You are on page 1of 32


Making a Case that a Brand Evolution is Critical to EU Success




Table of Contents

Introduction ................................................................................................................. 2 Organizational Positioning and Brand ......................................................................... 4 The EU Approach to Communications & Positioning .................................................. 5 Responding to Change: European Union Organizational Challenges ......................... 10 The Current Positioning Crisis: Tales from Brussels & the Bourgeois ....................... 13 European Constitution Crisis – Obfuscating the Position ........................................... 16 European Constitution Crisis – European Framework Undermines the Message ........ 21 Building a Stronger Brand Before Extending the Limits ............................................ 22 Addressing the Positioning Problems with a New Brand............................................ 23 Challenges and Opportunities for an Evolved EU Brand ............................................ 25 Conclusion ................................................................................................................ 30


Introduction The European Union is widely considered to be one of the great experiments in democratic systems history: a political and economic union designed to grow and prosper through the peaceful and voluntary expansion of shared regional priorities. Originally designed to unite the nations of Europe economically so another war among them would be unthinkable,1 the European Union (EU) has evolved substantially since 1952, when the establishment of the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) set the stage for a new era in Europe.

The EU has proven thus far to be a regional – and global – success story. Over the past five decades, the EU has experienced unprecedented growth through voluntary accession, which, by itself, is a unique feature in regional politics. But the EU has grown more than just in territory – it has grown in scope. Formerly positioned as a regional stabilizer through increased economic ties, what is now called the EU has transformed itself into a highly structured governing bureaucracy designed to achieve the goals and address the fears shared across the region.

These shared European goals and fears have, inevitably, shifted and diversified throughout the decades. Pivotal events, including the crumbling of the Soviet Empire and the subsequent Eastern Europe integration challenges, transformed Europe in fundamental ways. These events began to change the equation of priorities, values, and culture across Europe. Is intra-European peace still more of a concern than enhancing economic performance? Are the shared regional security concerns across Europe more

“EU In Brief,” Europa Portal for the European Union []


important than local security issues, such as in Spain (i.e., Basque separatists with its borders) and in Hungary (i.e., Balkan stability adjacent to its border)?

The European Economic Community (EEC) began as an institutional framework designed to represent the shared concerns, values, and goals of the region when the issues were quite different, and arguably less ambiguous, than they are today. What is now all too apparent is that the European Union has not effectively adjusted nor clearly defined its value proposition to Europeans. Worse, through its growth and increasing political role, the EU has created its own “echo chamber” that has isolated it from the criticisms and concerns of the people it is designed to serve.

As a result, the EU is suffering from a perceived lack of democratic support from the people in Europe (the so-called “democratic deficit”2), as well as a negative image. 3 When perception issues like these go unaddressed, they tend to transform from perception into conventional wisdom. This paper will argue that the EU “message” is no longer well formed, well defined, nor resonant with the majority of Europeans, despite the fact that the majority of Europeans like being members of the European Union. 4 As a result of this positioning problem, negative perceptions have metastasized into conventional wisdom, which played a large roll in the recent failure to pass the European Constitution in France and the Netherlands – two core members of the Union. This


The European Union‟s “Democratic Deficit”: Bridging the Gap between Citizens and EU Institutions, Jennifer Mitchell, PhD candidate at the Polish Academy of Science, Open Society Institute, 3/10/05 3 47% Europeans have a positive image; Eurobarometer 63, Section 2.3: “The European Union‟s image” 4 54% responded EU is a “a good thing” and only 15% responded “a bad thing.” Eurobarometer 63, Section 2.1: “European Membership: A good thing?”


paper will establish a linkage between the EU‟s lack of effective communication strategy with the failure to pass the European Constitution.

Organizational Positioning and Brand How did the EU change from being an institution that inspired regional pride through the spreading of democratic values, peace and prosperity to being perceived as an out-oftouch, regional bureaucracy that is maligned by politicians, the press, 5 and European citizens alike?

Communications and marketing – two elements of organizational management that are as critical as they are underestimated in their effectiveness in governing organizations 6 – are essentials that, if utilized properly, compel organizations to continually focus on these three questions: Why does the organization exist (i.e., what value does it bring)? What matters to the organization (i.e., what are its principles and culture)? What are the organization‟s priorities (i.e., what will it focus on)?

