Welcome to Brand USA

Forget the old Red, White and Blue: America is to sell itself to the world via a multicoloured, ‘percolating’ logo by The Brand Union, launched yesterday

Forget the old Red, White and Blue: America is to sell itself to the world via a multicoloured, ‘percolating’ logo by The Brand Union, launched yesterday

Back in 2001, the Bush Administration famously brought in JWT’s Charlotte Beers on a mission to sell America to the world. Bush and Beers may have departed the political scene, but yesterday saw the launch of a scheme to do just that, Brand USA.

Whereas Beers was tasked with the ambitious brief of burnishing, or even rehabilitating, the image of America abroad, Brand USA has more modest aims – boosting overseas visitor numbers in the country’s first national co-ordinated travel and tourism effort. It is the new name for the US Corporation for Travel Promotion, a public-private partnership which itself was formed in 2009 with a mission to ‘promote increased foreign leisure, business and scholarly travel to the US’.

The Brand Union, working with ad agency JWT, was asked to come up with a new name and identity for the organisation. According to the press material, the new design “captures the spirit of the United States: Authentic. Optimistic. Unexpected. Inclusive. Endless Possibilities. It features an arrangement of dots joining together to compose the letters USA. The dots and their varied colour scheme are meant to represent the diversity of people and experiences that can be found in the United States. To further emphasise that there is no single, definitive United States, the identity is not tied to a single palette and can be appear in a range of color schemes.”

According to Brand USA, “The Brand USA logo was designed to capture the American spirit and create a fresh new brand identity that welcomes the world to come experience the boundless possibilities in America. It is not about patriotism, flag waving or chest beating. It is meant to be welcoming, unexpected and inclusive. It celebrates the idea that no one thing defines the USA – but that each visitor interaction and each experience helps create the distinctly dynamic fabric of the American experience.”

The Brand Union’s Wally Krantz has described the mark as a “percolating” image: in animated form, multicoloured dots to resolve the letters USA (you can see it in motion in a rather cheesy promotional video here). “We wanted to find a logo that was both aspirational and true to the heart of the country; the use of a percolating image encapsulates the energy and optimism that draws people to the United States,” Krantz has said. The logo is used with the URL of dicoveramerica.com, the main Brand USA website.

JWT is to create an ad campaign featuring the identity which will launch in January.

First impressions? No red, white and blue, which would have been the obvious choice. As stated at the launch, those involved were conscious of avoiding anything that could be seen as too “flag-waving” and instead have attempted to concentrate on America’s diversity – of environment, of opportunity, of potential experiences for visitors. America has always meant different things to different people and, of course, is founded on the notion of the diverse ‘poor and huddled masses’ coming together to form a new nation, so the adaptive nature of the mark seems logical. Many, I’m sure, will argue that the country’s traditional colours are so closely associated with it that it seems odd not to include them, however. Perhaps a red, white and blue version may yet emerge? America has so many powerful and instantly recognisable visual icons – stars and stripes, the statue of liberty, the eagle – that it does seem strange to abandon them all for a project of this nature in favour of something nebulous.

As with all identity schemes, we’ll have to see how it looks when applied across a wide variety of media before we can really judge how effective it may prove to be. Here it is applied to the launch brochure in a single colour:

It’s distinctive and highly adaptable which should mean that JWT will find it easy to work with on the campaign elements, which is vital for such a scheme. As we get more examples of it in use, we will follow up.


UPDATE: Thanks for all the interesting comments so far. As an experiment, and given the contentious nature of the subject matter here, I’m going to trial a new comment policy on this post. We’re going to moderate comments for quality. Only comments that CR feel contribute to the debate in some thoughtful, insightful, funny or otherwise valid way will be published. It’s shit! or Fail! will not get through. It’s an experiment, let’s see what happens. Afterwards, we’ll ask for feedback

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  • Oh boy CR.

    You’ve just opened a can worms.

    Cue negative comments.

  • Looks rather contagious. Personally I don’t want to catch it.

  • I agree with Michael….

  • andrepj

    Watered down, politically correct drivel that could probably apply to any of the soft dictatorships that call themselves the ‘modern West’ these days. But hey – at least it won’t offend anyone…

    …but me…!

