Some weeks ago I followed a series of conferences on the topic of Brand Spain (‘Marca España’) which raised some ideas I’d like to share. For those who are unfamiliar with the concept, it’s a government initiative aiming to improve the image of the country both at home and abroad. Following the example of countries that already have a consolidated country-brand (e.g. we associate German products with safety, French ones with luxury or Italian ones with design), Spain wants to find its own. Regardless of the clear economic objective of this initiative (to restore trust and to attract investors), I consider this to be something very positive: it is meant to improve Spain’s image abroad, but also at home, restore confidence in the country (and not necessarily in the Government). Which raises the question?: is the EU also in need of a brand?
I will start by pointing out the difficulty of making all of Europe fit into one brand. There is a certain parallelism between Europe and Spain in that neither has a well-defined identity.’ Most Western countries have a well-developed nationalism, and all citizens feel united under one flag and one anthem. On the contrary, Europe lacks this unity and rare is the citizen who declares himself only European. Europe’s motto is to celebrate diversity, as it has to cope with regionalism, double identities and national governments’ interests.
At the same time, the European Union is suffering an identity crisis. Peace and prosperity are taken for granted, and they are no longer the reasons why people decide to support integration. Besides, given the current crisis, few (especially among young people) believe in the European project. Institutions are short of democracy and unable to make decisions to be followed by national Governments. Citizens feel that Brussels is far away and that the only interests of the union are economic. The achievement of peace is outdated and, lacking another big goal, it is hard to understand why we should be united. The European Union’s “brand” is decidedly dull.
That’s why I think that branding the EU could have a very positive effect on the image citizens have of it. With this I do not mean marketing or making advertisements that try to hide problems or to sell virtues we do not have. It is obvious that big changes need to be made in order to regain people’s support. The brand is not an end; it is a tool like any other to gather Europeans together, to create the bonds of a community. This brand would seek to shine a light on what Europeans have in common, to point out what we are leaders at, to emphasize what we can do best together and to recall what we have achieved until now. Europeans need something to believe in, new values that fit in their present interests and ideals. Branding the EU is cleaning-up its image, it is spreading new words of hope and it is renewing the inspirational and aspirational message of the Union. It is the opportunity to make Europeans believe again in this great project and to state clearly that much more unites us than divides us.