Fortunately for the Brand Union (working with JWT) the brief for rebranding America didn’t encompass such things as repairing, cleaning up or bringing back from the dead, the image of America in the minds of some people around the world. That would surely have been a brief too far. Like them we enjoy and even thrive on challenges – but there are limits. Instead it was the relatively minor task of branding America’s first national co-ordinated travel and tourism venture in an effort to boost overseas visitor numbers.
Discover America was launched earlier this month. Gone was the traditional red, white and blue; gone was any patriotic iconography. Instead we were presented with an identity that “captures the spirit of America: authentic, optimistic, unexpected (certainly), inclusive, endless possibilities” with the dots being representative of “the diversity of people and experiences that can be found in the United States.”
It was interesting to gauge the first reactions to it in a recent Creative Review blog. ‘Watered down, politically correct drivel’, ‘seem so generic that it may as well be for any other country’, ‘looks rather contagious’, ‘reminds me of a colour blindness test’, ‘intentionally bland, lacking in self confidence’ were just a small selection of the wave of negative comments following the article. But then right near the bottom of the comment list came a positive – ‘As a South African, this campaign has already changed my view of America. All the red, white and blue has deterred me in the past – those few thumbnail images on the brochure shot have opened my eyes. Perhaps I will take a holiday there someday… ’ – there we go, one potential tourist reached.
And me? I think its so easy sometimes to fire off a subjective reaction to something visual, especially when there are certain expectations. In this case such was the departure from the flag waving type of identity which many seemed to have been expecting that it was bound to attract its fair share of criticism. And to be honest, at face value, it was certainly not love at first site for me either. Did it really fit with the reality of what the United States is really like? Where was the very distinct character and culture that I associate with this country? But then I realised my experience of America is limited to those few Americans I’ve known, American dramas on TV and a holiday to California and Nevada where I spent most of my time walking in the wilderness. So I made a conscious effort to reserve judgement until I’d seen more of its application – after all should an identity not be seen in context to judge it more meaningfully?
To see it animated does evoke that sense of a coming together of diverse groups into a single nation. It speaks of adaptiveness and the diverse nature of American culture, that would be hard to capture in a single icon. The website more than captures the look and feel of America with its big background images of iconic cities and natural wonders. In this context the identity feels at home and does not have to play on stereotypes. Dare I say it is growing on me? It will interesting to see how the identity develops over time and above all how well it does it s job of getting tourists state side.