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Wilkinson – A Big Brand Let Down by Poor Typography

They have seemingly filled the gap on the high street left by Woolworths. Wilkinson has become a household brand in the purest sense – whether you need a bucket or some baby wipes, some wallpaper or gardening tools, they stock a wide range of household goods at a cheap price compared to the more specialised retailers (Boots for baby items, B&Q or Homebase for DIY, the usual supermarkets for household goods.)
It makes sense to highlight this versatility in a marketing campaign and even more so on their delivery vans for the mail order side of the business. But whilst their online appearance seems to be professional, with attention to detail (such as this 404 not found page design), their lorry advertising is just plain awful.
It’s not only the forced justified type that causes huge gaps between some of the words and looks dubious, it’s the inconsistency in the use of the singular or plural that follows no rule or reasoning. It’s a nice concept, but the execution lets it and the brand down big time.

wilkinson brand identity
A clean, simple logo…

Wilkinson-truck-typography
… spoilt by poor typography.

Wilkinson-truck-typography
Jarring even in the dark..

Wilkinson-404-fun error 404 message
That’s better! Makes you want to get to an error 404!

The concept has been visualised by other stores in a more sophisticated manner. John Lewis’ tissue paper shows outlines of all sorts of products, and Bob Gill did the concept of visualising ‘we do all sorts of things’ many, many years ago in a poster that showed the goods of a department store arranged to a nearly out of context graphic with the interest kept by ignoring the actual scale of the items and arranging them, no matter what their real size, next to each other.
It may be that the back of a van does not make or break a brand, but poor typography does reflect on the professionalism and attention to detail of any business (even if Wilkos could have done worse – they could have used Comic Sans)….

Brand Identity, graphic design, typography

Homebase Rebrand – Rebel Without a Cause?

This week saw the launch of the new homebase brand, designed by Design Bridge. The result was received rather lukewarm with a hint of disappointment at least by the design community.

Homebase_logo 2012
"Initially the brief asked us not to change the logo, but as the project developed it became clear that the logo required an evolution to reflect the creative look and feel and tone of voice that we developed for the brand." (Design Bridge)

Most agree that it is certainly an evolution instead of a revolution – if rebrand is indeed the correct term for this logo development.
Homebase Logo
Flat and one dimensional. And now much better – apparently.

I wonder if we are missing some information here. Why did the company feel the need to change the graphics? Some speculate that Homebase is attempting to better align itself with the newly acquired Habitat brand.
If they are trying to position themselves as the duller, more conventional brand of the two, perhaps that’s a job well done – but I don’t feel that this logo change alone is going to actually change the perception of the brand sufficiently enough.
It was perhaps not the wisest move to make it a big piece of PR as the usual comments of those just looking at the result will inevitably be along the lines of ‘I could have done that in five minutes’ and ‘how can they spend money on this’.
Tropicana rebranded packaging
Where is the brand name? And what makes this look any different from supermarket's own brands?

Perhaps they were trying to avoid a branding disaster of the scale of Tropicana. Like so many others, the brand, owned by Pepsico, intended to bring their classic packaging design with the widely recognised straw-in-an-orange image into the 21st Century.
However, they seemed to have forgotten that a successful rebrand involves not just the design of a new logo or packaging identity, but includes re-evaluating and adjusting a company’s goals, brand message and, importantly, company culture.
Instead, they rolled out completely new packaging without any other evidence of re-positioning and with the added flaw in that their consumers did not recognise the new packaging as Tropicana’s because too many elements of the design had moved.
The original branding for the Tropicana carton
The straw, the orange, the brand name bang in the middle. It was familiar and it worked.