Because the EU is not a typical organization, we will fold these traditional business terms (communications and marketing) into a single term for the purposes of this paper: positioning. Positioning, is this context, is the marketing of an organization through strategic communications processes. Effective positioning underlies an organization‟s brand. One of the most powerful tools to support positioning is a brand: “A brand is the

5 “Introducing the Louis XVI prize, for being out of touch,” The Economist Jun 23, 2005, an article that describes the EU President at the time, Jean-Claude Jun, as being out of touch 6 “Identity Management and the Branding of Cities,” Mary Tschirhart, Campbell Public Affairs Institute []


symbolic embodiment of all the information connected with a product or service,” 7 and “gaining recognition and recall of a brand symbol or slogan is the first step in the branding process (Keller, 2001; Hoeffler and Keller, 2002). Symbols and slogans help consumers to connect attitudes, perceived benefits, and attributes to the branded entity. [If a] government is not utilizing a brand symbol or slogan, they are unlikely to be actively, or at least effectively, branding. They have ignored a critical step.” 8

When an organization prioritizes and continually reinvests in positioning, it develops the organizational clarity required to portray [ergo, brand] itself in a clear and effective manner. It is the assertion of this paper that the European Union has not properly invested in positioning which, in turn, has tarnished its brand and, as a result, is putting itself – and with it potentially the fate of the entire region – in jeopardy.

The EU Approach to Communications & Positioning Positioning an organization is not merely an exercise in how to influence people to see the organization‟s goals a specific way. Positioning involves looking deep into an organization‟s raison d'être and expressing this typically complex rationale in simple ways that resonate with targeted audiences (or customers).

It is understandable that the EU‟s former incarnations (ECSC, EEC, EC) did not have to invest very heavily in communications and positioning. The EEC began as an organization with a clear, succinct mission (regional security through the strengthening
7 8

As defined by Wikipedia, BrandBlog, and The Strategic Board “Identity Management and the Branding of Cities,” Mary Tschirhart, Campbell Public Affairs Institute []


economic ties) with well-defined and familiar audience/customers: heads of state and regional policy elites. The inherent advantage of an organization where the customer is also a direct stakeholder in the same organization is clear – it just doesn‟t take that much effort to convince people that are already working within the organization of that organization‟s value proposition. In addition, having a single customer segment is easier to manage than a complex matrix of segments.

Expansion Means New Customer Segments As the EEC evolved into the EU, its scope expanded into a broader political and societal agenda. Examples of this expansion include:  In 1952 (and through 1989), the European Court of Justice was instituted “to make sure that EU legislation is interpreted and applied in the same way in all EU countries, so that the law is equal for everyone. It ensures, for example, that national courts do not give different rulings on the same issue.” 9 In this timeframe, the Court was designed to serve as a body of legal consistency across member nations only (i.e., the court is not involved in issues of the individual citizen). However, in 1989, the European Court expanded its influence when the Court of First Instance was created to give rulings on certain kinds of cases; particularly actions brought by private individuals, companies and some organizations10 (i.e., the court is now involved in issues of the individual citizen).


“The Court of Justice,” European Union Institutions and Other Bodies, Europa Portal for the European Union 10 “The Court of Justice,” European Union Institutions and Other Bodies, Europa Portal for the European Union


With the signing of the Maastricht treaty in 1991, the European Council “set new ambitious goals for the member states: monetary union by 1999, European citizenship, new common policies - including a common foreign and security policy (CFSP) - and arrangements for internal security.” 11

Through expansions like these, the EU broadened its scope of accountability to include the European citizens. In other words, by adding European citizenship to the docket of responsibility, the EU expanded from servicing purely European nations (its traditional customer segment) into the business of servicing the European citizen (a new customer segment).

As the EU embarked on its mission to get more engaged in the lives of citizens, a quick look shows range of support across the “Original 15” countries that encompassed the EU up to 2004:

Figure 1: BBC News report on Eurobarometer Feb 2001


“Europe in 12 Lessons” Europa Portal for the European Union []


Figure 2: Eurobarometer 54 - Support for Enlargement

With opinions of the EU itself ranging from 28% to 79% from member nations, it‟s clear that even in 2001, the EU had a challenge in establishing organizational value in a consistent manner across its member nations. Similarly, opinions on EU expansion into Eastern Europe also varied by similar levels of disparity. These figures display a complex set of “customer satisfaction” and “customer expectations” results that would be troubling for any single organization to service effectively.

