Olde English images ousted by cool Britannia

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The Independent Online
Great Britain plc is to be given a new, trendier marketing image in an attempt to attract more visitors to the country.

The influence of cultural champions such as rock band Oasis and the current theme of Cool Britannia will help create the new national logo, edging out the old "roast beef and royalty" view of the country.

However the British Tourist Authority yesterday denied reports that it is dropping the Union flag from its brand image altogether.

The marque, which will feature on the BTA's literature and brochures, will be unveiled next month after extensive testing of the new design with 21 focus groups. The pounds 50,000 project is seen as important to the development of an industry which is already worth pounds 40bn a year to the economy.

Mr David Quarmby, chairman of the BTA, said: "Our research into visitors' perceptions about Britain has shown how much they appreciate the unique contrasts of the traditional and the innovative, our history and heritage but also our contemporary achievements in fashion, style and design.

"The brief for our designers was to capture these contrasts in one marque with which we can promote Britain abroad as a tourism destination."

The current logo features the BTA's initials alongside a Union flag. The London agency designing the new logo, Real Times Studio, yesterday said that it had not been specifically asked to keep the flag. "We were given a core booklet, which contained all the elements the BTA wanted looked at, and the Union Jack was not in it," said Annie Eaves, its development director.

Yesterday The Independent asked other creative agencies - at short notice - to come up with their own serious and humorous ideas for a new badge of Britain.

John Spencer, creative partner of Spencer Landor, favoured a design reflecting "cool authority", and said the flag ideally should be retained but used differently. "The image needs to be very professional, a bit like the perception of new Labour."

Other countries, even if they do not use the national flag, normally reflect their colours in their logos. The French have flashes of blue, white and red on their marque, in a "deliberate attempt" to keep the French flag as an identity, said Gillian Green, head of press for the French tourist office.

Spain's tourist logo depicts part of a painting by the Spanish artist Miro, but retains the country's colours of yellow and red. The Dutch tourist office does not display national colours - but uses a tulip instead.

Ireland's tourism office recently dropped plans to replace the shamrock with a new logo depicting two people with their arms outstretched in welcome. Critics condemned it as looking like sumo wrestlers preparing for battle. Australia uses sun, sea and kangaroos in their marque, but not the flag. Poland last year ditched its red, white and black logo, based on their national flag, and now use the word Polska with a graphic depicting the country's landscape.

What one insider described as the "freshening up" of Britain's overseas image was announced as another traditional British image came under threat - the footguards' bearskin. The Ministry of Defence announced yesterday it is carrying out another review of how to replace the need for real bears to make the headwear.

Lord Gilbert, the defence procurement minister, a noted animal lover whose wife Jean is a member of the fund-raising committee of the Worldwide Fund for Nature, is said to be concerned at the continuing use of the Canadian black bear.

However, though other animal-skin headwear, made out of beaver and seal, has been abandoned in favour of synthetic materials, the Army has faced difficulties in finding suitable alternatives to the longer-haired bearskins.

An MOD spokesman said: "In previous experiments, the hats became rather bedraggled - like a bad hair day." The spokesman said they would rather use longer lasting synthetic materials but added that the skins come from bears already culled by the Canadian government, and not from an endangered species. "A lot of them are knocked down on roads in places like Ontario anyway," he added. The bearskin was first worn as an honour by the Foot Guards for their defeat of the French Imperial Guard, which wore bearskins, at Waterloo. About 2,000 bearskins are worn, and 150 replacements are needed each year - coming from about 50 animals. Leading article, page 13