St John Craner: ANZ and Telecom – lipstick on the gorilla?

ANZ & Telecom: lipstick on the gorilla?

By St John Craner

Telecom new logoANZ new logo

So Telecom and ANZ have just spent the GDP of a small pacific nation on each of their new fancy logos or what we call in the trade – their brands. Would their shareholders feel these ‘re-brands’ add value or secure a return on investment? Will these visual changes pay handsome dividends? Wouldn’t they prefer the thousands of dollars it took a
over-paid, flash harry design agency to be spent on something more tangible? How about spending that money securing jobs (vs. laying them off) or how about improving their woeful customer banking or broadband services?

Telecom seem to change logos more often than superman changes his clothes (only superman is a bit more aspirational) with two significant logo changes in less than 8 years. So why does Telecom do this? Maybe it’s because they don’t have a clue where they’re going. Their latest attempt signals they are lost without a long term vision of who they are and what they stand for. If they did then surely they wouldn’t have to keep changing their identity. At 130 on the 2009 most trusted brands list, 84 spots behind their multi-national rival Vodafone, perhaps they felt they needed to do something – anything (even if it was just changing their logo).

You don’t see The National Bank change their horse. It’s an icon for them. You don’t see BMW, Audi or Mercedes change their marque as they know it conveys excellence. Apple have stayed the same since their inception in 1984. The difference with these timeless brands is they know what they stand for. They got their positioning right the first time so there is no need to change. They know changing who they are or what they stand for only confuses.

This kind of mindless, superficial re-branding activity only gives branding and those involved in brand management a poorer reputation than they already have. Re-branding like this doesn’t add value. It takes it away by reinforcing to the unitiated  that branding is all about pretty logos, identity or aesthetics. No amount of waffly, weasly emotional rationale can win over the man on the street . They see it as wasteful, irresponsible spending. They’d rather you spent the money reducing fees, queues or giving them higher dividend payments.

So drop the crayons guys and save your convoluted rationale. They will never buy your argument no matter how creative, aspirational or clever you think it might be.

What upsets me is the irresponsibility of spending thousands of dollars on developing a new logo, along with the obvious expensive roll out, when you have been laying off significant numbers of staff. I wonder how x-employees of ANZ or Telecom would feel about this? Or how about current employees who have been told to cut back on all unnecessary costs. Seems a little hypocritical.

My favourite comments came from Brian Smaller at Kiwiblog: “It looks like what I do with my pen when waiting on the phone to talk to someone at Telecom’s help desk”. Buggerlugs says: “it’s just the Meridian energy logo after a big night on the piss”. Barry says: “Looks like a childs scribble or a badly dropped birdshit.” (Check out Kiwiblog for more highly entertaining comments.)

The mistake both ANZ and Telecom have made is a text book one. They haven’t launched their new “brands” in conjunction with a BIG customer or staff initiative. That is the only way you will cut through the usual cynicism associated with re-brands. This cynicism has been built up by years of flash harry re-brands that have only tinkered with the surface treatment. Same proverbial, different logo.

Here are 5 golden rules to remember when re-branding:

1. Make it meaningful – make a significant organisational change, not just a cosmetic change
2. Don’t keep changing – not only is it expensive, it is confusing. Do it well and do it once (100% Pure NZ)
3. Stand for something that matters – Volvo stood for safety and became one of the world’s largest selling carmakers which helped them command a high price when bought by Ford
4. Keep it real – don’t be something you aren’t. You’re fooling no one except yourself
5. Be consistent – once you’ve made your promise, deliver on it and stick to it (Avis. We’re no. 2 so we try harder)

When it comes to re-branding you have to demonstrate significant organisational change – not just a cosmetic one. Without a meaningful staff or customer initiative it’s just another logo or worse still – lipstick on the gorilla. And as we all know that’s not a good look.

St John Craner helps businesses market themselves better (beyond the aesthetics).

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  1. stjohn, 23. November 2009, 12:12


    Surely you must have read other blogger’s comments? It’s pretty obvious we’re going to need some convincing.

    Instead of going on the personal attack (although I do respect your right to defend your corner and that of your clients) how about you prove me, and others, wrong that this isn’t just another cosmetic makeover?

    We’ll watch with interest.

  2. stjohn, 23. November 2009, 12:15

    Thanks Esther. I just call it how I see it so glad you, and others, agree.

    Seems the design firm involved bit a bit hard. Perhaps the truth hurts?

    Regardless it’d be great to see them prove us wrong and demonstrate that this isn’t just another gratuitous cosmetic makeover.


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