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Türkiye Hava Yolları: The Ultimate Rebranding Experiment for the Turkish National Airline

Can you change the identity and image of a country? The recent announcement that Turkish Airlines would be rebranded as Türkiye Hava Yolları is a major step in trying to rebrand not just a national air carrier, but reshape a national identity. Will it work?

By David WyldPublished 2 years ago 8 min read
Source: Wikimedia Commons


Okay, what comes to your mind first when you hear the word “Turkey?” If you said Thanksgiving, family, and either white or dark meat, well, you’re in the vast majority of folks in the U.S. and Canada. And a turkey is regarded as an awkward looking animal, and other than that one day a year, turkey is the favorite meat of very few people. Further, as Merriam Webster tells us, a “turkey” can also mean something that fails or is a flop, a “stupid, foolish or inept person” - not positive connotations by any means! In fact, the only truly, unequivocally positive definition of a turkey is when one makes three straight strikes when you are bowling!

What you likely don’t think of first - or even second or third - when you hear “turkey” is the country of Turkey. That is now, “the country formerly known as Turkey” (think Prince or Kanye!). Turkey has been in the news for many of the wrong reasons as of late. It has seen high inflation (their current annual inflation is almost 75%!), a troubled currency (the lira lost 44% of its value in 2021), opposed the admission of Finland and Sweden into NATO, and oh yeah, it has threatened to reignite a centuries old war with Greece! And so when one does think of Turkey, it might well not be in a positive manner right about now!

Although officially a democracy, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is often regarded as an autocrat - or worse - in the world community. And strongman rulers like Erdogan aren’t generally masters of PR these days - think Vladimir Putin and even former President Donald Trump! Yet, President Erdogan is driving a rebranding of his country - and its national airline - today, and yes, it might just be a brilliant marketing masterstroke - or a big branding problem, especially for the national airline!

By Adli Wahid on Unsplash

From Turkey to Türkiye

Turkey will soon be known globally as Türkiye! Now, the major step of renaming your country is not a rebranding without historical precedent. As Vedika Pathania, writing for the Deccan Herald, correctly pointed out:

“Other countries have altered names to sidestep colonial imprints. The Netherlands, for instance, decided to stop calling itself Holland, Macedonia was renamed North Macedonia due to political conflicts with Greece, Persia became Iran in 1935, Thailand emerged from Siam in 1939, and Rhodesia was renamed Zimbabwe in 1979 to shed its colonial history.”

Turkey, or rather Türkiye, began its rebranding in December 2021, when President Erdogan issued a memorandum asking both the public and businesses, both domestic and foreign, to begin referring to the country as “Türkiye” – as it is spelled and pronounced in Turkish. When the country became independent in 1923, it was officially Türkiye. However, over time, the nation became commonly referred to by the Westernized “Turkey” - and sometimes also as "Turkei" or "Turquie"). Domestically, Turks commonly refer to their own country as “Türkiye” (“which is pronounced almost the same as ‘Turkey’ but with a soft ‘e’ on the end”). President Erdogan, in announcing the change, stated:

"The phrase Türkiye represents and expresses the culture, civilisation and values of the Turkish nation in the best way,"

Earlier this month (June 2022), the United Nations formally announced that as per a formal request from Ankara, henceforth the country would be referred to by its preferred moniker of Türkiye in all international affairs. Likewise, NATO and the European Union have likewise quickly acceded to the Turkish request to be referred to as Türkiye. Following these announcements from these international organizations, President Erdogan has now directed all Turkish state agencies and institutions to immediately begin using the name “Türkiye” in all of their operations, correspondence, and documents.

Now some Erdogan critics saw the rebranding as a political move to both distract the country from its current economic problems and perhaps inject some national pride at the same time. Indeed, with Erdogan positioning himself to run for reelection next year (2023), Francesco Siccardi, senior program manager at Carnegie Europe, sees the name change as "another strategy deployed by the Turkish government to reach out to the nationalist voters in a crucial year for Turkish politics." And yes, there’s the bird as well! As Sinan Ulgen, Chairman of the Centre for Economics and Foreign Policy Studies (EDAM), an Istanbul-based think tank put it: "The main reason why Turkey is changing its name is to eliminate the association with the bird. But also, the term is used in colloquial language to denote failure."

