I have always been a firm believer in continuity when it comes to branding but never did I realise just how much impact the subtleties of branding can have until I worked in Canada for a winter.
Basically the company in question, which shall remain anonymous, was structured with an umbrella brand who over the years had bought a collection of ski resorts and golf courses. Each resort had its own brand but was required to use the umbrella brand in marketing materials. All of the brands were unique but livery items such as stationery, uniforms, signage and websites were based on templates with the only change being the substitution of the logo. This had worked well in the past but it all went wrong when the ‘hero’ resort was sold to an independent buyer.
The implications of the sale were that the resorts under the umbrella brand were no longer able to sell or be a major part of a very popular discount program that had existed for years, a lot of reciprocal privileges were gone and due to the sale being fairly close to the season opening nobody knew what had changed due to a lack of planned PR. Customers were coming to the umbrella brand resorts expecting to be able to ski on their discount card, as they had for years, and suddenly were being told for the first time they now couldn’t. Most of them were unaware of the sale and the changes even though they had visited the ‘hero’ resort that year.
I found it quite hard to believe that having skied at the ‘hero’ resort they were so confused. I knew for a fact the logo had been changed and with this I assumed the brand style had changed too. Surely if you’ve got the money to buy a ski resort you would have the cash and the inclination to make sure the public knew about it. Surprisingly though, it was only the logo that had changed and the change was to a version that had been used a few years previously.
Taking a look at the website I found it still used exactly the same template, colour palette, fonts and photo styling techniques as the other resorts. Sure, the umbrella brand had been removed and the logo had changed but at a quick glance everything else looked the same. When I visited the resort I discovered staff were wearing exactly the same uniforms, the brochure designs were the same, the vehicles had the same designs and the trail markings were the same styling, all very unique to the umbrella brand. Not only had the umbrella brand now lost control of their brand, it was affecting their business and customer relations.
This case just goes to prove that branding is about much more than a logo. The logo itself is the stamp or a signature. It is the corporate styling that creates the image for a company that the consumer subconsciously associates with the brand. Think of Coca-Cola and chances are you’ll think of the colour red and the vibrant swish they have used consistently. Sure, the logo plays an important part but if you were to remove it from a Coke poster it would still be recognisable as Coke.
Corporate styling is an important company asset and needs to be treated as such. In the ski resort case the sale should have stipulated that all brand styling was to change significantly in order to separate it from the umbrella brand. The confusion about the brands in the customer’s mind was enough to prove how much impact corporate styling can have. Take a look at our gallery for some examples corporate image and campaigns that have made our clients’ brand about more than just a logo.