The value of branding

I’m no marketing expert, but even I know that branding is a powerful and valuable thing. If you’ve got a well-established brand, you have to be careful if you tweak it or change it. As far as possible, you’d have to make the transition as smooth as possible, for your users/customers, including the once-a-year ones.

When I moved my diary from toxiccustard.com/diary to danielbowen.com, I used what in geek terms is an Redirect. Anybody who used the old URL would be forwarded across before they could blink. Search engines like Google and RSS aggregators would shift across automatically. A lot of people still haven’t updated their bookmarks and blogrolls. I could nag people to update, but it doesn’t really matter. Many probably didn’t really notice; the name of the blog stayed the same, as did the overall look. Easy transition.

National Australia Bank, after years of trying to avoid the obvious NAB acronym, have embraced it, with a friendly lowercase “nab” label next to their familiar star logo.

Commonwealth Bank are doing a lot of work on renovating their branches, many of them now looking completely different from how they did before. But the old familiar black and yellow, and chopped-off diamond logo is still there. They’re keeping their name, though they’re no longer owned by the Commonwealth Government.

Dick Smith sold out of Dick Smith Electronics back in 1982, but his name is still on the shop fronts, because it’s familiar and valuable to the new owners. As the company itself says: …when Woolworths bought out the company, it also bought the rights to the familiar black and yellow logo which incorporated the name and face of Dick Smith. Research showed that the public felt comfortable and secure with a company that had become one of Australia’s retail success stories. This is still true today which is why the face and name of Dick Smith is still strongly connected with the company.

When Telecom Australia became Telstra, they first changed just their logo and corporate colours but left the name alone. Then a couple of years later, when everyone was used to the new logo, they took on the Telstra name. That’s all remained in place for nearly 15 years now.

The message here is that if you have an established brand, it’s valuable. You don’t throw it away. If you really have to change it, then you move off it slowly, keep the most familiar bits. Allow time for people to get used to it.

Which is why the renaming of Spencer Street Station to Southern Cross Station is so stupid. Apart from the fact that the new name is meaningless (where the old one was meaningful), they’ve done the name change at the same time as the renovation.

So for any occasional users, there’s no link to the past. Their train arrives there, and they have no idea where they are because the name has changed and it looks completely different. The old name had been in place since 1861. That’s a lot of valuable branding they’ve purposefully thrown out the window.

But it should be no surprise — these are the same people who have presided over my local train line being run by The Met / Bayside Trains / M>Train / Connex, all in the past 10 years.

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7 thoughts on “The value of branding

  1. Daniel
    it gets worse. There is also a “new Southern Cross building” on the corner of Bourke and Exhibition St. This is at the other end of town to Southern Cross station. How dumb can the planners be?
    Rog.

  2. I heard it announced the other day as ‘Southern Cross Station at Spencer Street’. I thought it may have been a transitional period thing!

  3. When Sydney’s Pyrmont Bridge was renamed to “Anzac Bridge” I wondered if people would adopt the new name. Am proud to say we have… and I give the statue of the Anzac a nod and a “thank you” every time I pass. Makes me think of the service man and women who have done their bit.

  4. Though the NAB transition hasn’t been completely smooth. Given that they’re the major sponsor of the Commonwealth Games, you would have thought they’d have used the exposure to sell their own logo. But no, the back of at least some of the games literature (eg Official Spectator Guide) still sports the old logo.

    I think Channel 9 made a big mistake to scrap the 9 dots. I’d have kept them but made them smaller, larger, sloping, oval shaped or shadow effect if a change was needed.

  5. Ah… good old NAB, I got the letter (since I am a client of theirs). “Blah blah blah…We are renaming our selves to what our clients have always called us” I pause only for a millisecond and mumble… “so that would be the National blood sucking bastards bank or just ‘Bastards’, yeah that would be it”. I was surprised to see just plain NAB,bit of a let down recently. Only people who have a passing interest in the stock exchange would really call it the NAB.

  6. It was funny how the Australian Centre for the Moving Image got it’s nose out of joint when people started calling it ACME “it’s A.C.M.I!” but now they don’t seem to mind it as much.

  7. That is a very valid point Daniel. Having done some marketing at uni (and just interested in general) I often think about things like this. I can definitely see how confusing it would be for people from out of town.

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