Creatives review Australia's new brand

Paige Murphy
By Paige Murphy | 8 July 2020

Australia’s new brand has come under much scrutiny since being revealed last week.

The new logo, which was released by Australia's Nation Brand Advisory Council, represents yellow wattle.

It replaces the Australia Unlimited logo which featured two boomerangs forming the shape of Australia.

Some wrongly thought the logo replaces the Australian Made kangaroo logo. However, Australian Made Campaign chairman Glenn Cooper cleared up the confusion, confirming the kangaroo was here to stay.

According to Austrade, Australia’s nation brand is meant to be “easily understood, consistently recognisable, quintessentially Australian and adaptable for different uses and industries".

Instead, the branding has been widely criticised for being unrecognisable and the wattle labelled a poor choice among the many iconic symbols of Australia.

Some have even said it looks like a virus, comparing it to images of the coronavirus that have been widely used without the pandemic.

AdNews asked the industry to share their thoughts on the new brand and why it does or doesn’t work.

Principals group strategy director Tim Riches
Having worked in this area over the years with Tourism Australia and Invest Australia, I have first-hand experience of the complexities of this kind of work.

Anything you do with country brand attracts lots of focus and usually criticism, often due to a disconnect between how Australians want to be seen and how target audiences perceive us.

The goal to “grow beyond clichés about big nature and laconic characters” often leads us to gravitate to symbols we recognise but others don’t.

We are blessed with more internationally recognised visual assets than just about any other country, and to ignore them just does not make sense. From the shape of the continent to the roo, the koala, the Sydney Opera House, and Indigenous visual culture, there is no shortage of assets that can become brand codes quickly because they pretty much already are.

The logo itself does not do the job of storytelling and experience to shift perceptions of our brand – it’s a basic branding fail to expect the logo to do that job. That is the job of campaigns, thought leadership and influence etc. The job of the logo is to be instantly and distinctively recognisable and be a cognitive shortcut to positive associations with the brand.

The ‘roo is the best symbol for that job. And it can be expressed in a sophisticated way to subtly question people’s preconception. Qantas does it well.

The real job to be done is simplifying and aligning the brand architecture. In my view, there is one brand, several categories within which we compete (eg tourism, investment, talent), and innumerable sales pitches. A joined-up approach to branding will leverage the well established positive sentiment towards Brand Australia into a more unified and efficient approach across the diverse range of marketing challenges.

Interbrand Australia CEO Nathan Birch
This piece isn’t a criticism of the craft involved in the design or the people responsible for the work. It’s about how, as a brand system, it just doesn’t do the job it needs to - not by a long shot. Primarily, it’s not fit for purpose.

Any self-respecting branding expert would know this. It’s what happens when you get a comms agency – a very good one at that – to do brand work. The blame doesn’t necessarily lie with the agency: it is the client, the Nation Brand Advisory Council. Why do so many of our “industry experts” not expect this?

Secondly, from a brand distinction point of view, it doesn’t pass muster. Australia is bristling with abundant, unique, and iconic visual cues and symbols, spanning from our flora and fauna to our topography to some of our man-made structures. There is a rich list of distinctive visual symbols that are recognised worldwide as uniquely Australian.

The brief called for innovation and optimism. What did we get as a national brand? Do we want to communicate our national identity as championing a primary industry that’s gone essentially unchanged for centuries?

Here’s me expecting a national brand that showcases Australia’s distinctiveness, it’s brilliance, it’s dynamism - not how good we are at digging big holes in the ground that are full of stuff other countries need (sometimes).

Daylight Agency ECD Chris Mitchell
Wattle load of…

It’s easy to be critical of the end result especially after all the work I’m sure the Design (by) Committee has put into this project. But really, I’m not sure “balancing a literal and abstract interpretation of a wattle flower” is going to “inspire the world to buy into Australia’s people, place and product” (Their words not mine).

As an Aussie, if I had to Google what a wattle flower looks like to get the reference (because as you know, they’ve all been burnt to a crisp lately), I’d lay odds that no one from anywhere else in the world will make the connection. Apart from the tenuous link to Australia, I’m still struggling to understand what this nation brand is supposed to achieve that couldn’t be integrated into the successful and highly recognizable Australian Made program.

Leo Burnett design director Jason Cooper
Firstly, I want to recognise that any work derived from a group panel is difficult, and compromises are common.

From a design perspective, a brand mark that is “uniquely and distinctively Australian” should be instantly recognisable. The new Australia Brand has left many in the creative industry questioning if the design can effectively summon this connection, and I can relate.

The wattle (over time) is a nice concept, with its own heritage link, and could very well work to unify and represent Australia. However, on first sight my immediate reaction was to associate it with an Australian superannuation provider.

Time will tell… I initially thought the London 2012 work was bonkers, yet it turned into one of my favourite logos. That said, at the moment, I feel like this is a missed opportunity.

Host/Havas ECD Jon Austin
Sure, the logo has issues. But let’s also acknowledge that this was a crazy hard brief. To create a brandmark as agreed by a board of Australia’s most eminent ambassadors. Not to mention that stakeholder management that would have been involved. That’s the problem for me. This is very clearly design by committee.

Even going through the rationale is like playing pin the tail on the single meaning. In one paragraph, the wattle will shift perceptions of Australia. In another, the wattle won’t be recognisable internationally.

In this sentence, AU represents our country code. In this one, it’s our .au digital future. Here, it represents the periodic symbol for gold, which represents our mineral-rich past and future.

Oh, but it also represents the positive and premium attributes across all sectors. I would love to see the original, pre-committee design the agency presented. I think it might have been great.

Freelance creative Adrian Elton
I can understand the impetus to build an Australian brand that is distinct from the "Australian Made" mark of manufacturing origin. Notwithstanding the oxygen that’s been sucked into the post-mortem diagnosis of "Brand Australia", I think that blissfully unaware international audiences will completely miss the wattle reference as well as the fact that ‘Au’ is the chemical moniker for gold. Additionally, the AU typography utterly collides with the delicate nature of the ‘rona-like wattle stamens. I’d think for ten mill you might score some beautiful custom typography with enough loose change for some cheeky Chiko Rolls.

BWM Dentsu Melbourne ECD Phil van Bruchem
They don't make golden wattles like they used to. This one, rather than being a post-modern impression of our dearly loved national acacia, looks unnervingly like a coronavirus particle that's swaggering its way into a seventies disco to the strains of "Stayin Alive". Historically, the art director's valiant battle has been to make the logo smaller. In this instance, I think client, agency and punter alike would be more than happy if we made it disappear altogether - along with the coronavirus, of course!

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