Startlingly, adding the citizen as a new customer segment is only one aspect of EU expansion. Fourteen years after adding the citizen to its list of responsibilities, the EU took on yet another fundamental expansion: The addition of ten new European countries that, by and large, had lived in a completely different economic and cultural model for


the past generation. With this political expansion atop of the citizen expansion in the 1980‟s and 1990‟s, the EU would now have to manage and maintain the following customer segments:     The “Original 15” EU National Governments Citizens of the “Original 15” EU Nations The “New 10” EU National Governments Citizens of the “New 10” EU Nations

Each of these customer segments have distinct needs, priorities, expectations and challenges. An effective organization must first identify its core customer segments, and then develop offerings, services, and support for each of these segments. However, customers will have trouble identifying with and trusting these services unless these customers are marketed and communicated to effectively. This takes us back to the importance of positioning. The EU, like any service organization, must position its value, offerings and services to its key customer segments in a way that establishes value and trust.

Before an organization can effectively position itself to key customer segments, it must first know itself. These EU expansions represented a fundamental shift in organizational scope, purpose and priorities of the EU, and raise important questions around how much effort was invested in looking at the EU introspectively throughout these transformations, in order to rediscover the answers to the key “three questions” listed above: Why does the organization exist, what matters to the organization, and what are the organization‟s priorities?


In light of these fundamental organizational expansions, did the EU step back, take a deep breath, re-assess its position in Europe and with European citizens, and invest in a holistic repositioning effort? The answer is unclear. The EU did invest heavily in a Communications Strategy for Enlargement. 12 In a review of this strategy, the EU did an admirable job in creating a process to communicate the value of enlargement to all four of the aforementioned target audiences. However, for as good as this strategy was, it was in support of a specific event – enlargement. This communications plan was built upon the old, less relevant EU positioning, with very little thought given to bridging the original EU positioning of “regional security through economic ties” with this new, grand project. In fact, on the EU‟s website for Enlargement Communications, it is proudly proclaimed that the “…European Union's enlargement next year will be the fulfilment [sic] of a vision, but it needs a clear strategy to make it a success…” The lack of positioning linkage here is troubling. A “vision” is referenced, without any context or definition of what exactly the vision is. It seems this “vision” is presumed to be common knowledge and universally held. This example is representative of the breakdown of communications between the EU and the European civilian -- albeit ironically embedded in a well-developed enlargement communications strategy!

Responding to Change: European Union Organizational Challenges Petra Mašínová, director of Department of EU Information for the Czech Republic, portrays the European Union as lagging in the developing of an effective communications strategy. “The EU itself started thinking about EU Communications strategy 10 years


Communications Strategy for Enlargement, July 2000 [ ]

- 10 -

ago,” Ms. Mašínová laments, “The Communications department got budget money. It was late. We all know it was late.” If the EU seriously began contemplating communications in 1995, then the large transformation from political to social organization at the turn of the 1990‟s largely came and went without the serious investment in reassessing the Union‟s value proposition (through the aforementioned “three questions”) and additional customer segment (the citizen).

In fact, it would not be surprising if the EU did not think of itself as a service organization that should be focusing on such fundamental organizational strategies such as defining customer segments and positioning itself to these segments. After all, from its evolution from EEC to EC to EU, it had been very successful in its growth and influence as a pragmatic political body in which the customers of its service also served as members (i.e., national governing officials and elites). With such a close-knit customer/member arrangement, the EU could go about its business without having to parse and explain itself in foreign and/or populist terms – the people it needed to influence were already on board!

Yet with all the transformations occurring in the past 15 years, defining, assessing, and developing communication plans for its customer segments would have served the EU well. Most signs point to the unfortunate conclusion that the EU dealt with positioning as another aspect of the bureaucracy instead of a strategic organizational practice. Ms. Mašínová suggests, “I do think they [the EU] are trying hard, but everything with this EU is slow, and the communication can be slow, too. With other departments, you can take

- 11 -

your time. But with communications, you get a topic, and you need to act on it now. [EU Communications] has a lot of money but, frankly, it‟s difficult to use it. My department has a €100,000 budget provided to me from the EU, but if I want to get something out of it, I‟ll receive the money in a year‟s time.” Ms. Mašínová went on to explain that she would rather not have a budget from the EU, because it takes more time to request, negotiate and receive funds than to find other sources.

Why is the communications budget for the Czech Republic‟s EU information department such a problem? Mašínová explains that “the EU got more strict after the sting [i.e. the corruption scandal], and everything has gone slowly since. With communications, you just can‟t work like that. That‟s the only tool that requires instant use of funds. There is a will, and there is potential, but concerning the concrete helping of member states educating the people, it‟s „eh, meh!’ [i.e., frustratingly just not happening]”

Can it be such a surprise, then, that the massive transformations over the past 15 years, combined with the complexities of serving four distinct customer segments, that perceptions of the EU are in the negative (see Figure 3)?