Now, there can be no doubt that the name change is a way of garnering new interest worldwide in the country, its people, and its products. Turkiye’s Communications Directorate put together an ad campaign, “Hello Turkiye,” to not just inform the world of the country’s rebranding, but to remind people everywhere of all the history, culture, and natural beauty of the country and encourage more tourism - which will indeed help its flagging economy. Additionally, the rebranding is expected to help market Turkish products globally, as Erdogan stated that:

"’Made in Türkiye’ is now being used instead of ‘Made in Turkey’ on our export products, which are the pride of our country in international trade."

From Turkish Airlines to Türkiye Hava Yolları

Rebranding a country is one thing. Rebranding one of the largest airlines in the world may be quite another! Turkish Airlines has today become an airline with worldwide reach, leading all air carriers in the number of countries served and ranking 13th globally in revenue passenger miles flown as of 2021. The airline ranks high in customer satisfaction, and as a result, it is in the top 20 of all global airlines in brand value. It has famously marketed its services well on a global basis, even featuring the late Kobe Bryant and Lionel Messi in a single, memorable ad!

Now as a strategic management consultant and professor, I was quite surprised that the Turkish government went “all the way” with its national rebranding to include the national airline. Now, the Turkish Government owns a controlling interest with just over 49% of the carrier, and it is plain to see that the Turkish President wants to see the national airline bearing the country’s new name, with Erdogan proclaiming that:

“Turkey no longer exists. It is Türkiye…Türkiye Hava Yolları (‘Hava Yolları’ is airlines in Turkish) will be inscribed on the bodies of our planes instead of Turkish Airlines.”

And yes, the airline has used some variation of “Turk” “Turkish” or now “Türkiye” and “Hava Yolları” domestically throughout its history, dating back to its founding in 1933. But this is no doubt a major, major change for one of the leading brands in the world today.

By Isaac Smith on Unsplash


In the end, I have to say that from a marketing perspective, I do understand that as part of the country’s rebrand that its leadership would want to rebrand the country’s flag air carrier. However, I do feel that this is going to cause some difficulties for the rebranded Turkish Airlines. This will no doubt be a costly undertaking, as the airline has over 300 aircraft that will need to be repainted, along with the changes that must be made in everything the name touches - from the company website to advertising to signage and even down to the napkins used in flight! But it will also prove costly to Türkiye Hava Yolları, at least in the short-term, as the airline will have to educate consumers worldwide that it is still the same carrier with the same global reach and same dedication to customer services as it was when it was Turkish Airlines, Further, the new Türkiye Hava Yolları could have a unique branding and identity problem among global airlines, for while some Chinese and Korean airlines sport their identities both in their native language and in English, I can think of no other passenger air carrier that does not use the word “airline” or “airlines” in its name - at ;east in the English version. I think that could be a major stumbling block in marketing the airline globally. It is interesting to note that even after Turkish President Erdogan announced the airline’s name change (which, given his strongman reputation, would seem to be absolute and immediate), the carrier is still advertising under the Turkish Airlines brand - for now!

In the end, one must say that rebranding the country of Turkey and Turkish Airlines are bold marketing moves. It will be interesting however to see how the latter works out, as I do believe that the name change from Turkish Airlines to Türkiye Hava Yolları is no doubt popular domestically in Türkiye and was perhaps done with some political interest as well. At the same time however, this is almost a self-inflicted branding problem for the airline, as it will be confusing for air travelers and will be costly to Türkiye Hava Yolları to market the rebranded air carrier to consumers beyond Türkiye’s borders. It will be interesting to check back on this name change in a few years to see how the new brand identity impact’s the carrier’s growth in the global airline market. I, for one, believe that it could well be a drag on the airline’s growth and damage its brand in the eyes of the traveling public globally - at least in the short-term. As for the country of Turkey, well Türkiye, I feel that just as was the case with the U.S.S.R., schoolchildren around the globe will continue to see "Turkey" on their globes and in their textbooks for years, if not decades, to come!


About David Wyld

David Wyld is a Professor of Strategic Management at Southeastern Louisiana University in Hammond, Louisiana. He is a management consultant, researcher/writer, publisher, executive educator, and experienced expert witness. You can view all of his work at

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About the Creator

David Wyld

Professor, Consultant, Doer. Founder/Publisher of The IDEA Publishing ( & Modern Business Press (

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