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Old Spice comeback & other insights

How do you know when a brand needs refreshing? What's the future of branding?

Does the 'It's not for girls!' Yorkie Bar campaign alienate half of the market unnecessarily?

Two of the foremost exponents of the branding art kindly answered these questions and more in an hour-long webinar for BusinessWings. 

What follows is a transcript of the questions asked by business owners and students of marketing and insightful answers from 1HQ's Tom Ellis and Claire Nuttall, whose clients have included Starbucks, Marks & Spencer and Quaker Oats.

Jo: Hi Claire and Tom. When you start creating a logo and an identity for a brand, where do you start?

Tom Ellis: Hi, Jo. When you start looking to create a logo you need to take into account three key things.

The first thing is about understanding the customer's needs. The second is the competitive set and the environment in which its going to be communicated - how are you going to set yourself apart, but at the same time fit with people's expecations and needs.

Brands that are aware they need refreshing are already one step ahead... so many brands become complacent

Claire Nuttall, 1HQ

Last, but not least, you need to decide what you want your brand to stand for - ultimately a brand is the reflection of the people behind it.

Claire Nuttall: A unique logo can dramatically affect perceptions of a brand. Often this is overlooked and under-invested in. 

It is worth taking time to generate a big idea behind a brand logo, to avoid it becoming generic and short-lived. Your logo is a key aspect of a brand's recognition and success.

Tom: As with anything, a brand identity (ie, a logo) needs to work snappily communicate a brand's key point of differentiation. I would suggest that when your customers see your logo they should get a strong feeling about what makes your brand different. 

Laura: Tom, is there any brand for you that epitomises this?

Tom: I like Apple - if you think about it from those three perspectives then it gives everyone a sense of what the business is about. The apple is fresh and different, very simple and clear (like their design) rather than complicated and 'techy'.

Claire: Laura, a brand frequently held up as forward thinking and clear about what it is, how it emotionally engages consumers and how it anticipates consumer needs, is Innocent. 

I think these brands do not follow the classic rules of marketing. They aim to be coherent around what they believe in, rather than being consistent across every form of communication. 

Laura: Thanks Tom and Claire. I see what you mean about Innocent - it is a really good, clear example! 


Andy: How do you know when a brand needs refreshing?

Tom: Great question, Andy. It tends to be a fairly practical indicator like sales dipping that alerts people first. However, the trick is to monitor consumer and competitive behaviour to anticipate a brand becoming tired before sales slip.

The great brands never tire - they just reinvent themselves. And they do this by never becoming complacent and never treating a repeat purchase as loyalty - sometimes it's just the lack of an alternative. 

Claire: Andy, Brands that are aware they need refreshing are already one step ahead... so many brands become complacent. 

Annabelle: Hi Tom and Claire. I was just wondering what your thoughts are on the future of branding - it would be great to hear your insights into the future of the industry! 

Tom: Brand is going to become more important as media multiplies. Brand is going to have to live across digital, smart phones, experiential... etc. This is going to put the power in the consumer's hands - and only those brands with a really strong sense of themselves are going to retain a clear identity.

Claire: The playing field for branding will be far more in the hands of consumers than big businesses. Consumers will have a lot more say early on in the process. 

We will also look to drive new brands via cultural decoding, rather than regular approaches. Entrepreneurs rarely follow rules! 

Andy M: We seem to live in an age of comebacks where brands, products, people, etc, keep reappearing. Are there any dormant brands that you think would be well placed to re-launch on the consumer market? Brands that people would once again prove receptive to? 

Tom: It's interesting to consider: I think it's brands that haven't failed, but have been removed or replaced. For example, I think there's a lot of heart for a brand like Marathon (ie, the new Snickers [which replaced Marathon in the 90s]) 

Claire: As we saw last year with the degree of social unease and uncertainty, some brands can make a quick return based on nostalgia, but not necessarily long term. Many brands on the nostalgia bandwagon experienced an uplift in performance, but this soon dropped back and the brand was again 'empty'.

A brand refresh or reinvent really needs to take a good look at all aspects of what it does and how it behaves, plus how the consumer is now behaving versus before! This is key to a successful relaunch. 