- 12 -

Figure 3: Eurobarometer 63 - Perceptions of EU July 2005

The Current Positioning Crisis: Tales from Brussels & the Bourgeois Beyond the somewhat downbeat news that the Eurobarometer reports (i.e., 47% of the EU25 respond that EU has positive image), there are deeper, more specific issues lying below the surface that have already negatively affected the EU, and threaten to undermine the progress the EU has made.

- 13 -

In primary research conducted in June 2004, 13 a clear disconnect between the EU bureaucrats and EU citizens emerged. In discussions with EU politicians and staffers in Brussels, Luxembourg, and Strasbourg, most sang in unison their excitement over the recent EU expansion into Eastern Europe, and were positively jubilant about the forthcoming European Constitution. They spoke of more regional cohesion and, as a result, a stronger, singular face to the rest of the world. Their perspective was clearly geopolitical – there was a keen interest in being the secondary global superpower in terms of the wealth and cultural ideals. The spirit was not anti-American as much as it was a strong desire to be a single political and economic force to be contended with. Interestingly, and importantly, this appeared to be more of a defensive stance (i.e., to protect the values and economy that were perceived to be under attack by the United States‟ hegemony in economy, innovation, and values) than an offensive stance (i.e., a desire to dominate). Nevertheless, people involved in – and orbiting – the EU were downright giddy in their collective believe that they were at the precipice of something grand and imminently positive for Europeans. While there were occasional mentions of the so-called democratic deficit, these concerns were quickly waved off as a technicality that would resolve itself as the EU continued to garner future successes.

In stark contrast, conversations with more typical Europeans (i.e., white, middle-class, and fully-employed in private industry14) revealed quite a different perspective on the EU. Dina, a marketing manager for a market research firm in Milan, Italy, complained that ever since Italy moved to the euro currency, her standard of living decreased from

Research conducted by the author in 2004 of five EU staffers in Brussels, Luxembourg and Strasbourg, as well as five middle-class, fully-employed Europeans from Italy, Austria, Germany, and Belgium. 14 Names of these individuals have been altered to protect their privacy

- 14 -

middle-class to a step below (lower middle-class). She used to be able to comfortably shop for a new wardrobe in trendy stores every spring with her lira, but since the euro was introduced, she now is forced to go to lower-end department stores, decreasing her pride in her herself and her career success. Loranna, a communications manager in Frankfurt, Germany, shared a similar experience when her deutschmarks moved to euros, “My colleagues and I used to be able to afford to go out to a pub three to four times a week. No longer. Now we go out once a month if we can. If we can‟t afford to drink as much, how can the pub operators be doing?” Theresa, a sales director in Austria, had different concerns. “All the EU sees Austria as is a superhighway between Italy and Germany. Thanks to the EU applying pressure on my government, they are now building new highways that go right through residential neighborhoods that were developed specifically to be away from noise, bustle, and other urban trappings like pollution. Now, thanks to the EU that only cares about commerce and not people, people‟s lives are being destroyed. I used to be a social liberal, but now I have joined a populist political party in Austria that is promising to yank Austria out of the EU.”

If this primary, albeit limited, research is any indication of the contextual gap between “Brussels” and “the bourgeois,” it is pointing to a perception and positioning problem for the EU. The global, geopolitical issues concerning the elites, while real and strategically important, simply are not on the radar for the average European. The average citizen has local, tactical concerns that affect their everyday life – and these issues resonate the most because they are impacted every day by some of the artifacts of European Union policies.

- 15 -

It is not practical to believe that EU policies will have no negative impact at the local level. Any kind of economic or political integration is destined to create “pains” in certain demographics. Astonishingly, there seemed to be precious little concern in Brussels, Luxembourg, and Strasbourg regarding these growing pains. Through this lack of concern and contentment to stay firmly planted in a bureaucratic/technocratic echo chamber, EU organizations have developed a culture of detachment and aloofness that is felt by Europeans. This state of affairs has led to the EU‟s positioning crisis, which arguably led to the recent failure to pass the European Constitution.

