So You Want to Rebrand New Zealand...

Ad man Jono Aidney brings his experience to bear on New Zealand's flag and currency redesigns, and delivers some great tips for how to rebrand our small island nation on the cheap.

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One of the problems with living in a democracy is sometimes you have to go along with other people's bad ideas. Which is why, in the interest of being a good citizen, I've decided to wholeheartedly support the redesign of our national flag.

I was three generations short of seeing my Great Uncle Joe wager his life at Gallipoli. I can only assume he was fighting to protect New Zealand as it was then - an ecological wonderland his generation would soon transform into an egalitarian paradise. But that's all gone now. In some ways, a corporate rebranding is the final thing on the to-do list.

Rebrands are about more than just a logo, which is where the new-look currency comes in. Our notes appear to have been subjected to the design process known by those in the business as a 'clusterfuck'. I think, for the sake of nailing this 'brief', it's time we considered these two 'touchpoints' together.

In case the insider lingo hasn't given it away: you're in good hands. Take a look around you and breathe in the brandscape. Those brands you love, or maybe not love but feel like you can never escape, which is a kind of love—some of them I helped create. It's my profession, and the only thing that really gets me excited anymore.

I work in advertising, and I'm here to help you rebrand your country.

Step 1: Let's Just Make It The All Blacks Logo

Since our core identity as a nation is inextricably entwined with a team playing a game that's barely considered a spectator sport in the country of our nearest competitor, this is a natural choice. The All Blacks silver fern is an outstanding emblem. So it shouldn't surprise you to know that it's unfortunately also the protected intellectual property of Dave Clark Design - a real branding agency that employs professionals to do this kind of thing.

Which brings us on to:

Step 2: Crowdsourcing

The beauty of crowdsourcing is you don't have to pay anyone for the idea. You can sidestep the boring stuff like months of research and strategic vision, and get straight to the Photoshop screen with all the checkered squares (read: infinite possibilities).

Crowdsourcing is like the old mantra that if you put positive vibrations out into the world, you'll get back a 5-bedroom Remuera mansion. It doesn't work. Over the years, I've crowdsourced plenty of things clients were too cheap to pay for. Some of them even ended up on the side of buses, and even that seemed a bit flash for the results of a glorified colouring-in competition.

Step 3: Put It To A Committee

A committee is kind of like a jury of your peers - and when has a jury ever been wrong? With a committee in charge, we'll avoid a design that stands out as extreme, unexpected or in any way remarkable. The committee won't stop until they've found a flag that doesn't challenge anyone in the room. We'll get to keep our navy blue, red and white (we're not getting rid-rid of the Union Jack). We'll keep out of that controversial Māori stuff (less than 15% of the population, am I right?). And we'll keep the stars in there somewhere (for all the ribbing, we are still very closely related to our old mates across the ditch).

Step 4: Assemble The Experts

Flag designers are called vexillographers. There may not be any vexillographers on the official selection panel, but that doesn't mean we've enlisted a bunch of amateurs. There's a professional discus thrower, a guy who owns some accounting software, and a youth counselor. Standing in for anyone that might fall remotely under the catchall banner of 'designer'; is the CEO of Saatchi & Saatchi, who I'm told has seen lots of things that have been designed.

Step 5: Find Out What We Stand For

This question makes me feel good all over. We stand for winning at sports, and being clean and green, and for pretty much any restaurant Al Brown opens. He could literally open an instant coffee café and that Moccona would be sublime. But the question we probably need to ask is ';why does New Zealand exist?'; Is our purpose unfettered economic progress? Is it to be an ethical voice on the world stage? A place where every child gets a fair start? Guardians of nature? Nature's pimps? If we can work out what our collective ‘purpose' is, we'll have a chance of turning that idea into a flag.

Step 6: Give It The Old Corporate Heave-Ho

It's hard to put a price on a robust corporate rebranding project - mostly because of the confidentiality contracts - but we do know Spark's rebranding ran to an estimated $20 million. The fact that AMP came up with the same logo only proves the old axiom that expensive minds think alike. Besides, you try getting anything more complex than a meaningless squiggle past a committee of non-designers faced with immense responsibility and absolutely no sense of purpose and see how you get on.

So to the dullards and pragmatists calling two referendums and $26 million a 'pointless waste of money’ and a 'symbol of the Government's misaligned priorities', my professional advice is to sit back and enjoy the show. By the time it rolls around, you'll have already paid for it with your recently-redesigned funny money. And when you’re standing in front of that referendum ballot form holding a fat orange felt-pen designed for children and wondering if this is democracy or just an elaborate episode of Punk'd, please try to remember - at least you don’t have to do this every bloody day of the week.