As the dust settles on the “political earthquake” of European elections which saw the rise of Euro-skeptic and nationalist parties across the continent, it’s time for Europe’s leaders to look behind the headlines and examine why these parties are having such a significant impact at the expense of Europe’s credibility.
In the marketing world, when a concept begins to appear past its sell by date, we look to reform, rebrand, refresh, and remind our customers why we remain relevant. From the creation of the Council of Europe in 1949 to the formation of the European Union in 1993 and beyond, the purpose and relevance of Europe for its citizens has changed, complicating the European debate.
In many ways, the communications challenges faced by the pro-EU camp are not so far removed from those of B2B marketers: to effectively appeal to mass audiences, the solution has to solve the problems that are being faced today. The EU's reputation is mired in bureaucracy, briefcases and Brussels; weakening its defensive position against challengers who can claim to have their fingers on the pulse.
For many, it’s hard to get excited about something that’s seemingly always been there. To reiterate the purpose and importance of an existing institution, marketers should be going back to the bones and reexamining their brand’s very existence; pinpointing their raison d'être in light of today’s wider global economy and changing common principles.
Understanding the common values of the EU and acting to demonstrate these is critical to creating a new collective identity for the region. The current tactic of fighting fire with logic isn’t working: extreme views will always attract more attention than their more reasoned counterparts. Europe needs a leap of imagination.. To remain relevant and capture the support of a united continent, the existing EU brand should be connecting with citizens in visceral, emotive ways, rather than letting those with louder voices garner all the attention.
Inspiration can be found in the most unlikely places, including that most important European institutions, the Eurovision Song Contest. Conchita Wurst’s triumph is a timely reminder of our common values as a continent.
Now is not the time for the EU to keep calm and carry on, it’s the time to show that there’s more than talk to long-lasting and relevant institutions. Instead of connecting Europe by appealing to common fears, the new European vision should show us the way to a more prosperous, brighter and united future.
As originally printed in B2B Marketing, July 2014