European Constitution Crisis – Obfuscating the Position The backdrop and context has been established: The current EU organization differs in fundamental ways from its prior incarnations, yet it has not done the requisite “soul searching” required to re-launch itself to its core constituents. As a result, there lies a disconnect between the value the EU sees in itself and the value Europeans see in the EU. This positioning crisis was already in effect prior to the development of the European Union Constitution, effectively giving the Constitutional approval process a limp to start with. Add to this one of the more poorly positioned treaties Europe has ever witnessed, and it starts to become clear why the European Union Constitution suffered the fate it has to date. The European Constitution was positioned thusly by the European Union: What is the Constitution? “In actual fact, the European Constitution is both a treaty subject to the rules of international law and a Constitution in that it contains elements of a constitutional nature.” 15

“A Constitution for Europe”, European Union, Rome 10/29/2004

- 16 -

This explanation demonstrates the troubled position the EU was already in when attempting to communicate and position the Constitution. From the very beginning, the Constitution was doubly-defined as a treaty and a constitution. This double identity reflects the history, challenges, and linkages established above: the positioning of the European Constitution tries to keep a foot in the old, political and economic paradigm while, at the same time, warily putting a foot down in the newer, civil, social paradigm.

Later in the same document, more EU attempts at messaging their position: Why a European Constitution? The European Constitution is an important step in the construction of Europe. It is designed to meet the challenges of an enlarged Europe: a Europe of 25 Member States and 450 million inhabitants (and even more later on); a democratic, transparent, efficient Europe working to serve all Europeans. The European Constitution replaces the main existing Treaties with a single text.
(bold emphasis retained from original formatting)

This message continues to misstep, and adds to the confusing positioning of the Constitution. In this passage, the Constitution is positioned to not only help “construct” Europe, but will enable Europe to add even more countries “later on,” and explicitly states that the EU and its institutions, by following the Constitution, will work to serve all Europeans. These are three very distinct rationales for a Constitution. With reasoning so broadly defined, it is seemingly guaranteed to excite and enrage just about every person in at least one way. Atop of this confusion, the bolded statement following the paragraph reads like a summary, yet is nothing of the sort. The bolded text reduces the Constitution - 17 -

to a tactical consolidation, while the above paragraph characterizes the Constitution as much more.

It‟s no wonder that Europeans are at odds with what exactly the Constitution represents. Worse, this lack of clarity has a more insidious consequence: it creates a vacuum of purpose, giving just about any argument the freedom to characterize the Constitution in just about any way that serves the purpose. The following are just a few of these attempts to co-opt favorite and feared portions of the Constitution, exploiting its positioning problems:

"The EU Constitution is the birth certificate of the United States of Europe. The Constitution is not the end point of integration, but the framework for - as it says in the preamble - an ever closer union." German Europe Minister Hans Martin Bury Die Welt, 25 February 2005

"This text is the crowning of what one could call the French vision for Europe, against the Anglo-Saxon vision, purely free-trade, intergovernmental and souverainiste. This Constitution was wanted by France, and is largely inspired by France." French President Jacques Chirac UMP Party website

“It is a birth of a political union, not only an economic and social union; an event unique in the history of our Continent, a turning point in the history of humanity.” Italian President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi The Times, 30 October 2004

- 18 -

[The Constitution is] “a big change from the basic concept of nation states. It’s a change of centuries of history.” European Commission President Romano Prodi, The Times, 10 November 2003

“Those who are afraid do not appear to have grasped what is happening at the moment. We are creating a political union.” Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt, Suddeusche Zeitung, 25 November 2003

“The constitution is not just an intellectual exercise. It will quickly change people’s lives.” Former Italian Prime Minister Lamberto Dini, Telegraph, 1 June 2003

“It requires single states that until now had 100% of their sovereignty to accept losing a portion of their sovereignty.” Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, PA News, 8 February 2004

“This is a legal revolution without precedent.” Former Spanish Foreign Minister Ana Palacio, Irish Times, 14 June 2003

“Our constitution cannot be reduced to a mere treaty for co-operation between governments. Anyone who has not yet grasped this fact deserves to wear the dunce's cap.” President of the European Convention, Valery Giscard d'Estaing Speech in Aachen accepting the Charlemagne Prize for European integration, 29 May 2003

- 19 -

“This text will imprison us, it is irreversible. In the name of Europe, and of my European conviction, we need a better text.” Former French PM, Laurent Fabius Le Figaro, 27th September 2004

And these are the positions of the elites, who should arguably be more in tune with the EU‟s goals than the common citizen. When delving into the populist arguments, the rhetoric is directed toward the instinctive mistrust of government and fear of change found in most everyone. In short, populist arguments go for the FUD factor. Messages utilizing fear, uncertainty and doubt resonate with citizens because they conveniently ignore strategic and long-term components of change. Populist messages focus on the here and now – two things that common citizens are very in tune with. Populist messages exploit the fact that most people do not have the time, interest or patience to comprehend the global, geopolitical, socio-political issues that elites spend most of their time contemplating. As a result, symbols such the “Polish Plumber” 16 emerge from the populist messaging strategy, instilling FUD in the majority of French citizens, fearing that the Constitution represented the free flow of cheap labor from the East to the more mature economies in the West.


