Ah, rebrands – don’t you just love them? Take a look at the reaction to almost any big rebrand from the past few years and you’d be forgiven for thinking them an utterly pointless and painful process. Right now, the marketing staff at Leeds United Football Club have their turn in the spotlight, but I’ve no doubt someone else will step forward before long.
My first reaction when I saw the proposed new badge for Leeds unveiled yesterday was…well, laughter. I am human after all and the new crest is awful.
But, not long after that, I started to feel sorry for the staff there – especially those managing Leeds’ social media feeds.
You see, the mere mention of a rebrand only serves to trigger flashbacks to when I worked at the University of Warwick and was looking after their social media when they rebranded.
Fun would definitely not be a word I’d use to describe that time. So yes, the guys at Leeds looking after this definitely have my sympathy.
The Yorkshire Whites
It’s probably useful here to quickly summarise the tale of the new Leeds badge, that unfolded yesterday afternoon.
It started, obviously, with the announcement – a video that seems to tick all the right boxes, before revealing its hidden surprise; that new badge.
Quickly the internet reacted with memes
Followed by the inevitable petition
Then superior, fan-created versions of the badge
And finally a backdown from the club – or at least a promise to do better next time.
But not before Aston Villa took advantage of the new design’s undeniable likeness to those crests found in the Pro Evolution Soccer games and comprehensively kick Leeds while they were down.
If you’re getting rinsed by Aston Villa on social media, you know it’s been a bad day.
And I don’t say that with malice – I speak from experience. I’m a fan of Aston Villa, I’ve suffered their terrible social media content for years now. This tweet is literally the best thing they’ve created in the decade or so I’ve been following our official accounts.
Why does this always happen?
The way this panned out yesterday was as inevitable as England’s impending penalty shoot-out exit at this summer’s World Cup. It’s almost identical to what happened at Warwick – aside from the curve ball of being schooled by Aston Villa of course.
Is it simply that we humans are set in our ways are completely resistant to change?
Well, maybe. But that’s not the only thing at play here.
First, by proposing a new badge, a new crest or a new logo, you immediately force people to really take a close look at your existing one.
And, quite often, you’ll find out at this point that people suddenly realise how much they love what you have already. They see it as part of their relationship with you and can’t possibly relate to anything else.
It’s a really tricky sell – especially when the proposed new thing is, as in Leeds’ case, pretty terrible.
But, the real stumbling block is often communication – or lack thereof.
People will always moan about new logos – the design, the cost, whatever – but if you’ve got a solid communications strategy to back you up and really explain your thinking then you’ve got half a chance of succeeding.
Take the recently unveiled new badge for the Salford Red Devils rugby league team. It’s not great by any means, but the efforts the club made to explain their thinking helped a lot of fans ‘get’ it and the symbolism contained within.
Sticking with rugby league, my club – the Coventry Bears – have also got a new icon for the 2018. In fact, they’ve got a whole new colour scheme, switching from blue to black and white.
This could have been a tricky sell for the club without some narrative behind it.
In this case, it’s all about celebration. First of all, 2018 is the Bears’ 20th anniversary season, which right away gives you scope for something new.
Second, the black and white strip is actually a homage to the first team in Coventry to play rugby league, way back before the First World War. Those pioneers wore black and white, and so will the Bears in this special year.
And, finally, they the Coventry Bears. That’s Coventry, home of two-tone and ska. And what colours represent that genre better than anything else? You guessed it, black and white.
Also, it kind of helps that the new Bears strip looks great too!
The thing is here, Leeds did a load of great work and great research. Everything is great up until you see the finished product.
Talk about missing a sitter.
So, should we abandon rebrands?
It’s tempting, isn’t it?
If the last 24 hours in Yorkshire has showed us anything, it’s that change is the most difficult thing to market.
But, no, we shouldn’t abandon rebrands. We just need to be prepared to put as much effort into the storytelling and communication side of things as we do the designs.
If you’re making a new emblem for your organisation, make it part of your narrative. Make it something that instantly tells your story.
Do your research, and do it really well. And then tell people about it. Show your working. Make the case.
Just be prepared for the fact that what you think you’re looking for might already be staring back at you.
And if you do decide to stick to your guns and push on with your new brand, be prepared for the haters to always hate it – I’m a perfect example…just ask me my thoughts on the logo that Instagram rolled out a few years ago.
Oh, and one last thing…if you are going rebrand at least promise me you’ll make it look good?