  • Rob

    I agree with Jaco.

  • Nice, It does remind me of the Color Blindness or Color Vision Deficiency test.

  • they should stick to patriotic icons, they do it much better.

  • An identity crisis? Ignoring the miserable little launch brochure, it does seem so generic that it may as well be for any other country, company or institution seeking to make itself acceptable to this imagined, impossible, international 21st Century audience. Maybe like Norwich Union/Aviva et al, they should rename as Samica or something.

  • What’s interesting about this is how intentionally bland it is. So for me it represents a loss of confidence.

    Traditionally the USA has always had an incredibly strong sense of its international standing and worth – a territory tied up with notions of modernity, epic ambition and (like it or loathe it) irrepressible optimism – the kind of qualities that the iconic I ‘heart’ NY identity represented so well.

    Hard to discern any of that going on here. I understand the rationale for the logotype, but the effect is of an indeterminate, shifting entity which fails to match the experienced reality of the USA, which is a hugely distinct and characterful culture. That’s always been its core strength – it takes in people from anywhere and everywhere, and they instantly want to sign up to being identified as Americans. Without needing to indoctrinate anyone, surely the visitor experience should have a little of that flavour?

  • Paul

    VIRUS USA! THIS IS TERRIBLE! Only American’s would be so naive to think that the rest of the world doesn’t realise how ‘flag waiving’ they actually are. I think anyone who’s going to visit had either an acceptance or an ironic interest in that fact! Rude waiters and 9dollar coffees don’t stop people going to Paris! The designers should have remembered that stereotypes have a reason behind them. It would be better to be brutally honest. Come for the slum tourism. Come to see a Subway resteraunt in the middle of the desert. Come to hear religious radio in your rental car. Come to see the gated mansions. Come to see the 24hour WalMarts!

  • Very reminiscent of a recent visual identity done for a shopping mall in Cardiff.


  • PatrickBurgoyne

    @ Freddie B

    Yes, that’s a very good point. It is strangely lacking in self-confidence

  • Client.

    I love it! Awesome work. Could add some drop shadow to the ‘USA’.

  • As a South African, this campaign has already changed my view of America. All the red, white and blue has deterred me in the past – those few thumbnail images on the brochure shot have opened my eyes. Perhaps I will take a holiday there someday… I wait with anticipation to see if this campaign has the legs…

  • PatrickBurgoyne

    Thanks for all the interesting comments so far. As an experiment, and given the contentious nature of the subject matter here, I’m going to trial a new comment policy on this post.
    We’re going to moderate comments for quality. Only comments that CR feel contribute to the debate in some thoughtful, insightful, funny or otherwise valid way will be published. It’s shit! or Fail! will not get through.
    It’s an experiment, let’s see what happens. Afterwards, we’ll ask for feedback

  • Looks like somebody got some inspiration from a shooting range… but then every American has a shotgun under his bed, right?

  • Michael

    Where in that logo (excluding the URL) does it say travel, visit, or America?

    Surely they are the primary role for the logo.

    It feels like they’ve just stumbled across something they feel is pretty and post rationalized the fuck out of it. Lettering/typography isn’t logo design. Feels lazy, especially when they have so much to play with.

  • Decimal

    Ailing America? Looks slightly classier than tabloid ‘paper graphics for ‘broken Britain’ but that’s about all I can say for it. Too diffuse for me.

    Maybe it would work better if they’d used stars instead of dots (I guess those would’ve needed to be slightly bigger)?

  • I can understand how the logo works when its played in a video, all the dots moving together to signify how America is home to people of various races and backgrounds and how they all unite to form one population.

    However when the advert is not in motion, the idea doesnt really makes sense. It would be more suited to an Australian tourism advert because the grouping of dots to make a bigger picture is similar to traditional Aborigninal art.

  • I actually really like this work.

    Like Chris Rowland, I’d be put off by a razzmatazz, red, white and blue campaign, and I have been in the past. I think the strength in this campaign is that it gets past the nationalistic pride and tries to sell you a destination that’s about more than Ol’ Glory and apple pie.

    It’s never going to be everyone’s cup of tea, but I think it takes a fair bit of courage to present work to a client that’s so radically different to what came before. Personally I say, well done!

