23 October 2008

Why companies need to rethink rebranding: Research International's new logo.

One of the most important things a global rebrand has to offer a company is the chance to both refocus organisational culture and change market perception.

The effort behind a brand rollout should be commensurate with both the quality of the strategy and the design output behind it, so when global research firm Research International (RI) recently launched a new logo and strapline, it again drew attention to these issues.

This is something I touched on when I looked at Australian supermarket giant Woolworths and the glacial speed of its recent rebranding effort (DIFFUSIONblog 7/9/08). While Woolworths might have some trouble convincing people the new logo looks like either an unpeeling apple or a man with upraised arms but the new RI's logo is so over rationalised as to strip it of any real meaning.

It's yet another example of both poorly differentiated design (think of a hundred other company logo designs that use interwining strands on a globe eg. News Limited), capitalised sans serif type all of it rendered in trusty blue and orange accompanied by an equally generic tagline. The problem with this kind of rebranding is that it challenges the authenticity of a company's brand meaning and restricts the effectiveness of the messages it creates to back rebranding efforts.

That RI even bothered to trademark its new 3I (Insight.Inspiration.Innovation.) sphere logo and strapline seems ironic when you consider, as one of the world's largest research companies, it has built a major value proposition around the kind of insight its research can provide on global brand strategy. From the new website they describe how they are:

Insightful: when a major brand wants to rethink the entire global brand marketing strategy, they come to RI. We've been tying consumer motivations and behaviors to the bottom line for major manufacturers for many years.

But they are so far from it. Even from the press release that accompanied last month's launch, goes on to both deconstruct the meaning of the sphere and then destroy it all in the same breadth:

All this is represented by Research International's new Global Innovation Sphere TM logo, which symbolizes RI's status as a trusted global advisor, particularly in the innovation research sector. It is comprised of three key components: the globe, the interweaving bands, and expanding arrows. The globe symbolizes Research International's belief in the power of global marketing as RI boasts one of the largest research networks in the world. The interweaving bands symbolize RI's belief in the power of teamwork and the sharing of knowledge around the world. It includes RI's dedication to working in tandem with its clients, advising them throughout their marketing processes. The arrows symbolize RI's commitment to growth through innovation for our client's biggest brands. Collectively, the new logo aptly portrays the company's mission and ongoing commitment to helping clients find innovative solutions to their business issues.

Design rationalisation is important and few companies bother to make it public as part of the rebranding process, instead relying on one liners and leaving their agencies and other interpreters to do the explaining. But I mean really, why write this stuff?

How many times can the word "innovation" or any of its derivations be used in a single paragraph? What are RI's proofs for its use of the 3Is? What kind of changes in client motivation and behaviour do they think this will create? Why are they any different to any other of its other competitors who all claim similar innovation in their research methodology, insight into their client's business and who can also provide similar inspiration from their research results?

More than ever companies need differentiated propositions and positioning supported by simple brand messages, distinctive logos and wordmarks that are not restrained by epistolary explanation and an anemic strapline.

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