Brand new start required?

When Sir Alex Ferguson resigned, did an important part of the Man United brand go with him?

You know the United brand. Even if you have only a passing interest in football (no pun intended), you know the United brand. It’s Munich, it’s heritage, it’s success, it’s togetherness, it’s Best, it’s Cantona, it’s bravura Red Devils, it’s Glaswegian mettle.

Manchester United is one of the most successful brands in the sporting world, with a reach and level of customer engagement that many a multinational would give an arm and a leg – maybe a whole centre forward – for.

Yet the club crest hasn’t changed fundamentally since 1970, and the essential club colours of red shirts, white shorts, black socks, were established in 1902.

People get hung up on the visual dimensions of brand. Dare we change the logo? Have we got the colours right? Is the typeface too funky? But the visual expression of a brand is only the tip of the iceberg. There are more important factors influencing the customer perception of an organisation or business brand.

Customer experience counts for a lot more. Credibility and authenticity come from delivering what you promise.

There has been a lot of comment on the new logo adopted by ITV – you’ve seen it with varying degrees of intrusiveness sitting in the corner of your TV screen. It met with ridicule in some quarters when it was unveiled, praise and acclaim in others.

It was part of a move to show coherence across the ITV channels. ITV Group Director of Marketing and Research Rufus Radcliffe, who led the in-house rebrand, commented on the launch:

The rebranding of ITV will allow us to further cement the relationship in viewers’ minds between our shows and the ITV brand that produces and broadcasts them.

We now have a consistent identity across everything that we do, all rooted in our positioning as a media brand that is at the heart of popular culture. 

The brand roll out is actually part of a five-year transition plan for ITV. Fundamental to that is an emphasis on better programming. Good programming might be a subjective call, but the buzz on social media and in print, radio and TV, is that the like of Downton, Broadchurch and recent comedy and light entertainment shows, signal a return from the mediocre for the broadcaster.

That all-important ‘delivery’ again.

In the end, what you do is more important than the visual identity. When Coca Cola changed the recipe for Coke it was a brand disaster. When the FedEx guy was seen on YouTube ‘delivering’ a TV by chucking it over a fence, it was a brand disaster.

So the truth is, the major risk to the Manchester United brand is that they stop winning. That’s what the customers want. That’s what the team delivered for 25 years or so. The major risk to the ITV brand is that they don’t continue to raise their game and live up to their promises.

The brand is a lot more than the logo. It’s why you’re in business, what business you are in, how you treat your customers, how you treat your employees, how you pay your taxes, how you invest, the quality of what you deliver, the value you add for the customer.

Getting your brand right means knowing your audience and understanding their needs, not just changing the logo. That’s why infamous stories about how a new logo for a major multinational ‘cost £1m’, misrepresents what a rebrand entails. That logo is just the visible manifestation of a process that may have cost £1m, but which would have had them look at the core values and business practice of the organisation.  Your brand, hand-in-hand with that understanding will help you make business decisions. Is Messi the right player for us? Is a surreal, edgy comedy right for prime time Sunday viewing?

A good brand will even help you through the squeaky bum times.

Oh, and it doesn’t have to cost £1m!