Saturday, 23 October 2010

The changing face of advertising

I was lucky to attend a creative networking lecture this week by Patrick Burgoyne, the editor of creative review. I was excited to see what the lecture would be about and was surprised that the topic of the lecture was exactly the same as my proposed dissertation topic. My question is: What implications des the instantaneous nature of social media have on brands which want to develop their identity? In particular, is the recent Gap campaign an example of how companies are trapped into never updating their current identities?

When researching my dissertation it is clear that if the consumer purchases branded products over commodity products they are probably buying the brands image, values and beliefs. If the brand changes, seemingly to the consumer overnight, then they will be instantly shocked by the abrupt change. This will in turn, create strong emotions. They were perfectly happy with the brand identity before, and they saw no reason to change the logo so why have they? Thousands of people jump to the conclusion "I could have designed that myself in Microsoft Word" This I doubt, i'm a graphic designer and I struggle to even move images in Word.

The consumer has become increasingly demanding with the increase of choice in the market. They expect a lot from global brands and importantly, they expect their opinion to be valid. Should Brand managers take into consideration the consumers instant reaction and stop the brand development (like Gap) or ignore the uproar and trust that their design is strong enough to ultimately improve the brands sales?

To answer this question we have to ask ourselves, is it a successful identity change or not? If we look back at Consignia (this was what the Post Office re-named itself in 2002) Market research showed that the consumers hated it, and most didn't know that Consignia was even part of the post office at all. This is probably the most important part of a re-brand, that the customers know the re-brand actually took place. TV shows jumped on the re-brand and recorded the audiences reaction and eventually the Chief Exec decided to scrap the name. If social media and blogging was around I doubt it would have taken over a year to make the decision to scrap it. It wasn't a successful rebrand.

I tried to find an example of when a re-brand has had initial hatred but eventually succeeded and a perfect example is the Guardian re-brand. There was mass outcry at how awful it was and how much of a shame it was to loose the traditional design for the new modern edition. Are audiences just reacting to the initial shock of a brand image change?

Bloggers loved the Herbal Essences re-brand and their sales increased by 20%, but they hated the Tropicana rebrand and they lost 20% of their sales. It seems obvious but these opinions are the opinions of the customers, so surely, Brand managers should have online reaction factored into their development plans? But what if the audiences are just shocked and can't see the future positive aspects of the change? Should Brand mangers be transparent about their plans to re-brand?

With the invention of online social networks it has become clear that there is a new need for companies to manage the consumer reaction to a re-brand more effectively online. I hope to answer this in my dissertation... watch this space.

1 comment:

  1. interesting post. I think that people (especially the online community) are just very sceptical of change, and will almost always immediately jump towards a negative reaction to rebranding/reimagings of well-known brands.
    I can't actually think of a recent major rebranding that received universal praise on social media/online portals - it seems that people, designers or otherwise, love to have an opinion on visual identity, whether it is informed by any design/marketing knowledge or not, and more often than not the reactions to change are negative because the consumers have built up an emotional connection to the brands in question. Without allowing a new identity time to develop and form new 'bonds' with the consumer, it's a completely pointless process to develop a new identity then rely on the immediate reaction from the online community - see the Gap rebranding which could only have done damage to the brand, and has achieved nothing.
    So to answer your question (kind of) I think there is a need for companies factor in online reaction to changes in visual identity, but only so far as considering changing perceptions of the brand, whether it correlates with sales figures or whatever. If the company is willing to completely U-turn on its decision to change their visual identity after some online outcry (which more likely than not is largely coming from people outside of their target market anyway) then it shows a disappointing lack of confidence in the designer/design in general.