  • should have got Michael Bay to do it, It needs more ‘AWESOME’

  • PJ

    I think I need to see it more in application before I can pass judgement too much, I also think getting this brief would be a bit of a poisoned chalice….country branding is always going to be massively contentious, it’s far too subjective and every man and his blind dog will have an opinion – usually along the lines of ‘my four year old could do better than this’.

    I do wonder how much research went in to the piece, perhaps it researched really well? My initial reaction isn’t ‘wow’ but it’s also not ‘what were they thinking?’ Perhaps the supporting graphics and imagery surrounding it will be more ‘inspiring’, but I do think I will give it a chance before jumping on the bandwagon.

    And @Michael, ‘lettering/typography isn’t logo design’? Really? Says who? What about FedEx? IBM? V&A? Coca Cola?

  • Well, I’m torn…

    I think the comment earlier from the gentleman in South Africa had a good point. The red/white/blue patriotize (not a word?) the crap out of everything likely is very off putting to non-Americans (and is to me, who is American). So, I’m glad to see the move toward something else.

    But, on the other hand, as has been mentioned, it does seem a bit bland when static. I do actually prefer the single color version in the print advert, since it eliminates some of the bacterial associations.

    Overall, I like the idea of the US marketing itself on something other than its patriotism and look forward to seeing how it plays out.

  • Lainie

    As an American, I was prepared to be nauseated by more patriotic chest-beating. Thank you, Patrick.

    I am relieved. I like it. Not blown over by it, but maybe that’s what is needed right now. An unassuming message that we’re OK.

    @Chris Rowland of South Africa, (one of my favorite accents, btw) Please visit us. I live in the Ozarks where there are still some of the purest springs in the world and beautiful rivers for floating. We do have some rednecks, but they are mostly harmless outside of a political conversation.

  • I can see why they’ve taken this route, but it does come across like an identity crisis. It doesn’t have the self-confidence I would usually associate with America.

    Crucially (and surprisingly) its not super legible, which means that although its been approved by the top dogs, further down the food chain the logo will probably get sidelined by people who are less confident. The first brochure cover shown above is a perfect example – it would surely make sense to use the logo big here, but they’ve used Gotham instead.

    In any case, if they continue designing promo materials anything like that brochure cover, the logo work will have been a waste of time.

  • Jason

    I like the attention to detail on the brochure cover – Enough leading on the introductory text to drive a cadillac through. Nice touch

  • br1spina

    america still make me dream
    now… where is the dream?

    if america don’t like itself
    how can i like america ?

    it is a missed campaign

  • So as a nation we are tired of being proud that we are American? So we are going to represent our selves as something else to try and bring in money… I think America needs an internal campaign to boost moral before we try and increase tourism.

  • Tom

    I’m happy to say that having revisited this logo throughout the day I’m as yet not offended by it.

    The reason I don’t ‘love it’ though is because it’s so unoffensive that I don’t really have an opinion on it at all.
    It’s a mark, which is associated with America because it has discover America under it.

    It doesn’t capture any mood or feeling for America, it is just a mark, which when animated becomes a device.If that was the brief was then it’s spot on. If it wasn’t the brief and the design agency have tried to weave in some bullshit spin about how it represents anything post concept then I ask them to please stop offending intellectuals and shush.

    The brochure cover however…. well that is just plain awful. It’s a nothing design. It’s disgusting, visually retarded in every was and hasn’t been given one ounce of thought. If that’s how much effort America are going to throw at getting me to come over and discover it then no. I won’t take the time or spend the money… because you haven’t spent either to compel me to do so.

  • yesisaidit

    This dentity does not reflect our multi-cultured society (not-only-christian, open sundays and all 24hrs) AT ALL! Let’s not forget (when we insult american ego) it was Europeans who first started this country.

  • Mustafa

    it’s quite analogue – I don’t believe a grid of coloured dots are representative of a cohesive diverse community – but more a community broken & fractured through inequality – reflected in the way the letters and typography in USA are ‘incomplete’.

    I also think the still of how the logo would be animated quite telling – again an unintentional semiotic signifier to the way all these coloured dots [& different people] came to colonise the land mass that then came to be known as the Americas.

