How Dracula Became a Romanian Brand that Romania Didn’t Want

Should Romania be haunted by the world’s most beloved vampire, or put Dracula to work for its national brand and help promote tourism?

What we know

Dracula is an international brand. A fictional vampire created by Bram Stoker in 1897.

Vlad Tepes is a Romanian historical figure. He ruled cc. 1448, roughly 400 years before Dracula’s creation. A ruthless but fair (and beloved) voivode known for impaling his enemies on stakes.  

What’s the connection between the 2? Transylvania, Bran Castle (roughly 200 miles away from where we were born). While the brand remains international, in the public’s perception the association with a real land places Dracula squarely in Romania. 

Roll back to present day and most people will know that:

  1. Dracula was real and lived in Romania
  2. Vlad Tepes was a vampire that sometimes went by the name of Dracula.
  3. Transylvania is a spooky land and Bran Castle is a haunted castle.

(read til the end to separate fiction from reality)

What we realised

Where things get interesting is that Romania has mixed feelings about the Dracula brand. So much so, that the real owner of “Dracula’s Castle” tried his earnest to disassociate the castle from the haunting myth. To understand why, you need to understand a few things about Romanian culture:

  • Romanians don’t believe in vampires, but in evil spirits called “strigoi”
  • Vlad Tepes was an important, real figure in Romania’s history
  • The brand puts a sinister spin on a real, beautiful location full of history and sightseeing

But Romania also knows the Dracula brand brings tourism – In 2016, Airbnb ran a contest for an overnight stay in Dracula’s castle. It received 88 000 entries – whereas real history does not. Since the 70s, tourists came searching for Dracula and left disappointed that the tourist spots have nothing to do with the gloom and doom of the myth they expected. Romania was too undecided over the world’s favourite vampire. Neither embracing, nor denying, Dracula was oddly attached to Romanian culture, but not claimed. 

It wasn’t until the early 2000s, that the Romanian government took an official position to embrace Dracula’s legend and use it as an opportunity for branding. 

How we can help

We found this phenomena happen not only with the world’s most famous vampire, but with a few of our clients too. When you are “lumped” with a brand you can’t identify with (i.e you hate the colours, the message isn’t right, the logo is ridiculous, you want to hide your website from the word etc.) you are locked in a losing battle.

The only way up is by sitting down with an expert, talking through what you hate, what you love and building a brand that truly represents you. Romania is still a bit undecided, and in the process it’s losing money. The question is, are you?

We helped our clients with this exact problem in the past. Our coaching packages are designed to “diagnose” your pain and help you get the crystal clear X-ray of your brand,  through a tried-and-tested framework. So that when we build it, we build the brand you can be proud of. 

We shape your brand so that you can shape the future! 

Find out more about how we can help here: https://theorangenotebook.co.uk/brand-marketing-coaching/ 

P.S. Know a bit more than others. Here are the truths about Dracula: 

  1. Dracula was a fictional character in Bram Stoker’s book. He was fictionally placed in Romania.
  2. Vlad Tepes was a real ruler known for how ruthless he fought enemies. His noble family name included the word “Dracul”.
  3. While Transylania was Dracula’s location according to Stoker’s novel, it wasn’t the real location of the ruler. Bran Castle has nothing to do with either figure. It was actually a strategic choice for Romanian authorities. Bran Castle was easy to access and could accommodate tourists. In fact, Vlad Tepes ruled Wallachia from a little-known city called Targoviste. Local legends also place him at Poienari Castle, a strategic fortress perched on a mountain top, 400m above sea level. 

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