Screenshot from: Aus Trade
If you were busy figuring out how to work from your living room and homeschool your kids over the past few months, you might have missed the big announcement. The National Brand Advisory Council (NBAC) just revealed Australia’s new brand logo in their latest report. Unfortunately, timing and design choices collided in a spectacular manner.
Australia’s new trade logo has caused a tremendous amount of furore. We’re not even going to go into detail about how the new brand logo looks a lot like some depictions of the COVID 19 virus (oops…). The Golden Wattle, Australia’s national flower may have been the logical choice, but miscommunication and the timing of the launch created a huge backlash, but we’ll get into that later.
Brand Identity and Storytelling
When designing a logo that represents Australia as a whole, you need to be very consistent and build your case on a strong concept. What’s the story behind the image of the wattle flower? How do its characteristics make it the perfect symbol for the diverse Australian culture and complex history? Unfortunately, the story that has been communicated, is flimsy, at its best. And there is a lot that could have been said to justify the decision.
In the words of Tom Smith from Culture Trip, the flower has “thrived on the Australian continent for 35 million years, resilient to drought, wind and bushfire (and is) in other words, the perfect symbol of the knockabout Aussie spirit.”
First Nations people have relied on the Golden Wattle for thousands of years, utilising the wattle tree’s wood, pollen and sap for food, medicine, and tools, even musical instruments.
The colours of the wattle flower also inspired Australia’s green and gold national colours in 1984. And let’s not forget about the national cricket team’s victory song:
Under the Southern Cross I stand,
A sprig of wattle in my hand,
A native of my native land,
Australia you f***ing beauty!”
But why bother changing the logo anyways?
What happened to the old faithful kangaroo logo? Over the past years, a huge effort has been made to focus on shifting away from the ‘kangaroo’ – One of the many animals unique to this country and which is widely known across the globe. It’s basically a shortcut that always takes people back to Australia.
The announcement made by The National Brand Advisory Council (NBAC) wasn’t exactly clear that the logo was replacing the Australia Unlimited logo and news reporters were quick to jump to the conclusion that the new logo would be replacing the iconic Australian Made logo. The approval by Trade Minister Simon Birmingham to use the logo to represent Australia overseas reinforced the authority that the logo would be used, and no one questioned further.
Source: Australia Unlimited
So let’s go back in time to see why it caused such controversy. The Australian Made, Australian Grown logo as it’s known as, characterised by a tiny kangaroo and text fitted into a triangle shape, is recognised worldwide. Made by Melbourne graphic designer, Ken Cato in 1986, it has been used in a variety of sectors and industries for the past 34 years.
Source: Australian Made
According to the Australian Made website, a Roy Morgan Research study concluded that 98.8 per cent of Australian consumers did, in fact, recognise the kangaroo logo, reinforcing its authority and meaning.
But, hopes were to promote a different view of Australia in the world. One that focuses on Australia’s export strengths, such as tourism, agriculture and education, and inspires the world to buy into Australia’s people, places and products. According to the Nation Brand Advisory Council, it was supposed to be a “powerful symbol for our goods and services to use on the world stage.” A good idea, but poorly executed.
Australia has been rather inconsistent with its use of logos, colours and narratives in the past. A ‘contemporary’ nation brand strategy, including a strong brand narrative, visual identity and associated brand assets, should emphasise the key reasons why people choose Australia.
The Golden Wattle may not inspire the same enthusiasm as our dear kangaroos do, nor will it be so immediately recognisable. Yet, the NBAC stays confident that the new brand logo will become internationally recognised with time.
However, with a hefty price tag of around $10 million, it is a rebranding effort that many Australians deem a waste of their taxpayer money. Let’s take a closer look at the project to understand their quarrels.
A question of colour choice
The traditional combination of green (Pantone 341) and yellow (Pantone 137) colours, has been
modernised to a deeper green and actual gold, rather than yellow. According to Aus Trade, the new choice of colours represents an “optimistic burst of gold positivity”, befitting the optimism Australians are commonly known for in the world. “Optimism drives consideration” as the council’s recommendations state, which is why it is sitting at the centre of the Nation Brand strategy.
