Michael MacKay, Radio Lemberg, 14.05.2018
Ukraine has a new brand. On May 10, the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine approved a logo for the country which is fresh, simple, direct and bold. The logo is “Ukraine NOW ua” in a black san-serif font, with the word “NOW” on a yellow rectangle and “ua” as a superscript in a blue circle.
Yellow and blue are, of course, the colours of the Ukrainian flag. UA is the top-level domain name for Ukraine on the Internet. The inclusion of “dot UA” in Ukraine’s brand is a deft touch, and it highlights the enthusiastic embrace Ukrainians have given to high technology and innovation. It’s also a clear and simple signal of a reason to invest in digital Ukraine.
The Government of Ukraine makes no bones about it: clear, distinct branding for Ukraine is all about attracting investment and promoting tourism and presenting a positive image of the Ukrainian nation to the world. There is no question that most people in the world are poorly-informed about Ukraine, and have many negative and false impressions from the past.
The brand “Ukraine NOW ua” is an appeal to look at Ukraine with fresh eyes. The Ukraine of today is Ukraine after the Revolution of Dignity, when everything changed. As many Ukrainians have observed, Ukraine gained its real independence only in 2014 – long after its formal independence in 1991 – because Ukrainians fought for and won it against dark forces determined to keep Ukraine in the past. To look at Ukraine now is to see that the country underwent a genuine revolution in society and government. It’s called the Revolution of Dignity because it was for a democratic, humane, and thoroughly European future for the Ukrainian people.
Artem Bidenko, from Ukraine’s Information Policy Ministry, said on May 10: “We want to present Ukraine … as a country of opportunities, a country of freedom, and new emotions.” The word “NOW” evokes the zeitgeist, the spirit of the age, and in Ukraine that spirit is vibrant, open, and positive.
Ukraine is following a path laid down by Canada almost four decades ago. In 1980, Canada started what it called the “Federal Identity Program” to present a clear and positive image of Canada to the world. The most successful outcome of this branding effort has been the “Canada Wordmark,” which is the name “Canada” in a bold Helvetica font with a Maple Leaf Canadian flag over the final letter “a.” The world got to see the Canada Wordmark in 1981, when NASA Space Shuttles started to fly into low-Earth orbit and the Canadarm Robotic Arm appeared on TV screens with “Canada” and the flag prominently displayed, set against the backdrop of space.
Canada has had problems as a “brand” in the past. The powerful influence of the United States on Canadian society has led to the dismissal of Canada as being merely the “51st state” of the USA. But few would argue that that is the perception of Canada today. Citizens of other countries regard Canada very highly as a “brand.” Clear and positive identifying imagery from the Government of Canada over the past 38 years has something to do with that. Canada has kept very strict control over the Canada Wordmark and the Federal Identity Program as a whole, and Ukraine would be wise to guard the powerful tool of nation-branding with the same diligence.
Type “Canada is …” in Google Search, and one out of 10 auto-completion suggestions are negative or false. Type “Ukraine is …” and half of the results are negative or false. Positive branding can slowly change perceptions for the better – when it highlights actual conditions in the country that are changing for the better. Canada did it and Ukraine can too. We can only hope to see “Ukraine NOW ua” on tote bags, coffee mugs, inline advertising on web sites, and on the sides of buses very soon.
Ukraine has a fresh opportunity with a fresh brand. “Ukraine NOW ua” has a simple and clear message: consider the country of Ukraine and its people now, as it is, and you will come away with a new and a positive impression. If the Government of Ukraine connects its shiny new logo with a genuine “open to the world” spirit for investment and tourism, then Ukraine’s best days are ahead of it.