Brands need to reframe and communicate in the most relevant way to those new audiences, not rely on the past. Reliance on past success alone is a sure recipe for failure. 

Fred: What would you say has been the best branding campaign in recent years?

Tom: Fred, I have to say that Compare the Market (or Meerkat) is one that sticks in the mind (but may now be reaching the end of its current life). But I love the way it spun into a whole world of ideas and executions and even everyday language: someone said 'Simples' in a meeting i was in this morning! 

BusinessWings: As long as they don't start singing 'Go Compare'! 

Tom: I would say the best brand campaign is the one that has sold most products! Too often we look at these things from a 'wow that's amazing' perspective - but actually miss the point, which is to create sustainable sales (usually at a premium). 

So I think the brand is about longevity - even if the product does sell itself to start. 

Marcus Markou: Reviving old Brands like Woolies or Wimpy (even Little Chef recently) are a good PR opportunity but you still have to deliver a valuable product or service. 

Tom: So a campaign such as Cadbury's gorilla ad was loved.... but Galaxy still outsold it. 

I agree, Marcus - if you just want to create some noise then reviving them is a nice idea, but ultimately you need consumers to come back time after time rather than just for novelty effect. 

Claire: Completely agree, Marcus. They also have to make a real move forward with the times and re-engage hearts and minds.

Little Chef could still fail if the roll out does not meet the expectations of a mass market audience. The halo of Heston will not last forever. Wimpy is a sorry case, lots needs to be done there. 

Fred: Do you think branding is important for every product? Isn't it a case that sometimes the product really just sells itself? 

Tom: Not every product needs to be branded, but it's a lot easier to own a brand than own a product. By and large competitors can copy very quickly these days.

The least branded section of the supermarket used to be bin liners, but now you even have Brabantia [a manufacturer of household goods] entering the market.

Claire: I agree with Tom. So many brands do not get a strong enough insight into their consumer, hence end up with a brand or innovation that is not going to cut through.

It's a tough and ever more sceptical world out there, with so much choice. It's definitely worth investing in deeper insight to increase your chances of differentiation and success. 

Tom: Creating a strong brand is, to some degree, the only unfair competitive advantage one has left. One general comment I would make is that it's vital to understand - really understand - your consumer/customer and the context in which your brand will be experienced. 


Jo: How would you get that deep understanding of the consumer and context? Research? 

Claire: Jo, so many approaches can help. I always feel that if you try and make the approach more real - smaller numbers, less judgemental and more exploratory which does not ask the consumer for answers - help a lot....

Semiotics and our panel of psychologists also give us fresh ways to access and unearth new ways of thinking about the same problems brands and teams are facing. 

Nestle has taken a stance that that boys are the lead target and so they're not worried that girls don't buy in. It is a confident move

Claire Nuttall, 1HQ

Tom: It's important not to just look at the world from a narrow category perspective, but understand the brand role within wider consumer lives. As Claire mentioned, we have semiotics to help us get to the cultural context and doesn't just explore a product/brand in a narrow category view but sees how it fits into wider lives.

Laura: Tom, would you agree that even people have become brands now, what's your opinion on this? 

Tom: Laura - people have become brands, but I would argue that this was always the case. For example, historically the great rulers have projected themselves through images (eg. on coins) and ideas rather than being able to go around all their subjects. 

We often talk about brand personalities, so I don't think it's very unusual that people with personalities have turned themselves into brands. Of course, the problem is people are not inanimate and, like Tiger Woods, can go off script...

BusinessWings: How often do companies rebrand to improve their fortunes when in reality, they actually need to improve their customer service, lower prices, etc? 

Claire: Well, as part of the review about which aspects of the brand are working and not. This should be uncovered pretty early on. It's all about asking the right questions at the right time. 

Mandy O'Keefe: Is there ever a worry that some branding techniques can alienate certain consumer groups, for example Yorkie bars' macho slogan: 'It's not for girls'? 

BusinessWings: Interesting question, Mandy. Perhaps, on the contrary, the slogan 'it's not for girls' actually boosts sales among women?! If you're told you shouldn't have something, in a way it makes you want it all the more...

