Brand Australia

The big wait is over. In September 2009 Australian Trade Minister Simon Crean announced the call for tenders from creative agencies to assist with the task of enhancing Australia’s brand overseas. In the last week we have seen the launch of a new visual identity for Brand Australia, created by Re, a small group of designers working out of M&C Saatchi’s Sydney office.

Mr Crean said, “We want a clear vision of how Australia should be seen by the rest of the world in the 21st century. We will be looking for agencies to build a contemporary national brand – one which captures the essence of Australia – not just a great place to visit but a great place to live, work, and invest – a trusted trading partner and a great place to pursue an education. This is not just about a slogan and it goes beyond the on-going promotion of Australia as a global tourist destination – a reputation that is well established. Building Brand Australiais about promoting Australia as a nation producing quality products and services across a diverse field of activities. We need to get the message out that we are an innovative nation and a quality supplier to the world of key products such as clean energy and clean food.”

So with Mr Crean’s aspiration in mind what do you think of Australia’s new brand mark?

Brand Australia
In the past week it has been described in a variety of ways. The most common being, boomerangs as arrows framing a map of Australia. However you describe it, it does have a corporate, business to business feel about and that is consistent with the brief. But the flip side in the lively debate that has taken place in our studio is that it does not evoke any emotional appeal, that is is a little one dimensional. Read other blogs and the comments vary from very technical design savvy appraisals, such as….’the typography is a bit drab’… through to more emotive comments regarding the perceived representation of the boomerang….’lets use boomerangs again like every cheesy souvenir shop out there. Does this represent Australia in a contemporary 21st Century manner’.

But I wish to park the debate about the merits of the design. For the record however, as someone who works in brand strategy (not as a designer like many of my leaned colleagues here in the studio), I have to declare I don’t mind the new logo. It works well as a visual geographical marker of Australia and has a professional business like air about it. But the actual logo is not the real purpose of this blog, it is rather to remind us all that logo is not the brand. The arrows or the boomerangs or what ever descriptors we use to describe it, that is not brand Australia. Brand Australia is what meaning people overseas attribute to Australia when they think of Australia.

The logo is simply an identifier of which country is bringing a particular product or service to an international market. Brand Australia on the other hand is how people in that market think and feel about Australia in terms of quality, capabilities, expertise or whatever relevant attributes they use to assess the merits of a product or service from Australia, over those from another country. Yes, the logo may act as an important cue to what is on offer. It also serves to build a presence in markets, to act as an important aggregator for the diverse products and services that come out of Australia by providing a common brand mark. But as a brand building strategy it will be very very slow, because by definition we are saying our brand is everything!

I am therefore more excited at seeing what Mr Crean and his team does in phase two of the brand Australia project. What is the essence of brand Australia that they are aspiring to communicate to the world. What are going to be Australia’s signature expressions to capture the hearts and minds of overseas customers. What are we going to stand for? Currently the expression ‘Australia Unlimited’, that forms part of the lock-up in the new logo, does little to drive an understanding of what we are setting out to ‘own’ in international markets. In fact, in many respects the Unlimited expression may even communicate negative sentiment in some markets, particularly those who have laid claim to the positioning already, such as Unlimited Turkey (yes an interesting positioning line) and London Unlimited.

So, Mr Crean what is the defining essence of the brand Australia? If we think it is ‘everything’ as in ‘unlimited’ then we really are going to struggle to create a brand in International markets that is understood, different and valued.

As we regularly say to clients,

‘…a Brand that wants to be a little of everything will eventually amount to a lot of nothing’

Peter Singline
Brand Scientist

All pictures found at http://www.brandaustralia.gov.au/index.htm

6 Comments

  1. Pete, I couldn’t agree more – whilst on the surface ‘Unlimited’ seems like a wonderful proposition to own, in effect it means we own nothing in terms of brand meaning. Add to that some pretty neutral brand visual language and I’m not sure what we stand for as a B2B brand – and I live here!

  2. Great article Pete. It’s true a brand needs to be built from the ground up, rather than the logo down. But having only seen the logo it’s hard to get a feel for what the brand really about. At the moment it is just a boomerang on a shipping container.

  3. Agree the ‘Unlimited’ proposition is the worst kind of wishy-washy. If you can put anybody’s name beside your tagline and it still makes sense, then it don’t work. ie. Canada Unlimited
    But I like the logo. It’s different. And different = good.

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