Australia rebranded? A new logo in tough times for trade and travel

By Paul Mersiades
Intellectual Property Media, Advertising & Marketing Patents & Trade Marks

'Wattle' become of Australia's new look? 4 min read

The Australian Government is reportedly 'reworking' a proposed new logo to represent Australia overseas. We look further into the rebranding initiative and whether you should adopt the new logo below.

Key takeaways

  • The proposal for a new 'wattle' logo to represent Australia in the international trade arena was approved in June, but the final form of the logo and detailed arrangements governing its use are still to come.
  • Exporting businesses, especially businesses that export services, should consider adopting the new logo to maximise exposure for their products and services.
  • The 'Australian Made' kangaroo logo is being retained (with slight colour tweaks).

Who in your organisation needs to know about this?

General counsel, design team, marketing team.

The new logo

In June 2020, Trade Minister Simon Birmingham approved a new logo to represent Australia overseas. The proposed logo features an abstract depiction of wattle, Australia's national flower. This rebranding initiative demonstrates that Australia is pushing ahead with its international trade agenda, which also includes continuing or commencing the negotiation of free trade agreements, despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

Media reports suggest the final design is being reworked, although it is likely to maintain the wattle theme.

The proposal for a new logo is the result of the Government's initiative to rebrand Australia, after a $3m creative tender launched in 2018. It was recommended by the Nation Brand Advisory Council (Council) to unify Australia's brand and 'inspire the world to buy into Australia’s people, place and product.' The Council is an industry-led advisory body managed by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, created in 2018 to develop a new brand to be utilised in education, foreign investment, tourism, exports and other sectors.

The new logo will directly replace the little known and rarely used 'Australia Unlimited' logo, which features two boomerangs forming the shape of Australia.

The 'Australian Made' kangaroo logo will remain as Australia's global product symbol, although with a slightly different colour palette that will be more in line with the new wattle logo. The 'Australian Made' logo is Australia’s country of origin logo which can only be used on products that are registered with Australian Made Campaign Ltd, and which meet the criteria set out in the Australian Consumer Law.

The Council recommended that the new wattle logo be freely available and accessible for use by Australian businesses, but that there be governance arrangements in place to ensure an appropriate level of control and consistency whilst encouraging efficient access and use. These guidelines are still to come.


Visually distinctive or substantially coronavirus?

The Council advised that while the proposed logo is 'not immediately recognisable internationally', it could become so over time. It believes the yellow burst can also be used in a flexible way, with its different design elements able to be separately adopted, eg as a halo or additional accent on artwork or photos.

However, the new logo has received plenty of (often negative) attention in Australia for both its design and ill-fated timing. For example:

  • many have pointed to the unfortunate similarities between the new logo and visual depictions of the COVID-19 virus. This is simply a case of bad timing, as the logo had been in development since 2018, and was recommended by the Council before the outbreak of COVID-19;
  • it has been noted that the gold foiling may be difficult and costly to reproduce on packaging or publicity materials; and
  • the Government has been criticised for not accompanying the rebrand with a compelling message regarding its purpose. Current restrictions on trade and travel may also dampen the impact of the rebranding strategy during its window of opportunity to make an impression following its launch.

Commentators have also noted that diverging from the more established kangaroo logo may dilute Australian branding and confuse the recipients of the intended message.

Following these criticisms, it was reported that the Government has decided to rework the final design of the logo but will continue to use the wattle theme. The final form of the new logo therefore remains to be seen.

No such thing as bad publicity?

Any confusion regarding the Australian brand, however, may equally be limited by the absence of international brand messaging during the current crisis. In accepting the recommendations of the Council, the Government noted that the new logo will be a critical part of the COVID-19 crisis recovery, as Australian exporters seek to maximise exposure for their products and services.

Ultimately, the initial controversy may drive increased awareness and recognition of the new logo. This is perhaps more than can be said for the superseded Australia Unlimited logo.

Actions you can take now

  • Stay alert for the logo's final design and details of forthcoming governance arrangements which will define the circumstances in which it can be applied.
  • Seek advice from Allens' Intellectual Property team regarding those arrangements when they are published.