I recently found myself hammering out an unexpectedly passionate reply to an innocent email which pointed to the Co-op’s rebrand. The design feels like several examples I’ve seen lately of brands harking back to days gone by in order to shape brand marks and campaigns. (See also Halifax’s Top Cat campaign.)
My instinctual response to the Co-op branding, having seen the new packaging in my local store, was that it seemed a little like lazy branding. It looks of its era (the logo was designed in 1968) and embraces that distinctly retro vibe. In my opinion it looks dated and, when seen in situ, dare I say it, cheap.
Whilst I think the principle of the clover-leaf formation in and of itself is a great idea, the reason it temporarily triggered a torrent of rage in my bones is that the brand has missed an opportunity to do something amazing with it! The cloverleaf formation could have been modernised to engage not only older generations who remember the old logo, but also a whole new generation of people. For me, maintaining the heavy, square-ish letterforms was an odd decision.
The designers propose the following rationale for their direction:
In older generations it evokes nostalgic memories of local shops and dividend stamps, whilst to younger generations it suggests a modern brand of the future, ready to live and breathe in the digital world.
I’m still a little puzzled about how contradictory this sounds, but I’m going to try to extract myself from the design detail and see the bigger picture. Eventually I’ll stop lying awake at night thinking of the weird angles on the ‘C’ and the ‘P’ and move on with life. Maybe meet someone, have a family.
James, our senior UX specialist, responded to my initial email by sending a link to this presentation. I believe my exact response to the original email was, ‘Why’s everyone bringing back old stuff, like the Top Cat thing?’ and his characteristically level-headed response was:
In times of uncertainty, people look to the past for comfort and security.
Perhaps between Brexit, terrorist attacks in Europe, the horribleness of the Syria crisis playing out on our news screens every week and the passing of Terry Wogan, we’re all feeling a little shaken.
Maybe that’s why, in general, the rebrand seems to have gone down well amongst the public and even the design community.
Perhaps I’m just a cynic who doesn’t know what they’re talking about, but to me it’s frustrating to see so much money being spent on such incremental differences. My view is that we’re all adults and I can take a rebrand in these uncertain times. I’m not convinced that ‘millennials’ give much thought to the old ethos of a big corporate supermarket chain. Maybe they just want to buy their Pop Chips from the cheapest place possible so they can get on with building their YouTube empire and inventing the next Snapchat.