Why a brand refresh can spell D-I-S-A-S-T-E-R

When companies are seeking a new start or seeking to reposition themselves in the minds of customers they will often be drawn towards the refreshing of their brand.

This often results in a new logo and a significant shaking up of the look and feel of the brand.

There are times when this is absolutely appropriate.  Your logo might be looking old and tired or you might need to connect with a different audience and your visual expression of your brand just does not express what you are promising (and able) to deliver.

But a brand refresh can also result in you losing the very thing that made you attractive to people in the first place.  Way back in the 1970s before anyone had even heard the phrase "reality TV" a couple of blokes stumbled into the offices of Australia's leading TV network with an idea for a new program.

The Leyland Brothers had this idea for a show based on their amateur filming of their family adventures in the Outback.  The network agreed and the show was a huge hit.  Every week millions of viewers across the nation would tune in to watch Mal and his brothers digging their four wheel drives out of mud or encounter a snake or kangaroo on a bush track.  With a smash hit on their hands, the TV network suggested that it was probably time to help the family out with some professional film gear along with the full kit that makes for what in the TV they call "high production values".  That is basically code for the fact that the framing of each shot is perfect, the lighting is well adjusted and the sound captured in full surround. (Well, probably not that professional but you get my drift.)

So next time the show was filmed there was a lot more gear, a lot more people and a slick, professional presentation resulted.

Problem was the next series didn't rate so well.  What went so wrong?  Had people fallen out of love with the Leyland Brothers?  Nope.  The real problem was that the network in its zeal for success had failed to recognise that what really attracted viewers to the Leyland boys was the fact that the show WAS a bit clunky.  People liked the authentic framing of shots produced by an amateur operator – the fact that the camera wobbled, the sound was a bit messy and the shots more equivalent to a family picnic video than a hollywood production.  That was the core to the brand of the Leyland Brothers.

The same thing applies to brands.  Sometimes in their desire for success, companies bring in the corporate makeover artists and destroy the very thing that made it successful in the first place.  There is a liquor shop down south that I go to sometimes.  It has dusty wooden floors, the wine is stacked up all over the place in crates – it's a jungle in there! ... and I love it!  Now I see they're about to move into a shiny, new building where I suspect everything will be neatly arranged, marble floors, high metal shelves with everything labelled by computer.  Uh Oh.  Now rather than looking like the exciting little den where I might discover some dusty old classic wine, I am worried I am going to get the very same thing I get in one of those massive liquor chain stores.  The charm will be gone and with it the brand attraction.

There is a place and a time for a company to refresh its brand.  But to quote Billy Joel:  "Don't go changin' to try and please me ... I love you just the way you are … "