Clear consistent branding is vital for all businesses; your brand defines you and helps you stand out from your competitors and for some industries, like retail, branding and image is everything. Retail organisations strive to convey an ideal and an aspirational image and their branding is the conduit to their audience. With the increasing number of channels now available to reach customers, combined with the challenges the industry is facing due to the economic crisis, it’s more important than ever for retailers to develop and maintain a strong brand.
Interbrand, which publishes a yearly “Best Retail Brands” list and provides an in-depth report on the retail industry said “brands need to abandon traditional one-dimensional merchant roles in favour of multi-dimensional identities and richer textures. Retail is extremely operationally focused, which makes it a tough environment for brand thinking and management. But when a company gets it right, the brand becomes a value creation tool.” It is well known that we as consumers, develop an emotional response to a brand - something which is all too evident when a company attempts to change its logo. An infamous example of this is Gap which, in 2010, released a new logo. A change from the solid blue box with the GAP logo written in a capitalised serif font, introduced 20 years ago, to a white background with Helvetica font and a small blue square overlapping the P. The logo prompted such an outcry from the public it was immediately pulled.
Another more recent example is luxury retailer Yves Saint Laurent which has undergone a makeover from the new creative director Hedi Slimane. He has replaced the company’s monochrome logo of interlocking YSL letters which has been around for more than half a century, and replaced it with simple white block font lettering reading Saint Laurent Pairs on a black background. Initial reactions from fans on Facebook have been mixed and it will take some time to see if the company reacts to the criticism. But these examples demonstrate the extent of influence typography and images have on people’s emotions and how important it is for individual brands to create and maintain their own identity.
Individuality in a brand is key, particularly within retail where, as Interbrand commented, “new rivals, often in the form of companies too small to hit the radar, continue to enter and fragment the market.” Monotype has worked with players in the retail industry, such as Waitrose and Vogue, to develop custom fonts developed and tailored specifically for their needs. Working with Monotype’s font experts has enabled Vogue to inject their own brand values and identity into the logo and the text within the publication. They now enjoy a unique and highly recognisable style as well as the benefit of unrestricted font use with no licensing costs.
With the increasing number of online and mobile channels available to customers and retailers, it’s crucial for brands to maintain a level of consistency. The most successful brands are always looking to enhance their quality and integrity, while improving their internal design efficiency. With advancements in technology and the proliferation of content being viewed on mobile and tablets, many are re-evaluating how to deliver their messages online. A key tool when carrying out branding for online platforms is Web fonts, which help designers, content creators and brand holders access and extend their reach in digital mediums.
Retailers such as Le coq sportif, brands including Coca-Cola and Hershey’s and fashion publication Grazia.fr (and now Grazia Japan) have all worked with Monotype to implement Web fonts for use on digital devices. Grazia.fr is the online extension of one of France’s most popular weeklies, Grazia magazine, and the website currently attracts up to 750,000 unique users per month. Last year Grazia.fr decided it needed to inject its digital experience with the ‘wow factor’ required to stand apart from the competition. It also needed to align the online look and feel with that of the print magazine to maintain consistency.
With a well-established, loyal audience to consider, Head of Digital Jérémie Clevy, was tasked with delivering a new vision for the site, while ensuring the essence of the print magazine was carried through. Jérémie commented on the project, “While crafting a more compelling user experience for visitors, it was critical that we neither over-complicate things nor lost sight of their needs. With readers looking at Grazia.fr as an extension of magazine, it needed to look beautiful and be entirely functional on a range of mobile devices. We had to ensure they would be able to have a positive experience regardless of the platform they were using, while, all the time adhering to our brand guidelines.”
During development of the new site, the Grazia.fr team realised they would need to implement Web fonts to maximise digital functionality. The desired font which provided the closest match to the print magazine typeface was Monotype’s Gill Sans and the Web fonts team was able to advise on updating content and how its implementation would affect users accessing the site from digital devices.
Jérémie explained, “Web fonts have been key to overcoming our consistency issues between the online portal and print magazine. Creating a more chic, contemporary look and feel to Grazia.fr was essential, and the use of Web Fonts has been critical in helping us develop a seamless brand journey and digital user experience. We’ve had such a positive response to the new look, we’re now looking at additional websites in our portfolio we can develop.”
With all the additional channels available, brands have an immense opportunity to generate and maintain customers. However, with increasing competition, consumers are in a powerful position and it’s the brands which have a strong, clear and consistent identity that will ultimately win out.
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