Surprisingly, the emergent and increasingly popular phenomenon of nation branding has received only scant attention from International Relations scholars. While most analyses account for the phenomenon by emphasizing the perceived material benefits to be derived from establishing a positive national brand, this article provides an alternative perspective. It argues that nation-branding processes need to be understood as responding to the need of states and state leaders to enhance both their citizens and the nation's sense of ontological security and (self)-esteem. Moreover, this quest for self-esteem and ontological security is unfolding in the context of broader realignments occasioned by the advent of late modernity. While nation branding represents an understandable response to these developments, the article questions the strategy's overall efficacy by highlighting its implications for how national subjectivity is constituted, its notable disciplining elements and its potentially undemocratic implications.