Friday 3 June 2011

Great name poor design

New Zealand’s channel 3 aptly describes Greenstone’s $695 million acquisition of Shell’s 226 strong retail network as ‘Audacious’. To dump the probably the world’s most prestigious energy brand and create your own makes slightly more sense when you realise Greenstone will avoid having to pay Shell $10 million a year licensing fees…..(once of course the rebranding fees in excess of $35 million are paid plus say $3 -$5 million in annual advertising support.

The solution ‘Z’ cleverly responds to a very thorough consumer research programme revealing New Zealanders wanted Shell’s replacement to be local but of international quality. Unfortunately the graphical and architectural representation of the name lacks ingenuity and confidence and falls well short of the hype promising to revolutionise the way people buy petrol.

Greenstone’s CEO Mike Bennet describes 'Z’ as the 'First letter of the last word of the country to which our business is solely committed' which is so clever and yet beautifully simple. Why not then just a bold unfussy sans serif Z, why the contorted twisty Z that is trying too hard and somehow tries to infuse other meanings such as ‘Infinity’ which are totally irrelevant to the offer and serve only to distract? Similarly the graduated yellow / red is confused and lacks the clarity of the core idea. Creating a continuity with the past red and yellow of Shell was no doubt in the minds of the design team but why cling to the past when you are supposedly trying to create a revolution?

An interesting parallel case study exists in the telecom sector when Orange boldly discarded any 'net', 'com' or 'phone' from the name and confidently said 'Hey we're about actively connecting and engaging with people's lives rather than being a lowly throw away commodity' To do be credible Orange could not allow any distraction or confusion of their message and correctly decided that in this instance less was more. They resisted the temptation to over embellish and chose just the now famous orange square on a black background, no superfluous graphics, textures or shapes that may dilute the singularity of the message, we're different, and we’re new, come and try.

The message to others thinking to acquire a major company retail network is that effective branding is about having total belief and conviction in what your stand for and having the vision and strength to say no to anything that is not on brand, (however nice it sometimes feels to add more to the mix).

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