Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Branding – success and failure

Firstly, from the UK a branding success. I always assumed when young and growing up in the UK that pub-style branding (in this case, pictured above, Watney-owned pubs) was just a natural outgrowth of "tradition". Nobody had "designed" it as such – at least, not in a sit-down and decide-on-it sense. And I never revised my thought after I grew up and worked in design. How slow can I be? So, it's good to see this piece in The Guardian on the Design Research Unit and their brandings of Watney Pubs.  Successful design, incorporating an idea of "tradition" and imprinting on a young mind that that is just how pubs looked. The article also includes their work on the old (and excellent) British Rail logo and London street signage and more. Wonderful work.
Secondly, a branding failure. I didn't even know this was happening. And then it no longer is. Gap decided to rebrand (ie: update – or, explained in corporate-speak, "Gap's target customer is the millennial, and we're exploring ways to communicate with them"). After two years of planning and work, they decided on the above-right new logo. Went public with it. And swiftly returned to the original after a social media backlash. In this case, I'd sympathise with the criticism that this wasn't the best rebranding decision, but, on the other hand, will private companies now fall back on crowd-sourced opinions on branding? Not always the most reliable approach. This logo, for example, seems more just somewhat bland than terrible. I would worry that a private company only goes with the popular (online) vote.

Well, perhaps it's an unnecessary worry – in this case at least I would share some of the crowd-sourced puzzlement, though certainly not outrage, at the branding. Why Helvetica? (Well, "why not?", of course – Helvetica is an acceptable and established font – but firstly "why?") The small blue square doesn't seem an historical legacy, just an historical hangover – and literally a hangover: it looks like it's about to topple off. And why the abrupt change rather than a continuation of an already successful brand?

I haven't read how far Gap got with implementing the change. Just in the US, I believe. But just online? Were store signs being made? Were bags being printed? Were new labels being stitched into clothes? An expensive mistake already, so let's hope they didn't get that far.

At the moment, Gap are playing it as a social media success for the company (they listened to their customers) rather than a rebranding fail. Perhaps that's the case.

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