22 May 2019

A creative culture of mud slinging

by Kate Johnstone

Not so long ago, I saw a spate of businesses rebrand and receive an absolute roasting online. From ASIC to Zara, these were well known brands undergoing a transformation involving a rigorous process of strategy and creative work by reputable agencies. Admittedly, some of the criticism was justified (the Zara letters had been tracked within an inch of their lives), but it made me realise how quickly we jump to scepticism when we see these changes, and how much more common it is to be negative than to award snaps.

For the ASIC brand refresh, I think timing had a lot of do with its dressing down. As the company was in the spotlight of the Financial Services Royal Commission, it didn’t seem an ideal time to reveal a new typeface, but I believe the level of outrage is disproportionate to the offence.

I have always felt that the solution should always be critiqued in the context of the problem it is solving. Often beauty is a by-product of function. Often our first response to change is fear; when we lose that sense of familiarity, trust often follows. Change begs the questions that if the brand was aligned with my values, why did it change? Do I need to change? Am I out of touch?

These brands are also property of the public domain. They become part of the social landscape, so when they change their appearance, we believe it is our role and our right to proclaim judgement.

Without the right nurturing, change can inspire fear.

It is therefore the role of the rebranded business to manage this change; to really consider how the new identity is launched, what the narrative is, and how to ensure the brand equity isn’t diminished by the refresh. In many ways, a rebranding exercise needs as much skill in the communication of it as it does in its creative execution.


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