“Why brands change” is an article written by a team member of British branding agency Johnson Banks. In this article, the author talks about the current issues of branding and how rebrands tend to fall on their faces by getting disfigured after less than 2 years of application.
The article was divided into three sections by the author: the first section states the good reasons for rebranding, the second section is about the wrong reasons to do so, and the last section is about the role us designers have in this matter. I believe the sections can be categorised into two types: a diagnosis of the symptoms that make businesses act on rebranding and the solutions we designers can provide to our clients.
In the first section, the author lists four good reasons for a business to rebrand. Contexts such as a merger or a takeover, a shift of the target market, a structural alignment of a group usually call for a rebrand. A more recent situation is for NGOs to rebrand in order to clarify their mission.
In the second section, the author brings up three bad reasons to rebrand. These issues are mainly about the people: the teams working on the brand get bored to work with the same assets and start tinkering with the brand. Also, newcomers in deciding positions usually try to make a mark at the company by shifting things up. The last issue is a lack of involvement by the people, the author illustrates this issue with Southbank Centre’s rebrand issue: “previous Southbank design scheme seemed like a powerful and flexible idea that could flex and modulate across the institution’s communications, but within five years had been relegated to just the ‘logo at the bottom of the poster’.”
The author concludes by providing us solutions and advice on how to help clients solve these issues. He or she states that designers have been too reactive and that we need to be more strategic in our rebranding process. The first solution provided is that, instead of doing a complete refresh of the brand, we should improve the current identity. The second solution is that when a logo is too iconic, and both parties know that removing the logo will have bad repercussions for business, we should simply update its role so that it becomes an active asset of the visual language. The third solution is communicating on the purposes of the rebranding: building a case study or writing an article stating why the design team made the choices they have made is a great way to help the audience understand, and most importantly, accept the new brand.
I loved reading this insightful article from Johnson Banks. It opened my eyes to points I didn’t consider due to a lack of experience.
Yet, I noticed this evolution vs. revolution paradigm and even participated in the general conversation. It is interesting to observe the difference between how the design community and a brand’s audience react to publication of a rebrand. Designers usually salute a complete refresh while users are more reluctant to change. I believe this comes from our will, as designers, to create a brand that drops people’s mouth. I find this flaw hard to combat, especially for us inexperienced designers. To refer to the author’s conclusion, I am wondering if another symptom of failing rebrands is the general elitism of our community and our unwillingness to sacrifice beauty and complex systems for something for the audience and subsequent designers that is easy to understand and to rally behind.
Johnsonbanks.co.uk (n.d.), Why brands change