The packaging  was no longer familiar or easy to spot on the supermarket shelves. After lots of complaints and plummeting sales, the company did a u-turn and went back to the old design, proving the power of the consumer and that we are all creatures of habit…
Changing things too much certainly won’t be  an issue for the Homebase logo. Which brings me back to the question ‘Why do it at all and so publicly?’
Design Bridge says, ‘Across all touch points, we have injected depth and light to move from flat, primary colours to a more natural and optimistic palette.’
That may be so – but did they have to plop it in yet another circle? I really wished I could see the creative cleverness in this – but then again, retail has its own science behind its success and this may be just the right mixture of keeping the brand identity close to its past whilst adding some new elements to ‘play with’ in different touch points.
It remains to be seen how the brand is rolled out across the website and company literature and perhaps it will complete a new picture Homebase and is going to paint.
In the meantime, I am afraid it looks like yet another rebrand without a cause – be it because it was death by committee, fear of bold change or lack of inspiration. I wonder what B&Q will do next!

Brand Identity, Brand Strategy, Logos

Proof of the Pudding – Or is it a Bun?

The Santander brand identity has been a bit of a mystery to me ever since they took over our high streets in personal and business banking. In my mind, Santander are a baker, not a financial institution – mostly because their logo looks like a hot bun fresh out the oven, still steaming.
So imagine my joy when I walked passed one of their offices with posters advertising coffee and snacks. It must be true – they really are a pastry maker in disguise!

Santander Brand Identity Design
Someone's got a bun in the oven...

They are of course a major brand and their logo, strange as it may be, is well-recognised, but for me personally, the visual identity design of the ‘flame’ logo is weak and I curse it every time it triggers the thought of some lovely home-made bread which it then inevitably doesn’t deliver.
There is a local chippy that has a similar problem – though for a slightly smaller audience… in fact, probably just for me. They use red, black and white for their shop front and signage which has the effect of visually reminding not of the UK coastal fishery towns, but of Japanese restaurant exterior and from a distance the words even read  ‘sushi fish bar’ instead.
Being a great fan of sushi and all things non-battered, it has caught me out time and time again, filling me with disappointment that the promise of fresh, unusual, healthy fish dishes is in fact that of deep fried sausages, poultry and haddock with the Nation’s favourite potatoe dish.
And whilst I’ve got absolutely nothing against fish and chips when it’s the right occasion, I feel that they missed a trick in their brand identity design – why try and be something they are not instead of celebrating the British? Until they commission a new lick of paint, I shall continue to drive past and remind myself that it’s really not that important…
 

brand, Brand Identity, Logos

SME Branding Lesson #2 – Know Who You Are

No matter how small or large your business and no matter how small or large your marketing budget is, one of the most important issues to resolve is finding out who you are – your brand essence.
One good technique to obtain an insight and a concise representation of your brand essence is by listing the product or service benefits and then ‘working up the ladder’ to arrive at a very concise word or statement that sums up the brand.

Innocent Smoothies
A brand that knows who it is

Innocent have been a great case study of a small business expanding into a multi million pound turnover venture without losing their identity, but rather building a strong set of brand values including:

  • Sustainability
  • Purity
  • Staff culture and support
  • Giving back to the community
  • Creativity

For Innocent Smoothies, the differentiating product benefit could be:

  • Pure, natural ingredients, from sustainable sources, without any additives or colourings, with recycled packaging – and targeted at children as well as adults
    –> for the consumer the benefits are
  • Worry-free consumption, guilt-free purchase, feel-good factor for health and environment – and the kids love it, too
    –> or in other words
  • Innocence

YMCA Rebrand
The Forest YMCA had lost its way a bit over the years and the brand needed to be re-defined.

I worked with a client on the re-brand of the YMCA in East London and remember during a workshop to scope the project, one member of staff answered the question ‘What does the YMCA mean to you’ with ‘What it is, is the red triangle staring at us from outside the window.’
It was a curious comment because that was not at all what most other people saw the YMCA stood for. In fact, they all felt something very different depending on which department they were from. And this was exactly the underlying issue leading to the need for a re-brand. Who are they really? What do they really stand for and how can they communicate this in a way that is understood by each and every member of staff and other stakeholders.
Together with the management team we interrogated their vision, mission and values and created a new brand identity designed to connect all the different aspects of the brand and to present it as a strong organisation that knows what its brand essence is.
Without quoting large brands and their brand essence, has anyone got examples of SMEs that have a strong set of values that makes them ‘the ones to watch’? It would be great to hear from someone with some thoughts.

Brand Identity, Brand Vision, SME

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