’. Dissecting the results (transforming quantitative data into qualitative) took a while, but here they are in category-based alphabetic order:
Brands: Only 2.2% thought of brands in connection with Iceland. This suggests that Icelandic companies are (A) not succeeding in establish international brand recognition or (B) they do not connect the brand to Iceland. The best known brands based on this ‘survey’ are the Blue Lagoon and CCP (Eve Online).
Climate: 12.7% with ‘Cold‘ receiving majority vote with ‘Snow‘ coming in a close second. The climate of Iceland is actually tempered. Perhaps Icelandic tourism places too much emphasis on glaciers.
Culture: Scoring 10.5% with a range from ‘Turf houses‘ to ‘Data centers‘. The majority connects Iceland with positive words, such as ‘Freedom‘, ‘Peace‘, ‘Health‘, and ‘Chic‘, but there seems to be an element of confusion with Greenland as suggested by the words ‘Nuclear testing‘ and ‘Eskimos‘. Put an Icelander in Greenland and he or she would freeze to death while a real Eskimo would have no trouble surviving. The remark that Iceland and Greenland should change names is very valid. Nuclear testing probably refers to the US losing a nuclear bomb in Greenland 1968.
Economy: Icelanders fear that the world considers us stuffups when it comes to business. With 3.9% of the words falling into the category, this fear is justified. The majority of the words that appeared had negative connotations: ‘Debt‘, ‘Bad banks‘, ‘Bankrupts banks‘, ‘Crisis‘ and ‘Financial crisis‘. On the upside, ‘Fish‘, ‘Fishing‘ and the frozen food supermarket ‘Iceland‘. I decided to categorize ‘Fish‘ under Economy rather than Nature as I suspect the word has stronger ties to economic conditions rather than sports fishing.
Entertainment: This category presented me with the problem of my old schoolmate Bjork as she can easily fit into four categories: Brands, Culture, Entertainment or Individuals. After some serious processing, I decided to make Entertainment impersonal, focusing on entertainment media, clubs and peripherals rather than individuals and brands. Entertainment contributes 5.7% to the overall image and is led by movies filmed here (‘Die Another Day‘ and ‘Flag of our Fathers‘) and, of course, the movie ‘Ice Age‘. The winner in this category is ‘Vodka‘.
Events: 3.5% with ‘Eyjafjallajokull’ only coming up twice (once as ‘Unpronounceable volcano‘). This is to be taken with a grain of salt as the word ‘Volcanoes‘ came up 12 times. Other words of interest were ‘Cod wars‘, ‘Cold war‘, ‘Reykjavik Summit‘. The winner is ‘New years eve‘.
Food: A score of 3.5%. Why Icelanders market their worst cuisine is absolutely mind-boggling. Why serve tourists rotten shark, ram’s testicles, sheepsheads, whale meat, and dried fish instead of lamb saddle with gravy, sugared potatoes and all the other goodies? The words that appeared here included ‘Rotten shark meat‘, ‘Strong alcohol‘ (probably to get the taste out!) and ‘Hot dogs‘ (taking the safe route!). This tendency equals that of driving a marketing campaign with the message: ‘Try the worst cuisine on the planet – visit Iceland!’ A variation might be ‘Iceland – known for reeking food that sticks to your clothes for months!” Fortunately, we also got words like ‘Dairy products‘ (Skyr, no doubt), ‘Ice cream‘, ‘Licorice sweets; hot‘ (Fisherman’s Friend; Victory-V?), and ‘Smoked lamb meat‘. I would really like to see that rotten shark vanish into the ocean from where it came.
Icelanders: This category describes how we Icelanders are perceived and got a vote of 3.9%. We are described as an ‘Outgoing and warm people‘, ‘Beautiful‘, ‘Nice‘ and ‘Tall‘, our women as ‘Blond‘ and ‘Tall‘, and our men as ‘Strong‘. That we are classified as outgoing is rather interesting as I find that Icelanders are extremely introverted although they pose as extroverts. That statement is based on the observation that Icelanders rarely share personal stuff with anyone except closest friends and family whereas Americans, for example, are far more open.
Individuals: This category treats bands as individuals and scores 7.0% with ‘Bjork‘ dominating the category. ‘Sigur Rós‘ is a far second. The only other Icelandic individual appearing is ‘Jon Pall Sigmarsson’. The remainder are Faroe, Russian or American.
Location: The country’s locations is apparently perceived to be an obstacle. With a score of 4.4%, it is described as ‘Remote‘ and ‘Isolated‘. The only location names identified are ‘Atlantic ocean‘, ‘Reykjavik‘ and ‘Hallgrimskirkja‘.
Nature: Nature dominates Iceland’s image with a score of 34.1%. As stated earlier, ‘Volcanoes‘ dominates this category with ‘Geysers‘ and ‘Northern lights‘ close on its heels. There are really no negative words appearing in this category unless, of course, ‘Volcanoes‘ is considered as such.
Tourism: A score of 4.8%. Among words appearing here are ‘Glacier tours‘, ‘Snowkiting‘, ‘4 wheel drive‘, ‘High powered all-terrain cars‘, ‘International tourism‘, and ‘Whale watching‘. I believe the Icelandic 4×4 club has much to do with the vehicle words.
Undefinable: 3.9%. This category contains words that either do not fit any category or are too vague to be assigned to any specific category. These words are ‘Camera‘, ‘Christmas land‘, ‘Country‘, ‘Santa Claus’ house‘, ‘Yeti‘, ‘Country to visit‘, ‘Exciting‘, ‘Place to visit‘, and ‘Want to see again‘.
The results are based on results during the time period Monday January 24 – Saturday February 6 2011. I want to thank everyone that responded for participating in this little ‘study’ of Iceland’s image. An update will be made available as more responses emerge. To view the actual responses, visit these two channels: