The 5 re-brands everyone is talking about

The past month has seen re-brands coming in thick and fast with the likes of Burberry, Debenhams, Céline, Harvey (Holly) Nichols and John Lewis & Waitrose all giving their branding a refresh.

We delve into the strategy behind the move to re-brand, the design and tone of voice as well as the likely success of the activation strategies being used to relaunch. And it’s no surprise some are better than others.

Burberry’s millennial re-brand

It seems only right to start with the brand that began the surge of retail re-brands – Burberry. For arguably the biggest British fashion brand to reveal the re-brand on Instagram already shows big changes for the fashion house in their digital-first approach.

With over 60% of users on Instagram between the ages of 18 – 34, it raises the question of whether Burberry is shifting focus to the millennial market and grabbing their attention at the early awareness stage.

The big reveal happened last month, and it consisted of 3 email conversations, a monogram and a new logo which soon caused a stir in the comments (mostly negative) on the design change.

The logo, designed by Peter Saville, showed ‘less is not more’ with feedback like ‘How is this genius?’ and ‘I could have created this at School’. The decision to ditch the knight-and-horse icon was another big change (again, not loved by fans on social), removing their heritage and core brand identity. The fashion house considered it to be a modern upgrade while retaining the sophistication of its past, however, the execution falls a little flat.

The inclusion of ‘London England’ was also a laughing point amongst users on social. Comments like ‘I think we all know London is in England’ appeared to mock the design and highlights the unnecessary need for both.

The simplistic logo was coupled with their new monogram, which appeared to receive less negativity. The interlocking initials of the co-founder Thomas Burberry showcased more creativity and style. We are now seeing this monogram plastered over flagship stores, taxis and billboards around the world, but it raises questions whether the classic cheque is being replaced for good.

As far as a re-brand goes, the engagement on Instagram was huge and press features were everywhere. They might have cleverly reached a new audience who love the re-brand and if the brand follows the mantra ‘no publicity is bad publicity’ then great. Otherwise, it could have a damaging effect on customers who have grown up with the fashion house and appreciated their classic heritage.

Debenhams’ modern new look

From high-end to high street, the department store Debenhams has revealed their modernisation approach with ‘Do a bit of Debenhams’, including the first new logo in 20 years. Once again taking to social media Debenhams teased a 6-series image block revealing their new strapline to excite fans. Following this was their new 30-second brand identity video, created by Mother Design, showcasing the key messaging behind this campaign and their new visual style.

The wider campaign invites customers to enjoy shopping and reclaim it as a rich, experiential and joyous experience. The strategy behind the campaign is based on research conducted by Debenhams that found, in general, shopping was becoming less joyful and “it’s become a bit of a relationship with my post room” as one respondent said.

The design, described as a “modern and approachable twist”, appeals to a younger audience and brings positivity back to the high street considering its current conditions. Once again, a social-first strategy rolled out creative GIF and image content which made Debenhams look and feel ‘trendy’ again.

Alongside their digital strategy, 3 million print features were published for the department store to keep their loyal customers including features in The Sunday Times Style, Grazia and Marie Claire. The idea is to use digital for the big broadcast messages and print to communicate the array of Debenhams’ product offering.

Celine loses its accent

French fashion brand Celine also hit the news with a re-brand this month, however, it’s had a lot less engagement than the others. In short, the only ‘noticeable’ change was the removal of the accent on the first E. And the letter spacing has been tweaked for consistency.

Instagram took centre stage again as the chosen platform to announce the re-brand (if we can call it that). Creative director Hedi Slimane announced the start of his era with a ceremonious-like Instagram post that wiped the entire account. Starting afresh by uploading three identical posts announcing the new brand identity. Like Burberry, this change still managed to spark controversy on social with comments including ‘RIP Céline’ and ‘No Accent No Céline’.

From a design perspective, there isn’t much to comment on however it gives the logo a more global appeal and allows consistency across its usage from product labels to social media posts. But it’s not very ‘creative’.