The Polish Plumber became a symbol of French insecurities when populist groups iconified a plumber from Poland taking up residence in France and serving French customers for a fraction of the cost. The majority of the French, instead of seeing this as an opportunity to get more value from a service provider, saw themselves as the French plumber, being replaced by a eager, cheaper European worker from the former East.

- 20 -

European Constitution Crisis – European Framework Undermines the Message Political structural alignment issues also exist, and add to the communications conundrum. As a supranational political body, the EU and related framework organizations are commonly referred to as “Brussels” – symbolizing remoteness, detachedness, and aloofness – not endearment or reverence. The EU (i.e., “Brussels”) does have certain demands on member states in the Union, and many times, these demands are not popular in any given nation at a given point in time, yet benefit the union as a whole. 17 Local politicians, being politicians in their own democracies, are (not surprisingly) focused on ensuring their constituents are pleased with their policies, goals, and priorities. What, then, happens when “Brussels” (which, to be fair, has already been given the authority by said member state to conduct certain policies in said state) enacts a policy or initiative that is not popular with local, voting citizens? These citizens can‟t vote out “Brussels” – they can only vote out their locally elected politician.

Herein lies the structural alignment problem: A local politician has the incentive to blame “Brussels” for unpopular policies, like, for example, a highway connecting Italy to Germany. Whether an EU directive or not, a scenario like this creates a viable scapegoat for any difficult reforms, investments, or shifts that benefit the Union at some sacrifice for the locals. To exemplify this problem, is it any surprise that Italy‟s prime minister, Silvio Berllusconi, has called the euro “a disaster” when Italian citizens (like Dina, interviewed above) find that they can‟t afford the lifestyle they used to enjoy under the lira?


Examples of this range from farm subsidies and Turkey accession talks, to issues as mundane as EU member dues

- 21 -

Building a Stronger Brand Before Extending the Limits There are many other issues surrounding the European Constitutional crisis, including:  It‟s an unwieldy combination of an aspirational document and a governing manual.  Europeans largely did not vote on or for the 2004 expansion; elites drove the initiative, creating frustration that became “democratic pressure” that burst at the first opportunity to vote for an EU measure.  Referendums are more appropriate for singular, containable actions like expansions (where some referendums were offered, but ignored18), and much less appropriate for complex, multi-faceted initiatives like constitutions (where referendums were offered).  By not acknowledging fledgling popular support of policies like expansion, an air of mistrust has coalesced within the ranks of the common European, putting any EU agenda item pinned to a referendum at risk for failure.  Globalization is wracking the nerves of people across the world as this process completely transforms commerce, politics, and war – and since the EU represents Europe‟s approach to globalization, it suffers from guilt by association. As these examples show, there are many underlying issues that play into the challenges of passing the Constitution. It is this reason that the EU leaders need to step back, re-

“The member states and the commission will pursue the enlargement negotiations with undiminished vigour and determination.” Romano Prodi and Goran Persson in response to Ireland voting “no” to the Nice Treaty. BBC News June 8, 2001

- 22 -

assess the landscape, and immerse themselves in the “three questions” referred to above in an effort to align the requisite fundamentals with the current political atmosphere. Once these three questions are answered – and bought into and across the entire organization – the EU will have developed a new, updated brand identity designed specifically to have the strength and integrity required to withstand the challenges that lie ahead.

Addressing the Positioning Problems with a New Brand Once the fundamentals are redefined through the immersive organizational selfevaluation required to establish an updated brand identity, the EU will then be ready to begin the process of developing a communications strategy to support the desired positioning in support of its goals. The good news is that once the initial, introspective exercise is complete and a meaningful, relevant brand is established, the brand will work as a powerful tool to further the agenda and policies of the EU.

