Monday, 17 September 2007

Signs of a Nation

From Kevin Roberts. Tyler Brûlé's Monocle magazine just gets better and better. Check out number 6 which focuses on nations and their branding. Tyler offers 6 ways to brand a nation and throws in another 10 steps to make your country irresistible.

First look at how Switzerland, Sweden, Ireland, Italy and Hong Kong measure up against these criteria and then run your own nation through them. It’s a fascinating journey.

Let’s start with Monocle’s 6 ways to brand a nation.

  1. Flag
  2. Passport
  3. Bank Notes
  4. Typeface
  5. Stamps
  6. Road Signs

Simple ideas, but they resonate with me.

Flag: In my house in Grasmere, I have a limited edition distressed rug by Vivienne Westwood that depicts a beat up Union Jack. On my wall, I’ve got an iconic photograph of The Who draped in a giant-size Union Jack while sleeping near the Houses of Parliament. A limited edition of 7 prints of the Stars and Stripes by the photographer Art Kane is also iconic, and if you go to the store next door to one of my favorite hotels, the ZaZa in Dallas, you’ll see a bunch of flags of Texas, the Lone Star State, including one with a bullet hole.

We are haunted in New Zealand by a flag that looks like a pale imitation of our colonial past. One of our super patriots, Lloyd Morrison, has led a campaign to find the contemporary iconic representation of what it means to be a New Zealander. To me the answer is on the All Blacks jersey on the left breast. The Silver Fern.

Passport: The new U.S. passport released two months ago has elaborate illustrations of U.S. history printed on every page. In New Zealand, they don’t even stamp mine when I leave home. In Britain, we had to turn in our special leather-bound, gold-embossed British passports for European community passports - which means absolutely nothing.

Bank Notes: U.S. bank notes are bewildering to any non-American. They are all the same size and color and it’s hard to differentiate between a $1.00 and $100 bill. On the other hand, the Australians have come up trumps in terms of tactile sensuality. Here’s a rough rule of thumb: the smaller the value, the brighter the color.

Typeface: Bob Isherwood, my creative partner at Saatchi & Saatchi, is a fan of Helvetica. It’s a typeface that lets the idea do the talking and leaves lots of opportunity to do something special.

Stamps: For me, stamps have the power of a one-scene movie. They should tell the stories of a nation’s history and future. Stamps are a perfect way to connect past, present and future through visualization of great heroes, great events and great experiences. And, of course, every year or so we need to issue a limited edition of one, just to keep the philatelists on their toes.

Road Signs: Think about these in Paris, or in other romantic environments. What a great opportunity for brilliant art direction and iconography. It’s a major opportunity for most countries and New Zealand is at the top of the list.

For the second part of this post, check in tomorrow. KR


James Dunne said...

Fascinating perspective.

Do think, however, the idea of overt nation-branding may blur the line between patriotism and nationalism.

The most effective national brands to my mind, spring up organically and are exported primarily by sheer consumer devotion.

In our (the Irish) case, to the eyes of the world the Guinness brand has become a greater corporate identity element than indeed our national flag and other symbols of our state. In terms of how the world see us, Guinness is a core symbolic and emotional cue in the articulation of an Irish identity. Likewise with Absolut for Sweden, or Marmite for Oz, these are brands not based on statements of overt national pride from governments, but on the ever evolving stories of national idiosyncrasies - the stuff those of us on the outside of national political narrative and culture instinctively understand and fall in love with.

The idea that Governments should undertake branding exercises across currency and passports really uneases me. Obviously it depends on the wider socio-political reality of the country in question.

'Branding building' and Corporate identity creation when it mirrors what's (internally) 'best' about a nation could easily be misconstrued by outsiders as symbolic chauvinism - a hyper intense brand that shouts a nations greatness - rather than the artifacts and symbols that hold a countries and a peoples true characteristics.

Just a thought!

Anonymous said...

Aotearoa-New Zealand is itself.
However much hard-sell people try to brand/market this loved place, they will fail - they are attempting to make money out of our home, and we home-dwellers, landlovers, takata-whenua LOATHE you for your attempts.
We are not any kind of tourist/adventure paradise.
We are part of an island group, human animals among other animals, living our lives as best we can.
Go visit somewhere else-