    As branding for a country with a history of domineering cultural influence through music, television and film – it’s surprising that the identity isn’t more representative of the ‘Americana’ that so characterises the nation still. You don’t need to splash out the stars or strips, or even the red white and blue to seem cliche and nationalistic [but this is a country that forces every generation to have hand on heart, pledged allegiance to all those symbols] – so why detract from it?

    I don’t think it’s fulfills the intention of the client of the design house in presenting a new images of this domineering nation whatsoever, which is a great shame because there are SO many cultural, political and historical points to draw exciting and innovative aesthetic characterizations of this nation of paradoxes.

  • mog

    Like it. It provides a format for the ongoing campaign, and they’re dead right: America *is* far more diverse than eagles, stars and stripes and red-white-and-blue across silhouettes of CONUS can hope to communicate.
    Shame it falls down in the brochure cover, really. I was hoping for new angles on these hackneyed perspectives, although the shot of the woman sitting back and taking in NY is a nice change ffrom the usual ‘in amongst it’ images. I certainly don’t advocate the close-up, down-the-barrel portraits of diverse types of people, but still, give us a fresh persepctive.
    Keep pushing it, is all I can say.

  • I really appreciate the concept and the thinking — it is a fresh approach, however IMHO it is lacking character. The USA logo above makes me think of a cable network… The new logo for Peru does a better job at conveying a culture, while being new and appetizing. again, IMHO

  • Rob

    As a potential tourist I have a lighthouse, farm building, seasonal tree and water to look forward to. It’s not making me reach for my passport.

  • First impression – I’m not blown away. Looks far too similar to a hundred other logos that try to get across ‘coming together through dots’. The only one of these style of logos that I do like is Johnson Banks as at least they expanded on it, used real people etc. Plus Johnson Banks designs always seem to look classic and well made.

    Really though what put me in stitches this morning was the cheesy stock footage video. Just before half way through (just after the statue of liberty and fireworks) the commentary talks about diversity and yet everyone in that shot is doing exactly the same thing. Then towards the end they seemed to have picked up a bit of more 4’s sting – well, if they’re not using it anymore someone might as well ey? Then the final use of animated logos looks as if everyone is running away from the USA followed by and exploding dot. Oh and some random pink rectangle appears at the bottom around that time.

    But back to the logo. I can imagine this branding has been going on for some time and no doubt been exposed to hundreds of board meetings with the client so wouldn’t be surprised if had become more of a design by committee.

    I look forward to seeing how it is applied to various applications, just hopefully not any as bad as the brochure.

  • SB

    I like the idea of representing multiculturalism in the dots but at the same time it doesn’t really stand out and some people may find it hard to read

  • It would be interesting to know if it was tested on any colour blind people before they committed to it?
    Now they have the hard work will surely come in the application and execution of the mark which I’m sure won’t be massively flexible. I have just visited the website it’s designed to promote, and was greeted by links such as ‘America at a Glance’ – Geeez!

  • Nelson

    There seems to be a trend for brands to be used in a variety of different colours. (London 2012). I think this is about versatility and variety. Maybe vitality. But at the price of recognition, clarity and authority?

    Basically, I’m not sure if the dots themselves are strong enough or unique enough to carry it off.

  • NWP

    Perhaps it is a genuinely sincere opportunity to put across the true nature of the USA. The first example looks like that other great American icon, M&Ms. Sickly sweet on the surface with a dark centre ?

  • What happened to Marlboro man adverts? It was more tempting then this. Eagle, space shuttle, stars and stripes, brave and strong… Whatever. It seems they just needed to spend some money on politically correct marketing…

  • Martin DIckson


    Surely this type of design/style/essence/tone is more suited to the exact subject matter Sea did – see above link.

  • FlowerMountain

    I don’t get it, most of you seem to expect the usual clichés and patriotism. I actually like this!
    It’s more about the diversity of this big land than about how strong or great it is.

    This branding makes the USA more humble than it usually comes across. As a potential visitor I like this.
    I would be annoyed by any of the clichés.

