Jul 1, 1999

Last year I spent about 5 months in England. Since newspapers were one of the few things I could afford, I read quite a bit about how Tony Blair's New Labour Party was undertaking the task of re-branding the country for the new millennium.

Let me make one thing clear: I didn't just use the phrase 're-brand' in a metaphorical sense. I used it in a literal sense. As in BritainTM.

This campaign to reposition England in the world's mindshare was nicknamed 'Cool Britannia' - a wordplay on the patriotic anthem 'Rule Britannia' for all you non-Anglophiles. It also happened to be the name of a Ben and Jerry's flavour of ice cream. Ben and Jerry were so horrified that their name got appropriated that they retired the flavour.

I was thinking about rebranding because I just read a book that predicts that within 500 weeks, "Canada no longer will exist as an independent nation". If you're from these parts, you know that isn't the first warning of our imminent doom that we've received. Far from it, sadly. Canadian Bacon, South Park The Movie, and Infinite Jest, notwithstanding, we are not in a position to take on the United States. It's obvious to me that England, which has enough brand recognition already to merit it's own theme park, doesn't really need a re-branding. We do.

Not that we haven't already tried. In my beautiful Tibor Kalman book, I learned that the Canadian government approached M&Co. for a new graphic identity program.

"In this case, what the customer wanted was an image that would distinguish it from the better-known product next door. Canada had been losing the battle for prime shelf space in the minds of the North American public, and its hopes for victory lay in the new design.

"The New York design firm was so struck by the appeal of this clean, refreshing and sparsely populated land that they considered both "USA-Lite" and "New Canada Free" as possible new product names..." ("Canada Finds an Identity, Finally", Danny Abelson, Print magazine, Nov./Dec. 1985)

Happy USA-Lite Day!!!