Marketing the EU brand: where Europe has fallen short

Nicolas de Santis, president, Gold Mercury
Nicolas de Santis, president, Gold Mercury

As voters prepare to take to the polls tomorrow and choose their European representatives, Nicolas de Santis, president of Gold Mercury, says that the EU is in the midst of a brand identity crisis and it is time to do something about it.

Europe is suffering from an unprecedented brand identity crisis. Its member states’ national identities are in a state of flux, with potential break ups and secessions threatening to destabilise the Union which has maintained peace in Europe for 70 years.

Secessionist, nationalist and populist movements are beginning to gain momentum across European nations: the potential Scottish breakup from the United Kingdom, Catalonia and Basque Country wanting to break away from Spain, Flanders in Belgium and Venice in Italy, among others.

Europeans are struggling to find their direction and identity.

Forwards or backwards? Together or separate? This looks just like a brand marketing problem.

Euroscepticism and political disengagement across Europe is on the rise. The EU’s brand has failed to reach its citizens and connect with them on both an emotional and a rational level. European citizens do not understand the key benefits which Europe brings to their lives. If this situation is not remedied, we risk a catastrophic break-up of the Union which threatens decades of peace, stability and tolerance.

Branding at the heart of the problem

The EU’s fundamental issue is not a political one, but rather an issue of branding and self-identity. Its brand has never been well managed, nor properly connected with its citizens. It is an incredible product, but a product with extremely poor marketing and a weak brand image.

Citizens are not well connected with Europe, and despite its budget set aside for this purpose, the EU has not done a good job of reaching them or explaining to them in a compelling way why it is so valuable.

The solution does not lie with politicians or the media, but with a fresh approach to Europe’s brand and future vision.

Building the EU brand

As the Corporate Vision Strategy Think Tank, we at Gold Mercury International have launched the non-partisan Brand EU Centre, whose goal is to create a future vision of the EU and transform its brand to create a meaningful connection between the EU and its citizens.

Its goal is to clarify and advance the brand of Europe to its citizens and the world, and showing people and businesses the major benefits of living under the miracle of global EU governance.

Following the horrors of the two world wars, brand EU has managed to keep peace in Europe for 70 years.

The EU brand’s existing symbols, such as the European Flag, the Euro currency, Europe’s national day (9th of May) and Europe’s anthem (Beethoven’s 9th Symphony) have failed in connecting with the citizens and convey little emotion or clarity about the European brand.

Instead these symbols currently represent a distant and complex institutional structure, and the bureaucratic nature of the project. It is now critical for citizens to get involved in this stage of the EU project before they become too disenfranchised. To achieve this, the Centre will help re-position the EU brand, and show its key benefits and its weaknesses; while proposing ways forward and recognising the need for a brand reinvention and clarity of vision.

Ultimately the centre will propose constructive EU reforms and more efficient EU governance, and will connect citizens to this new European brand. The work is not purely cosmetic (a new logo or an ad campaign), like so many branding projects. We are here for the long haul. Our challenge is strategic and involves clarifying the future first; a shared future for all the citizens of the EU.

Making EU a consumer friendly brand

Consumer brands are often described as symbols through which their consumers assume a certain identity; expressing values or aspirations through the brand. This is what makes the European brand so unique and powerful. The powerful personal identities which define who an individual is are not exclusive, but complementary.

Within the sphere of globalisation we must all learn to adopt and live with multiple identities. In Europe, you can be Scottish, British, and European at the same time. You can be Catalonian, Spanish and European at the same time. These identities do not need to be mutually exclusive or conflicting, as nationalists might argue. It is this European notion of tolerance and inclusiveness which the Centre aims to promote and strengthen; the very foundation of the European Union: built on liberty, democracy, solidarity, human rights, and the rule of law.

These are the universal and global values which constitute the European brand; values which we can all identify with and relate to. The brand EU is a paragon of these values. Following the horrors of the two world wars, brand EU has managed to keep peace in Europe for 70 years. No other brand in the world has ever managed this, against the backdrop of our long, violent history.

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