    What’s fascinating about the USA is the diversity. Diversity in landscapes, climates, lifestyles, opinions, education…

  • The brochure looks modern and colourful – I love it, but it seems to be mising some extra flavour. There’s many more natural/farming/country photos, and only one little photo of NYC, tiny and in the background behind a head. A modern city street scene (with buildings) instead of one of the farm photos would have done a better job at conveying more diversity here as well as showing modern-technology-art.

  • Aubrey

    I like the logo. It invites you to visit a country with a huge variety of experiences without having to sign up to the ‘American way of life’. Which is exactly what you want when visiting a country.

    As for the brochure – oh dear.

  • Alex

    C’mon people. Multiculturalism, diversity, etc. surely can be portrayed in a more spohisticated and original way than a grid of dots. For such a big brand like the USA (tourism) I would expect something at least as good as Landor’s work for Melbourne. But all we have here is an uninspired logo and poor applications (that brochure cover is damn ugly).

  • ed

    I went to the USA earlier on this year and it was a fantastic trip. When I see this logo, it doesn’t do anything to take me back there at all.

    However, in its lack of obvious imagery or stereotypical symbols it sort of makes me fill in the gaps myself. I look at the logo and all I can think of are all the wonderful things ‘USA’ conjures up in my mind (that aren’t suggested by this ident) that are probably too disparate, conflicting and abstract to actually distill into one logo. So it sort of works.

    Not that I think any of this is deliberate, of course; the usual marketing balls is trotted out about percolation etc. But it’s sort of comforting that just seeing the letters USA together does it well enough for me – you could write it any way you wanted!

  • While I can’t help but feel they want to show the diversity or inclusiveness the American culture offers I feel it doesn’t connect with the real American, however that’s why it might succeed where others have failed. Everyone knows Americans are extremely patriotic and that the colours red, white and blue need to be in everything they do. However this doesn’t do any of that, it doesn’t shove the flag down your throat and that’s why I think it might work. The auidience for this isn’t Americans, it’s for tourists outside of the patriotism, tourists that don’t have an allegence to the flag and people who don’t associate red, white an blue with America. By offering a more fluid branding system they’ve set themselves up with a brand that might appeal to people better than anything normal.

    I think the execution is poor and the branding as so many Adwords associated with it that it might as well have them as a tag line because the logo message just insn’t clear enough. In this day and age a brand needs to have 2 way communication and I feel the average consumer is smarter and needs to be educated in a more in-depth way that just supplying them with a simple website and a not so clear brand.

  • Jennifer

    This logo is a rip of Deanne Cheuk’s dot-titles in Tokion Magazine circa 2001!!!!!

  • I agree with lots of the comments and realised I’m still undecided about if I actually ‘like’ it or not …yes it does look contagious, and pretty but very generic. It’s a nice concept of ‘bringing together’ and represents a ‘multi-everything nation’. No, it’s not as effective in a static form, but it is an unpredictable solution. Maybe if it only existed in red, white and blue then it would combat it’s lack of confidence? Re. brochure…surely ‘ make the logo bigger’ would apply here instead of the Gotham?

    I suppose I do know one thing…it leaves me confused.

  • @martin: the Marlboro Man in the adverts died of lung cancer at the age of 51.

    I’m glad they didn’t go for obvious patriotic icons, images and colours, it would have turned me off.

  • A fantastic branding opportunity, which from an aesthetic point of view feels timid and somewhat insipid; not the USA I imagine or would feel compelled to visit. Unfortunately with jobs as large as this it’s hard to make a judgment based on merely seeing the result (even though this is ultimately what matters).

    Who knows what other vibrant and brilliant routes the agency may have suggested or how much ‘design by committee’ went on behind the scenes. Either way, a tough nut to crack.

  • Glenn

    If the purpose of the campaign was to move over one “barrier” (i.e. Middle Aged) then we are let down by the “About Us” page. If you see the pictures of the team, you immediately think “Vote for Me!”. The concept is good, however it needs to be tweeked to perfection. Less use of “awesome” would help. Sounds too much like a person too old trying to compensate by being more in the know than the youth. Also please update the photos to non-politician looking to get that “Welcome to try or visit” feel. Or maybe there is an IPO coming up of Brand USA?

  • me

    The french version of the website is full of language mistakes, misspellings, etc… + the website really looks bad. I sure hope they got a good bargain for it.