31 August 2008

Woolworths unpeels its new logo and kills off the Safeway brand.

Australia's largest supermarket retailer Woolworths has unveiled what the company describes as a "fresh new look" for its 780 stores, a harmonisation for the parent brand and the closure of the Safeway brand in Australia.

The new logo and word mark revamp, by Sydney based design agency Hulsbosch, came after a two way pitch against one of the doyens of Australian graphic design, Ken Cato.

It's the first visual makeover for Woolworths' stores in 21 years after it introduced the slogan “The Fresh Food People”.

While the logo has been designed to reflect what the compay calls "its strong commitment to fresh food, convenience and value for customers", customers won't be seeing the new mark on stores in most stores with a staged rollout planned only for those that have recently been refurbished.

The first store destined to carry the new branding is the company's Mona Vale store in Sydney’s Northern Beaches, with a selection of other stores to be rebranded over the coming months.

More controversially customers of the Woolworths' Safeway stores in Victoria are going to see the loss of their much loved brand as Woolworths' completely rebadges all 189 stores. Woolworths has owned the brand since 1985, prior to this it had been operating in three Australian states since 1962.

The parent brand mark now looks closer to the US Woolworth's logo, a brand that closed in 1997.

Woolworths' management have gone in early to fend off criticism of the new mark by describing the design as symbolising several aspects of the Woolworths brand including the use of an abstract leaf symbol to represent fresh food, a connection to one of the Woolworths logos of the 1970s and the idea that it somehow represents a person with their arms up in the are - meaning that Woolworths focuses in on its customers.

While we think the old mark needed a freshening up, we're struggling to see how it is a leaf symbol and that it somehow represents a person. It's more closely aligned to a symbolic apple peel and to the 70s double chevron.

According to a Food Week interview with design head Hans Hulsbosch, the logo was benchmarked overseas and there was extensive consultation with both Woolworths' staff and senior management.

Hulsbosch said the logo was then tested in focus groups, though the size and scale of the testing is unknown.

“The reaction from those groups across a wide range of demographics and regions was so positive it confirmed our belief that we had found the right solution for the retailer. The test showed that the new identity successfully communicates positive values to customers," he said.

Despite the announcement, Woolworths' website was still sporting brand guidelines for both the old retail and company logos, a seemingly significant oversight in brand implementation. And Hulsbosch Communications media link to the new brand was also empty.

The logo announcement comes on the back of rival Coles' recent brand harmonisation and new nationalism and heritage tagline "Proudly Australian since 1914" unveiled during Olympics' television advertising.

Woolworths is Australia's leading supermarket retailer with revenues of $45 billion and is ranked 23rd among the world's leading supermarket brands. It was recently subject to an Australian Competition Commission investigation into supermarket dominance in Australia.