Democracy in brand identity is here. With brand “Tribes” comes the benefit of being a loved brand and the disadvantage of being a democratic brand. Having read this in the Economist yesterday, there is clearly a new dynamic afoot in rebranding and it can scuttle the process at great cost to the incautious. It’s a massive expense, with everything from signage to vehicle livery dwarfing the actual cost of initial design. Rebranding may not always be necessary and may — occasionally — be a symptom of myopic navel gazing on the part of senior management.
Rebranding has a place in the growth and change of a company and, where significant shift has or will occur, it can often guide the process and be the banner under which it takes place. The recent Starbucks rebrand is a case in point of what I believe will be a success. It maintains the familiar elements, the Siren being the most central, and it carries a emotional friendliness. It frees the company to some degree, allowing it to do some things other than coffee while still being under the familiar banner. Like Starbucks or hate it, the rebrand will work.
But when you pull away the very things that resonated most with people as Tropicana did, you are bound to piss people off. I am amazed that Tropicana didn’t see that their photographic orange and straw as the important asset it is. When senior management speaks in immortal terms about the reasons and representations of a new logo, they may be setting themselves up for a public relations disaster. It’s not a language they know fluently and it comes off as weak in almost every instance. You can’t tell your customers that a logo makes you more relevant to them. They will decide that. And you sure as hell don’t start talking about design issues that are esoteric and irrelevant to the customer, such as references to things like the golden ratio. That’s an internal discussion. What you can talk about is what your changes are in the company and how the logo represents those to you. Howard Schultz put it perfectly,
“Throughout the last four decades, the Siren has been there through it all. And now, we’ve given her a small but meaningful update to ensure that the Starbucks brand continues to embrace our heritage in ways that are true to our core values and that also ensure we remain relevant and poised for future growth.”
That’s plain language and it’s bullet proof. There has been lots of outcry about the change to the Starbucks logo because it is so known and loved and because of the democratic marketplace. But they’ll get used to it as they have the last two times the logo has changed. Starbucks understands its assets and has honored them.
If you need to rebrand, don’t do it in half measures or without doing your homework. Audit your assets and know their value before you burn them. Then make the right decisions and talk about them in the right terms.
Casey Hrynkow, Partner
Herrainco Brand Strategy + Design Inc.
Rebranding in a Democratic Marketplace by Casey Hrynkow is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at blog.herrainco.ca.