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Steely Branding

By The Drum | Administrator

June 2, 2006 | 9 min read

The branding hasn’t even made it on to TV yet, but already critics of STV’s new rebranding have their claws out. On one side of the fence, the dropping of the Grampian TV name has infuriated people in the north, while on the other, wisecracks have been made about the new logo bearing an uncanny resemblance to the old British Steel logo, with one newspaper saying “typical, even their logo is a repeat”. Either way, the job has kept Edinburgh-based Elmwood busy since September 2005, when it was appointed to the task without a pitch.

“I don’t think the dropping of Grampian is controversial,” says Nick Ramshaw, Elmwood’s managing director. “In the end, it doesn’t make any difference. If Grampian make a programme now, the output is exactly the same. Scotland Tonight won’t change and North Tonight won’t change.”

The project has been huge for Elmwood. Its work has also extended to the newly designed website, www.stv.tv and the URL will appear on all elements of the corporate identity. The company’s new online offering marks the launch of a new e-commerce strategy for the internet, one which will involve mobile phones and potentially other platforms. Online dating, bingo and other gambling elements will be launched when the site – developed by Dog Digital – goes live in July.

“STV wants to be like the BBC but with commercial content as well,” says Ramshaw. “The use of the S, the thinking behind it is that there’s two parts coming together. We’re using the strapline ‘altogether Scotland’ and ‘altogether....’ various other things, so you’ll see this ‘altogether’ phrase come out quite a lot. We’ve worked with them to define a brand essence and a vision, and the vision is that they want to be Scotland’s essential source of information and entertainment. That’s what they want this brand to be. Whether you connect with this brand on-screen, online or on your mobile, you can connect with it in any way you want. But if you want to know anything about what’s on, or you want to play poker or find a new boyfriend, you can do it all via their new site. They [STV] are the same people who brought you Coronation Street, so you trust them. They’re building on that trust and the reach that they’ve got.”

The new branding works through every element of STV’s identity. From staff uniforms to the branding of the company’s fleet of cars, which are unbranded at the moment. Even the station’s new offices south of the river are included, with Elmwood rebranding the reception area and the sets for the station’s flagship news shows.

Ramshaw’s quick to point out that rebranding of the sets, the new offices and corporate literature would have to be done anyway as the company was relocating so the costs would have been incurred regardless.

“The way that the project has worked is that we’ve sat in the middle internally within SMG,” he says. “We’ve helped them develop the positioning, the brand essence and the values for the brand identity. We’ve developed guidelines and we’ve done a booklet for the staff and we’ve redesigned their vehicles and uniforms. You’ll see some of the visual reference to the new branding within the set of Scotland Tonight.”

A big part of the job has been creating the idents, which were designed by Elmwood and directed by John Harvey through SMG’s newly-formed production company, Lucid. There are six executions in the first phase of the roll-out, where the URL isn’t included, and six executions in the second, where the URL is featured. The music has been composed for the idents, which feature people passing the ‘S’ logo around.

“The simple idea is connecting people, so you have someone in Glasgow passing it to someone in Aberdeen, who passes it to someone in Edinburgh,” says Elmwood’s Graham Sturzaker. “It’s quite unusual to have the audience holding the identity. Whereas Channel 4’s [identity] is very abstract and generated, this is very real and involves real people. It’s handing it over to them. If you look at the BBC, they use quite a lot of big crowds and are quite stylish. We want everyone to know the ‘S’.”

“When you’re developing a brand, it’s not about developing a logo, it’s about developing all the tangible things that you see like the logo, cars, uniforms and sets but it’s also about developing the intangibles,” says Ramshaw. “The emotional connections. If you look at TV channels, if you look at the BBC, it’s mainstream and it’s pretty English – for people up here – and if you look at BBC2, that’s quite innovative, you’ve got the whizzy 2s running about and it brings you interesting programmes. Channel 4 is quite well-designed, it’s quite cultured and it’s quite surreal in a way, Channel 5 has its own feel in a way too. STV has never had any of that, it’s just been there and slowly more aged as time has gone on. So we’re trying to bring it right up to speed and give it a positioning that makes it distinctive and stand apart. All of the people within STV and SMG are going to have to pull together to bring that brand into reality.

“It’s also quite novel having people involved as idents don’t normally. The idents are the one major opportunity for STV to push the brand to the viewer and the opportunity to use the viewers to do that is actually quite different. If you look at all the others, they’re all cartoon-like and quite un-people-orientated. The whole essence of the ‘S’ is that we’re bringing Scotland together, so the idea is that you pass it to one another, it’s part of your life and it’s not just a badge that’s stuck on.”

Ramshaw’s main concern was keeping the traditional audience happy, while appealing to a new one.

“What we’ve done with all the brand stuff is we’ve identified the target audience as 18-34, that is the primary audience, the secondary audience is all adults across the country,” he says. “We don’t want to alienate the person who watches Coronation Street and Emmerdale on a Wednesday night, but we’ve got to recruit new people into it. The older audience is dying but the younger audience isn’t watching. They’re cool, they know all about digital channels, they’re watching MTV. They’ve completely bypassed ITV. The research figures have shown that the sales figures in that sector are not very good at all. So you need to recruit a new audience, and educate them that there’s something here worth watching. And you don’t want to alienate the older audience, so the whole feel of it is ‘quite youthful, but not too trendy’. So all the people featured, most of them are young, but not all. Most of them are in recognisable locations but you’re not quite sure where it is. So we’ve not used the castle in Edinburgh or things like that, but if you look into them, you’d probably work out where they were. The whole essence of this brand is ‘refreshingly Scotland’, we want to just do things in a slightly different way, in a very positive way, none of this chip on our shoulder stuff. Lots of things that are really good about Scotland.”

Every member of SMG staff will be getting a brand booklet to explain why STV is rebranding, about how the commercial broadcasting business is changing and how it needs to innovate to keep up with the business. “From the people who sell advertising space to the guy that delivers the mail, they don’t really know what a brand is all about,” says Ramshaw. “So we’re saying to them, this is more than just a logo, there’s an essence behind it, which in this case is ‘refreshingly Scotland’. It explains why it’s important that we all pull together to develop the brand.”

Part of the rebranding has been to create a tone of voice for the station, for presenters to adhere to a style when they bridge gaps between programmes. “What we’ve done is develop a personality for the brand, like a trusted friend,” Ramshaw says. “If you speak in a tone of voice, the idea is that you develop a person that you see between programmes whom you trust, and who’ll say things like ‘if you liked that you’ll like...’. At the moment you’ve got to find all the programmes yourself.”

The project is the first time that Elmwood’s worked on TV branding, something both Sturzaker and Ramshaw have relished. “It’s been quite interesting, as we’ve not done on-air guidelines before,” Ramshaw says. “At the beginning of this process, no-one knew what ‘refreshingly Scotland’ was. It’s about things that are good about this country, things that are new about the country, it’s also about things that are old about the country. We want to concentrate on a young, multi-cultural Scotland. It’s not that far from the Scottish Executive promotion of ‘Scotland – the best small country in the world’. It all comes back to our idea and it all integrates and works.

“We want to develop this experience of working in the sector, and not only within Scotland.”

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