Harvey Nichols changes its name

Next up Harvey Nichols, or throughout September, Holly Nichols. The luxury department retailer has re-designed their first floor (womenswear), re-branded its storefront, website and social channels for the whole of September to support its new female empowerment campaign – Let’s Hear It For The Girls.

On Monday 3rd September, the iconic signage was switched from Harvey to Holly, and they’re kicking off a month of fashion shows, launches and inspirational talks from women they admire.

Their digital strategy includes their updated website with a custom landing page outlining the concept and all brand logos changed to Holly Nichols. The core messaging explains:

“This is the year of the woman, a celebration of you being you, a celebration of all-of-us being all-of-us, united in honouring female empowerment (in high-top sneakers and a really good lip colour).”

All social media channels have undergone a temporary rebrand to support the campaign. And fans are loving it. They’re also running a competition on social to win a £1000 private shopping experience. Entry is to share a snap of the store on Instagram tagging @HollyNichols.

This re-branding strategy has been cleverly executed to bridge the gap between online and offline. A new magazine launched with a printed version in-store and an online version with direct links to shop the looks. A ‘Meet the brands’ page sits on-site and directly links with their featured designers in their ‘fashion on first’ section. All their content ties the campaign together and remains positive and focused on their core identity.

John Lewis & Waitrose play up their partnership

Last but not least is the John Lewis & Waitrose partnership re-brand. It’s a subtle and modern re-brand by Pentagram which is a result of three years of detailed design thinking. And you can tell.

From product labels to staff name tags to carrier bags, every element within the re-brand has been carefully considered. It’s the first time both John Lewis and Waitrose have ever launched a joint marketing campaign.

The core of the re-brand was a 2-and-a-half-minute TV ad released on Twitter on the morning of Tuesday 4th September, but most viewers (including us) first saw it during the first ad break of the Great British Bake Off.

This cleverly put it straight in front of their core audience and the execution was equally as slick as their Christmas ads. The advert shows a primary school orchestra playing out of tune before they burst into life and perform Queen’s song Bohemian Rhapsody. It ends with the phrase: “When you’re part of it, you put your heart into it.” This copy cleverly links into their core values with their staff and coincides with their new titles ‘Waitrose & Partners’ and ‘John Lewis & Partners’.

With the video pinned on their Twitter feed, the engagement continues, and positive comments are flooding in. A staggering 1.6 million views in 3 days = success.

On their website, they have a host of new landing pages to coincide with the re-brand. A new about us page includes the video ad and shows the brand’s commitment, services and shops.

The overall design has had mixed reviews, but the majority are positive. As a complete end-to-end design, it has been careful considered and links in well with the brands’ value and visual identity. The Gill Sans typeface was an obvious choice to unify all companies under the partnership and was clearly one element they didn’t want to lose.

The graphic lines or ‘brand lines logotype’ is a combination of lines alternating in thickness. At first, it just looks like a nice pattern addition, but it is inspired by the “precise proportional relationships derived from the original pattern” – one Peter Hatch designed for the John Lewis Partnership during the 60’s.

The re-brand also brings a new 300-piece womenswear range. A stylish and colourful collection perfectly timed for Autumn and John Lewis & Partners have said it’s completely ‘free of fashion gimmicks.’ It’s also launched ‘Find Keep Give’, a 33-piece home accessories collection with most pieces created by members of staff (the partners).

All these re-brands have audiences which engage in both print and digital, however, there has been a clear digital-first approach in all of them. And in some, an ‘Instagram-first’ approach. This could be down to the immediate and measurable results you can get from digital compared with print, or the brands see these as the key channels for their core consumer engagement.

If we had to pick a favourite, John Lewis and Waitrose comes out on top. Their end-to-end strategy is executed perfectly with a slick and timely launch across print and digital. This now builds up the excitement to Christmas (dare we say it) to see whether these brands continue their performance of well-executed content for their Christmas campaigns.

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