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Interview with Nicolas De Santis on Branding The European Union

A few days ago we posted an article about the effect of Brexit on the European Union brand. Today, we are excited to unveil our recent exclusive interview with Nicolas De Santis, founder of “Brand EU”, the independent movement for branding the European Union. Keep on reading to know more about the project!

#1 The Branding Journal: Hi Nicolas, thank you so much for taking the time to answer some of our questions. First of all, could you please tell our readers more about yourself?

Nicolas De Santis: I was born in Madrid Spain but I am an Italian national living in London. I am one of the early net-preneurs behind high profile start-ups Beenz.com (first web digital currency, many years pre-Bitcoin) and opodo.com (the hugely successful European version of the U.S. travel giant Orbitz). Now, as President of a global governance and business think tank, I work on global visioning – advising corporations, brands and governments on the future direction of our world.

#2 TBJ:How did you come up with the Brand EU project? Can you give us more details about the mission of Brand EU?

NDS: In the 1990s I led the rebranding of the European Movement (Founded by Winston Churchill) and also the rebranding of the European Parliament. At that point I told EU institutions that the brand of the European Union was weak and distant from its citizens. Europe has no identity! As years passed and the EU grew from 12 to 28 countries, the identity problem became even worse. In 2015, I decided to create an independent initiative to manage the brand of a united Europe in view of my expertise on the EU and its identity. Brand EU is now the independent brand marketing champion of the EU.

BRAND EU works to re-invent the EU’s brand vision & kick-start the new European enlightenment. BRAND EU is generating a people movement for the millions that believe in EUROPEAN UNITY and want to engage actively to innovate and reinvent BRAND EUROPE. Our work is being covered by the media worldwide. Brexit proves that we were right about the lack of a strong European Union identity and the critical need to work on building BRAND EU!

#3 TBJ: Can anyone join the movement? How do you work as a team and how do you select people to work on the project?

NDS: We are open to anyone. We also have WORKING GROUPS developing specific initiatives and we welcome the participation of KEY ORGANISATIONS (corporates, government, institutional, academia, think tanks, NGOs, etc.) that want to have an impact on the work of BRAND EU to participate and collaborate in our working groups. The working groups are transversal and coordinate their efforts for maximum efficiencies and impact. The groups work on specific projects, developing research, creating events, developing media relations, and so on.

#4 TBJ: What is your branding strategy for the European Union? Can you tell us more about the creation process of this brand identity?

NDS: BRAND EU is not about a new fancy logo or ad campaign. That would not solve the problem. Our work goes much deeper. At BRAND EU, we started building the foundations to create and promote a new VISION OF EUROPE that people can identify with and that explains why the EU is needed in Europe and the world.

#5 TBJ: Can you give us some examples of projects Brand EU is currently working on?

NDS: We just launched a report “FUTURE OF EUROPE – SCENARIOS 2025”, four scenarios looking into the potential futures of Europe and their impact on UK and the world. The report shows the different futures for the continent based on whether we are more united or more disunited. In the report we show that Brexit can lead to Europe’s collapse and world chaos. The scenarios are based on two key questions about the future:

  1. Will people’s identity become more nationalistic or will they see themselves more as global citizens sharing one planet and universal values?
  2. In the future, will Europe be more divided or more united?
#6 TBJ: We’ve seen on Brand EU’s website that you’ve been using Captain Euro to represent the brand in a clear and simple way. How did this hero come to life?

NDS: I created Captain Euro in the 1990s as a social laboratory to understand European identity and people’s reaction to a European Superhero character. Captain Euro® became an instant global sensation attracting global stars to collaborate with us and covered by the media worldwide to this day, including the cover of the Wall Street Journal! We relaunched Captain Euro recently with more stories and a new website www.captaineuro.eu.

#7 TBJ: Do you think branding can save the European Union from the current crisis it is facing, or is this more a matter of politics and economics?

NDS: The European crisis is created mostly at the national level by the lack of good governance. Not at the EU level. But nation states and national politicians blame the EU because it is very convenient to escape their incompetence. We believe branding and identity are at the core of the EU problem going forward – but branding alone will not be the solution. That is why we are working on many areas beyond branding.

For example, one of our projects is called EU POWERHOUSE – it organises the EU in 9 key challenge areas, exploring the many ways in which Europe is the world’s global powerhouse, a shining example of international cooperation and good governance. We use that framework to develop collaborations and projects to unite communities of interest around projects to build a more united EU.

#8 TBJ: As an independent project, what is Brand EU’s relationship with the European Union? Do both entities work together on some specific actions?

NDS: The EU institutions and us have collaborated and they know what we are doing but we prefer to work independently to be free from accusation of being propaganda for the EU and maintain the independent nature and fabric of BRAND EU’s mission.

#9 TBJ: In your eyes, what will be the impact of Brexit on the EU and what should be the next steps for Brand EU?

NDS: The impact of Brexit is the creation of great uncertainty and instability for UK, Europe and the world. So far the UK has not triggered Article 50 to leave the EU. Until that happens it is unclear but economic signs already show a negative impact to the UK. What is clear is that the UK does not want a HARD BREXIT, indicating that they are being very careful on next steps. Call me crazy but I believe we will find a solution to keep the UK in the EU or very closely integrated in EU affairs as the UK cannot afford to exit the single market.

#10 TBJ: To finish – what is the best branding advice you’ve ever heard?

NDS: Use branding wisely. My advice is that branding alone is never the only solution to a strategic problem but a component of it. Keep that perspective and you will win!

Many thanks for your time and insights! All the best from The Branding Journal.

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