An example of how the development of a powerful brand transcended stiff opposition was highlighted in the U.S. 2004 presidential election campaign. The brand that George W. Bush successfully established (through years of hard work conducted by his political aides) was that, despite any faults people might find in his ability or capacity, he was someone Americans could trust to keep them safe. 19 Trust and safety were themes he repeatedly invested in, which further embellished the brand, which helped him ward off attacks by his opponents. In fact, George W. Bush is a case study in brand management that could directly apply to the EU in that his brand evolved over the years to suit the

“The Art of Presidential Branding”, Bill Nissim, All About Branding, 10/20/2004

- 23 -

challenges at hand. His initial brand was “Bush – the son of a former President.” This gave him a leg up in recognition, which served his initial campaign well. Once initial momentum was established, he evolved his brand to that of “Compassionate Conservatism,” which positioned him as a moderate with a conservative heritage. Then, after the 9/11 crisis, he evolved his brand again to that of a “President leading the global war on terrorism.” This brand positioned him as a tough leader who was not afraid to make big decisions quickly in order to keep America safe from foreign threats. He leveraged this positioning all the way to engaging in America‟s first pre-emptive war to overthrow a sovereign nation. No matter what your views are on the rationale and basis for his decisions, his strong brand positioning is what gave him the political license to push forward an unprecedented agenda and, as a result, redefine America‟s brand in the world.

This case study supports the argument that the development of a strong brand – one that symbolizes the various and diverse positions the organization needed to communicate – is an invaluable tool for any organization to establish its value proposition with its core customer segments, gain support for the services it provides, and improve success in the continual battle for ideas and trust. In addition, this example exemplifies how nurturing, evolving, and continually re-investing in a brand gives an organization the communication fundamentals to stay relevant and meaningful as events occur and priorities evolve. In this case, the Bush administration did exactly what the EU did not do: they evolved their brand positioning as events unfolded in order remain relevant, valuable and trustworthy to their core customer segments. Conversely, as previously

- 24 -

established, the positioning and brand of the EU remained relatively stagnant in the face of historic events – and the resulting shifts – in priorities of its core customer segments. If the EU were to develop a brand as strong as the Bush administration‟s to support and position its unique value to their respective constituents – and have the organizational diligence to continually evolve the brand as events unfold – the EU would be able to spend less time and resources defending itself and, as a result, dedicate more time and resources to furthering its agenda. Ultimately, having a strong brand is not only effective, but it is also efficient.

Challenges and Opportunities for an Evolved EU Brand A reinvigorated EU will have the organizational wherewithal, confidence, selfassuredness, and clarity required to stand up to the unique challenges facing contemporary Europe. It can also offer higher quality services and opportunities to Europeans, and would be better positioned to make connections to these opportunities with the majority of Europeans‟ interests. It will have a brand that is transparently compelling to a majority of Europeans because the brand will be developed with that exact goal in mind. To get there, the EU will need to find solutions to – and develop communication strategies to address – the following challenges:

Nationality vs. Rationality Many populist arguments against the EU are rooted in nationalism, 20 which feed on people‟s natural tendency to be proud of their family, community, culture and ultimately,


“EU Faces Nationalism in the East,” Global Intelligence Update, New York University, 2/16/00 []

- 25 -

country. Conversely, many EU arguments are rooted in rationalism, which feed on the elite policy maker‟s tendency to be proud of being aware of all of the issues facing Europe, and developing complex strategies to address these issues. Both feed from pride, but the sources differ. The communication challenge for the EU here is to better empathize with the nationalist‟s perspective, and craft the EU message in terms that are aligned with the innate pride Europeans have of their respective nations.

Every Society Needs a “Story” If Europe is to ever see itself as a supranational entity in the world, it‟s going to need more than strong economic, cultural, and security ties across the region. As Lester Milbrath, professor of Political Science and Sociology, notes in his book on the subject, “Every society needs a story that tells its people how their world works and how they fit into the picture.”21 As it stands, every country in Europe has its own story, but Europe as a whole has yet to embrace a single “story.” The communication challenge for the EU here is to help Europe find, develop, and embrace a common story/paradigm that does not interfere with their local paradigms/stories.

Security Internal and external security concerns were front-and-center in the original incarnations of today‟s EU. Naturally, security is a good motivator for organization, and World War II and the Soviet Union provided two very real concerns at the time. A generation has passed, and security concerns have shifted dramatically. According to Eurobarometer 63


“Envisioning a Sustainable Society: Learning Our Way Out,” P.152, Lester W. Milbrath, State University of New York Press, 1989

- 26 -

(see Figure 4), Europeans see “peace” as the second most important reason for the European Union. The question is: peace from what? Is it still “peace from ourselves” (like between France and Germany) or has this notion evolved into something more complex (like peace between native and non-native Europeans)? This should be answered and cemented in the public consciousness to create a common security goal.