Made with a ‘glowing’ variation of yellows, the logo was supposed to be “modular and flexible enough”’. Yet, soon after the brand strategy and new brand logo were made public, it became clear that gold foiling is not only extremely difficult but also very expensive to reproduce on product packaging.
Being a pan-Indigenous creation, the logo appeals to traditional Aboriginal art and significance.
But whilst the intention is there, along with other references to Australia (the AU standing for gold on the periodic table, and .com.au being recognised as an Australian website), it didn’t quite hit the mark.
A poorly designed logo divides the nation
“The new Australia logo says a lot about where the country is at the moment. A washed-out fool’s gold colour, decided by a committee headed by a miner, trying to look a bit Indigenous (but not really), cost a fortune, produced by friends of government. And looks shit. #AUSPOL”
Source: Twitter @EddyJokovich
Even the Melbourne-based designer of the Australian Made logo, Ken Cato, disapproves of the design. “I love the idea that Australia might be represented by something more sophisticated than a kangaroo, but it’s got to be recognisable,” Cato said according to DailyMail. From a design perspective, he immediately knew that it would be hard to use the new brand logo on smaller scales like it is currently the case with the kangaroo logo. See examples of the Australian Made logo on these packaging.
The letters ‘AU’ could be confused with South Africa, South America or Saudi Arabia. International research also uncovered translations issues with ‘AU’, which is why alternate marks using ‘Australia’ will be used in Japan and Indonesian, without the AU in the middle.
Even the NBAC’s 12-person panel of industry experts couldn’t come to a unanimous agreement. Councilmember Glenn Cooper, who is also the Chairman of the Australian Made Campaign and was the only person on the panel to object, agreed that the kangaroo logo may need “a little bit of tuning up, but nothing else. It’s so well known.” Understandably he was rather disappointed when the council chose to go in a different direction.
For some, a logo might not seem like a big deal. What is it even good for, other than causing a lot of fuss about nothing? Well, as we discussed in ‘everything you need to know about basic logo design’, a logo is often the first introduction of a customer to a new brand or product. And the first impression counts, as we all know. If a logo alienates a potential customer, there is little hope for redemption.
Bad launch timing causes a stir
Launching a rebrand that was three years in the making in the midst of a global pandemic,
when trade and travel routes are restricted and everyone’s mind is on different matters, couldn’t have been planned more poorly. It almost seems like a bad joke that the new logo of our nation is being revealed while we are dealing with COVID 19 and its aftermath. And on top of that, the logo even resembles the virus causing that very crisis.
Fair enough, the project had been kicked off in 2018, and we all know that the wheels of justice grind slowly, and during a global pandemic, even slower. The new brand logo may have been approved before the outbreak of COVID-19, but even so, one might suggest that should have been yet another valid argument to hold off on the launch.
Australian Made logo is not going anywhere
But as it turns out, the Golden Wattle won’t be used everywhere. We can all breathe a sigh of relief! The Wattle logo will be used during trade and business exchange programs only, replacing the existing Australia Unlimited logo. It will serve to represent Australia, rather than being printed on produce and products.
It appears that the kangaroo logo is definitely here to stay. The Morrison Government stays committed to the Australian Made logo and is even providing $5 million in funding to increase its recognition.
If you’ve only taken away one thing from the drama around our nation’s new brand logo, let it be the importance of a cohesive brand strategy and crystal clear communication with your audience. Regardless of what channel or floor you’re operating on, your logo should make you instantly recognisable.
But in order to succeed as a brand, you need to first understand what your brand is and what sets it apart from the competition. Then, you need to decide how you want your audience to perceive it, taking a shared understanding of cultural and historical references into consideration. Because, if you can’t pinpoint the essence of your brand, who else can? And that appears to be exactly where the NBAC took a wrong turn.
Only once you’ve got that down, you can move on to design questions and creating a compelling story that is consistent across platforms. And, you can time your campaigns without offending anyone.
If you have any questions in regards to brand strategy, identity and logo design, get in touch with the creative team and genius marketers at Anchor Digital, your partners in climb.