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Tuesday, 8 May, 2001, 13:33 GMT 14:33 UK
Should we rebrand Britain?

With British tourism having been hit hard by a run of bad luck, perhaps it's time for the UK to have a bit of rebranding? A new series of BBC Radio 4's In Business kicks off by asking the question. Here presenter Peter Day reveals what the experts told him.

Do you think you could help rebrand Britain? Read on to find out how...

The fear at the British Tourist Authority is that the Gulf War may have broken out all over again.

All about In Business
Peter Day returns to BBC Radio 4 for a new series at 2030 BST on Thursdays, repeated at 2130 on Sunday 13 May
When Iraq invaded Kuwait 11 years ago, there was an immediate slump in the number of Americans booking holidays in Britain and the numbers stayed down for several years afterwards.

Tourism is an industry far bigger than farming; with 1,800,000 people directly employed, it's almost half as big as manufacturing industry as a whole.

Billions of pounds of foreign earnings are at stake.

Foot-and-mouth disease has brought television pictures of burning cows with their legs in the air to television screens all round the world.

They add more black clouds to the image of a Britain wracked by bombs and floods and railway chaos.

Image makeover

The British Tourist Authority has signed up an international public relations company to tell opinion formers all over the world that in fact Britain is still open for tourists.

BP dropped its old shield logo last year
But perhaps this country also needs to go through a rebranding exercise such as that recently undergone by the oil giant BP or the renamed "bmi british midland" Airline.

Both companies were clients of the UK branch of Landor, the veteran international branding consultancy with headquarters in San Francisco.

But can you really treat a complex thing such as a country as a brand?

"Absolutely, countries are brands," Landor UK's managing director Charles Wrench told In Business.

"I would say that anything for which you can construct a mental inventory is a brand.

"But I don't think we can transform Cruel Britannia back into Cool Britannia with a new logo.

"The real ability of Britain to emerge with strength from the Foot and Mouth problem is a function of the strength of the British brand beforehand to celebrate the things we're great at and stop giving ourselves a hard time about the things that are not so good."

Everyone loves New York

But one of the most strikingly effective examples of a place that got a new facelift, very similar to what happens regularly to packaged goods, is the city of New York.

Some 30 years ago it was deep in depression. It was facing civic bankruptcy.

The I love New York logo designed by Milton Glaser
One of the most famous logos of all
President Ford dismissed pleas for help in a way which prompted the notorious New York Daily News headline: "Ford to City: Drop Dead".

One expert called in to help was the distinguished graphic designer Milton Glaser.

He devised the now internationally famous graphic slogan that was so striking that it actually began the process of stopping the rot: The logo that said "I love New York" with a red heart replacing the word "love".

The idea has been ripped off and reproduced all over the world. Mr Glaser asked no fee for his services.

Ideas for poor old Britannia?

Milton Glaser has been thinking about what to do about Britain's current plight.

He told In Business: "What you have to do is to renew all those qualities that people love about Britain.

"You have to do it in such a way that it feels as though it's happening during the Blitz again, with people coalescing.

"People have to get together as they did in New York and say 'That's enough'. "

Milton Glaser lists the positives now internationally famous about Britain - enormous vitality, the improvement in food, the essential decency of the people and the landscape.

He said: "They have to be represented so that people don't feel there's a lot of dissension and disagreement about it."

Mr Glaser admires Britain almost as much as he does New York and is deeply sympathetic about our plight.

But ask him for a symbol as potent as the New York heart and he says: "I don't know if it can be reduced to a single trademark or icon.

"But there has to be a little spiritual change - and then it expresses itself in some physical manifestation."


So where is the icon that can relaunch Britain to the world? Could you come up with something that could be as successful as "I love New York"?

Here's a unique opportunity for budding designers - or people with a big idea - to get noticed.

Click here to find out about our special competition

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