The Brand EU initiative has been set up by London-based consultancy Gold Mercury International and is co-led by Gold Mercury president Nicolas De Santis and Enrique Barón Crespo, former president of the European Parliament.
According to the Brand EU team, ‘poor management of the EU brand and its communications [are] a major weakness, creating Eurosceptic and populist attacks, secessionist movements and harming citizen involvement and the progress of the EU as a whole.’
It adds, ‘The EU and its institutions are too complex, and EU symbols have failed to connect with its citizens.’
De Santis is a former consultant to the European Parliament, and in 1998 launched the Captain Euro cartoon superhero to promote the single European currency.
He says, ‘Brand EU is a fully independent initiative, so we can say and do what we want. But we have met with the EU Commission and EU Parliament – they are aware and support the initiative.’
De Santis says that the initial key aims of the project are to keep the UK in the EU and prevent the breakup of the organisation – citing the Scottish independence referendum and calls for Catalan independence as possible threats.
The Brand EU team refers to existing EU symbols, such as the European flag, the Euro currency, Europe’s national day (9 May) and Europe’s anthem (Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony) as ‘failing to connect with citizens and conveying little emotion or clarity’.
However, De Santis says, ‘This is not just about a cosmetic logo change, which has been tried before and does not work.’
Gold Mercury has, however, created the Brand EU identity, described as ‘the unoffical brand of the European Union’. De Santis says this logo is a ‘key driver’ in the campaign.
De Santis says the project is centred around the Brand EU website, and will deliver research and findings through a series of reports, campaigns and live events.
As well as looking at the way the EU communicates, De Santis is also calling for a full overhaul of the way the union is structured.
He says, ‘One of the key branding problems for citizens, which hinders their ability to understand the EU and participate actively, is the complexity of the current political structure.
‘It is a hybrid between a federal system and an independent organisation. It can only be understood by academics or experts.
‘It is critical that we make it simpler to understand and create a glue: an esprit de corps that binds people closer together.’