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Chapter 5
Alternate Politics

Political Brand Standing

THOMAS FINFLANAHAGAN, Alternate Reality News Service International Writer

Oh, America’s Neighbour to the North, we stand on guard for thee…

Could this be Canada’s new national anthem? Yes, if the federal government succeeds at rebranding the country with a new identity.

“This is an enormous opportunity for us,” Wendy Bitchen, spokeswoman for Tourism America’s Neighbour to the North, stated. “American tourists who have been avoiding us for, perhaps, shall we say, now, don’t take this the wrong way, but there is no polite way to bring this up…political reasons, will be encouraged to give us a whole new look.”

So, Tourism America’s Neighbour to the North is essentially counting on Americans’ short attention spans and gullibility? “Yep, uh hunh, that’s basically it,” Bitchen agreed.

“It’s a – what a – I mean, think of the costs!” fulminated Opposition Leader for Life Stephen Harper. “I mean, putting America’s Neighbour to the North on all our money is going to cost a lot of, well, money for a start.”

“I know what he means,” said Robert Goorevitch, senior producer at the America’s Neighbour to the North Broadcasting Corporation. “We’re going to have to change all of our business cards and commisary napkins. And, do you have any idea how being called ANNBC is going to play havoc with our logo? We just got that thing!”

When he realized that he was agreeing with somebody at the ANNBC, Harper’s face turned an unbecoming shade of red. “It’s not so much agreement,” he argued, “as a coincidental overlapping of facts and arguments.”

Bitchen allowed that there would be some transitional costs. “Oh, sure,” she chirped, “there are bound to be some transitional costs.” However, she argued that the increase in tourism would ultimately offset the costs. “But, you see, the increase in tourism will –”

Well, you get the idea.

Two trends fed into the rebranding of this country. The first is that many America’s Neighbour to the Northern cities and provinces had already done it themselves: Vancouver was renamed Hollywood North; Alberta is now called Texas North; if a by-law in City Council passes, Kitchener will soon be called Buffalo North; and so on.

Bitchen argued that rebranding the country as a whole was the next logical step. “The next lo –” Yeah, yeah, we get it. Get over yourself.

At the same time, America’s Neighbour to the North’s corporate sector was quickly rebranding itself, eliminating all traces of its America’s Neighbour to the Northness in order to compete in international markets. The Bank of Montreal, for example, started advertising itself as BMO. The Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce is now known simple as the CIBC. Tim Horton’s is Tim’s. And so on.

One…well, you would hesitate to call it a problem – bit of awkwardness might be a better way of describing it – is why the government chose the phrase “America’s Neighbour to the North” rather than “America’s Northern Neighbour.” The longer brand will take up more room on letterheads and isn’t as catchy to overhear at dinner parties because of its extra syllable.

Bitchen claimed that the government didn’t go with the shorter brand line because the expensive American firm that was hired to report on the brand didn’t think of it. “We –” Oh, yeah, right, like I’m going to repeat all of that in a quote. “Well! I’m not going to give you any more interviews if you’re going to take that snotty attitude with me!” Bitchen responded.

Wendy, did you have ADD when you were a kid? Because, frankly, if you were any more perky, you’d blast off for Mars.

To launch their new brand, Tourism America’s Neighbour to the North began an advertising campaign in major American media with the tag line America’s Neighbour to the North Unlimited. Criticism of the campaign was swift and relentless, including charges that the line itself was bland and meaningless and that the ANNU logo looks like a strangled beaver.

The DJs on one radio station in Toronto even sponsored a contest to make fun of the campaign. Responses included: ANNUgly, ANNLimited and ANNUgh. “Hey, it’s all in fun,” explained CDIK-FM’s morning drive time DJ Michaelangelo “Dick” Tremonte. “Malicious, poorly thought out fun – but that’s the best kind!”

What do Americans think of the new identity of the country? In one poll 79 per cent of New Yorkers who were asked what they thought of America’s Neighbour to the North responded, “What, you mean Canada?”

Clearly, Tourism America’s Neighbour to the North has its work cut out for it.

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