Figure 4: Eurobarometer 63 - "What Does the EU mean to you personally?" July 2005

Segmentation As the EU grows, it diversifies. Economic, security, and cultural issues vary vastly from region to region. When organizations grow and diversify, they tend to create divisions designed to focus on targeted markets and customer segments. It is worth investigating what divisions, other than functional, can be created within the EU structure. For

- 27 -

instance, should there be a Visegrád division of the EU, staffed and focused specifically to represent the needs for the Visegrád nations? What are the pros and cons of the EU organizing around core customer segments in addition to organizing –as it does today – around governmental and administrative functions.

Reframe the Debates Organizations and people often feel compelled to respond to a critique or challenge with a direct response. For instance, if a company is asked “What makes you the best at doing X?” the company will typically research and respond with compelling facts and opinions to support why they think they are indeed the best at doing X. However, this is not always the most effective strategy for getting on top of a debate.

In the case of the EU, concerns might be raised along the lines of “The EU will force France to adopt the Anglo-Saxon social contract.” Indeed, when the French Left raised this concern during the debate over the European Constitution, the response was denial – it was communicated that no such provisions were in the Constitution. 22 Of course, this is factually correct, but this response did nothing to assuage the fears of the French Left. A more strategic communication would reframe the debate, responding with the message that the EU wants to disseminate. (ex. “Europe is fortunate to have countries with the best social contracts in the world. These contracts do vary from nation to nation, as they should, in order to best respond to local needs and priorities. The Constitution‟s


“What was the basis of the French 'no' campaign?” Q&A: The European constitution, The Guardian,

June 2, 2005

- 28 -

fundamental goal of cohesion means learning from, supporting and accepting each other as Europeans, not imposing on each other.”)

What‟s In It For Me? (The “WIFM factor”) All of the above-identified challenges are components of the ultimate communications goal: transforming the message from something the EU wants to do into something that the majority of European citizens want the EU to do. While this is not always possible due to the complexities that lie ahead for the region, the effort should be made at every communications touch point to frame the issue or initiative with the WIFM perspective clearly addressed and integrated into the approach. Heads of state and local politicians, whose careers are based on their ability to gauge their constituents‟ wants and needs, could be regularly polled and surveyed to ensure that new messages will resonate at the local level. Benefits of creating processes to regularly engage local politicians include getting these local politicians more involved with EU organizations, and gaining access messages ahead of their constituents. With advanced notice, these politicians would have the opportunity to develop a coordinated and complimentary response to EU communications.

There is some progress being made on this front. Margot Wallström, the commissioner for institutional relations and communication strategy, has advocated a “radical shake-up of the Commission's representation offices and admits the Prodi commission's failure to communicate the services directive” in a recent interview with 23


“Interview: Commissioner Wallström on the EU's communication strategy,”, April 6,2005

- 29 -

Clearly, concerns over the effectiveness of communications are beginning to be recognized by top officials. However, it is not clear through this interview if the commissioner sees the need to look inward, in the ways discussed in this analysis, before moving forward.

Conclusion The goal of this paper is to put a spotlight on critical aspects of organizational dynamics – branding, positioning, and the processes to make these investments effective – and argue that the European Union‟s historic lack of effectiveness in these disciplines created a positioning crisis which undermine the EU‟s progress, and in particular, the European Constitution effort.

The EU is too important of a political entity at this point in time in our history to falter based on its inability to embrace of the strategic power of communications. Yet, most of the research prepared for this paper portrays an organization that is inward, elite, and aloof. These negative perceptions are direct reflections on the quality of communications and positioning that the EU has invested in to date. These perceptions point to an organization that has to conduct a deep self-evaluation and re-assessment of itself to clearly identify its customer segments, its brand value and promise, and represent a shared vision and goals for its growing list of constituents. The EU needs to re-emerge as a brand of Europe that is more than something that nations want to be a part of … it

- 30 -

needs to emerge as something that European citizens of all nations want to be a part of, too.

With global challenges ranging from the emergence of China as a disruptive economic powerhouse to the rise of global terror (both of which have already taken their tolls), Europe needs Europe more than most of Europe thinks. When looking at a global context, Europeans have more in common with each other than differences. However, lives – and votes – occur in a local context, and the global context has yet to be effectively linked to the local context, which leads to Europeans worrying about the Polish Plumber instead of the Indian Engineer and the Chinese Manufacturer. Communication linkages like this have been a recurring theme in this paper, with the twin goals of pointing out where broken linkages cascade into larger problems while planned, strategic linkages can create effective positions and brands that enable forward progress with efficiency.

It is my hope that the perspectives presented in this paper have a meaningful impact on the thinking of what ails today‟s European Union, why it is experiencing the challenges it is today, and what measures may be employed to improve the troubled trajectory that the EU is currently navigating.

- 31 -