Claire: They may seem unusual, but they have more than likely been tested to see whether they alienate females via research. Or more importantly, a stance has been taken that boys are the lead target and so they're not worried that girls don't buy in. It is a confident move.

Tom: To build on Claire's point, I think sometimes you need to really target a tight audience rather than trying to be all things to all men [and indeed women!]. 

I always like to say that a brand is like a good joke: it's best not to be too safe. And very few good jokes were ever written by a committee!

John P: Can you think of a good example of a rebrand ?

Tom: I think McDonald's has done a great job. 

Claire: Fully agree.

Tom: They now sell more chicken and pre-prepped salad than anyone else. And - to use my acid test - their sales results have shown significant growth.

John P: They were in the doldrums for a while a few years back and they've bounced back well.

Claire: Many people thought they would fail and they were fighting a losing battle, but they have proved everyone wrong. Very few people on the street would realise the lengths they have gone to, to reinvent perceptions of themselves. It was a tough challenge. It was not a superficial relaunch.

Jo: What do you think of Starbucks' rebrand?

Tom: I think Starbucks have done a brand development rather than a rebrand. They perhaps need to consider more fundamental issues to avoid becoming tired.

After all, they were the big thing in coffee houses and a lot of other brands (McDonalds included) have caught up.

Jo: Oh, I see. That's really interesting!

Tom: It's a case of semantics, Jo - but I always think of a rebrand as being about more than just logo.

BusinessWings: What else could Starbucks do to move their brand on? 

Tom: It would be interesting to see whether tea can take on coffee for example. After all it is a healthier drink, which would be in line with current trends.

BusinessWings: A lot of people who drink tea frequently would never think to order it in a Costa or a Starbucks, so that is an interesting point.

Claire Nuttall: Starbucks does not deliver the same experience for tea drinkers either. All the coffees are branded coffees and owned variants, whilst tea is very much the poor relative at the same price. Disappointing for tea drinkers...

Sam: Esquires Coffee launched a tea range in response to that need. 

Mandy: When rebranding, how can a company ensure it doesn't lose its original consumers when trying to attract new customers?

Claire: Mandy, it's about knowing the one thing that makes them different and irreplaceable and sticking to it, whilst generating the new. It's very easy to throw out the baby with the bath water.

Tom: Sometimes, though, brands are too concerned with old clientele and forget to move with the times. It's always a balance, as Claire says.

Claire: It's always scary to change to change a brand in a big way. The fear is that all will be lost. Again, it comes back to how well you know your audience.

Tom: Yes - a lot of it comes back to understanding your consumer: what will they allow you to do and what will alienate them and dilute the core.

BusinessWings: A classic example of alienating the core was British Airways' 'ethnic' tailfins! The British flag was supplanted by a range of garish, supposedly international designs. 

Tom: The tailfins weren't a great success, were they? I think they thought they would move from being Britain's favourite airline to being the 'world's favourite airline' - but lost the essence of their brand, which was being British.

Another general point is to make sure you really understand the hard question your brand is trying or needing to answer. Too often people play around with executions such as logos and communications, without fixing the real issues.

Claire: Or asking the questions in the right way, which will get them to the real issues.

Tom: Does anyone have an example of a brand that they think needs a rebrand?

Laura: Whittard, the tea and coffee shop?

Claire: Yes, it really feels that Whittard needs to re-establish the fundamentals. What is the brand and what is it trying to be? I agree, it has lost focus.

Jo: Old Spice?

Tom: Old Spice has actually done some great work recently. Have a look at Youtube for their 'The Man your man could smell like' campaign. Very clever.  

It has really refreshed the brand image, whilst building on some of the heritage that we all remember. They've really seized on new media/social media in a big way and been very creative.

BusinessWings: Right, we've hit 2pm so I guess that's it for the webinar. Big thanks to Tom and Claire for their fascinating insights and also of course to our attendees, who've quizzed them with some thought provoking questions.

Tom Ellis: Thanks to everyone for their questions and we hope it was useful.

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