Posted by Diggory Gordon
8 February, 2017

Branding needs to be strategic. You shouldn’t change things for the sake of change. If you do need to update your brand, sometimes looking back is the way to go forward. Occasionally you’ll find the rare business that doesn’t need a brand at all.

My stepdad is a landscape gardener with no logo, no stationery and definitely no van livery. He’s always busy and seems to turn away clients weekly. I’ve often thought about how I’d go about crafting an identity for him. A mythical project which plays out entirely in my head. I’ve never even thought about putting pen to paper as it’s fun to think about concepts which board on the farcical and brand values based entirely on his swear words when he stubs his toe moving a lump of granite.

He’s in that lovely category of businesses that don’t need a rebranding exercise. I wouldn’t want to give him a logo and the thought of a business card would probably terrify me more than him. At Nixon we deal with clients who identify a need to change and set themselves apart from their competitors. In a world where everyone zigs they want to zag. But every so often I see a business that would be my nightmare client. Not because of them or their offering but simply because I wouldn’t change a thing. Our former designer Ryan Bartaby pointed out the Hayle Library logo to me last year and ever since I’ve kept a beady eye out for it on my travels through Hayle. It’s wonderfully simple and so different; a simple trick done well and not a council metaphor in sight.

I’ve tried to find out about the identity and who did it. I’d love to know more about it. It’s just so different that I can’t help but admire it. I imagine if they were ever to rebrand, the new identity would be based around multiple colours (inclusivity) and/or hands (community). Yawn.

As a designer I’d happily pass it up or better still go back to the roots of the logo to craft a new identity. There’s currently a retrospective trend in branding – looking back to go forward. Reinventing the past to create something for the future. Some do it very well, like the Co-operative. After the banking group was rescued and bailed out in 2013, the brand saw a significant drop in customer trust and brand loyalty. A brand whose USP was focused on people and fairness all of a sudden felt very unethical and the antithesis of how it started over 170 years ago.

The 2016 Co-operative logo, designed by North

Branding agency North began a process to reinvent the Co-operative in 2014 amid declining customer numbers and lack of trust. They took the name Co-op and ditched the Co-operative. Rather than opt for design change they created a modernised version of the original 1968 cloverleaf logo, which has been designed as a visual reminder of the company’s roots – they’ve gone back to the true essence of what the Co-op was.

The retro-brand marks the consumer cooperative’s announcement that it will introduce new membership benefits, which will see the group give £100m a year to its members. Co-op’s members (who own the company, instead of shareholders) will get money back from buying own-brand goods, while some money will go into the community. This is part of a ‘Back to being Co-op’ narrative that’s been introduced across the business. Time will tell whether the new identity works but the ethos is bang on. Change for a purpose. Ideas with strategic thought. Great stuff all round.

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