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Changing the brand

Posted by Richard Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Now we know it is really in trouble. The EU commission has recruited Simon Anholt, a British brand consultant who - the Financial Times tells us - who has worked with Microsoft, Unilever and Coca Cola.

His job is to chair a panel of branding experts on European identity, in an effort to help the European Union recover its image after the rejection of the constitution by the French and Dutch last year.

Anholt is certainly after grabbing the headlines, likening the structure of the EU to al-Qaeda, with separate cells inspiring each other but no overall control. It differs, he says, from the centralising approach of Joseph Stalin.

That, Anholt continues, highlights the difficulty of changing a multinational brand rather than one based on a single country or company where the command structure is clearer. “It is the biggest branding challenge in the world after Nigeria and the USA,” he adds.

Clearly, also, Anholt has lost no time in picking up the Community jargon, advising that said changing one's brand required “concrete actions”. Perhaps with a puckish sense of humour, he then states: "You usually get the reputation you deserve."

Rolf Annerberg, chief of staff to the fragrant Margot then adds to the discourse, complaining that, "The EU has a brand but it is competing with 25 national brands. It is very seldom you use them as a unit. The Ryder Cup golf that plays against the US is about the only case."

He believes the EU has lost its central narrative: that it brought peace to a war-torn continent. "That means nothing to young people today," he says.

However, there are those – like this Blog - who doubt whether Brussels can do much. John Wyles, of consultants G-Plus Europe, who worked on the campaign to promote the euro currency, agrees: "You cannot reach the citizen from Brussels. You are dependent on national politicians."

And, as we know, national politicians – like our very own Boy King – are not into product placement. They have their own brands to market.

Nil desperandum, though. As our illustration shows, we have a suggestion for the commissioners.

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