Optus’ yes and nos of rebranding

Optus’ yes and nos of rebranding
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2013 appears to be the year to rebrand. After Commonwealth Bank launched with ‘Can’, Optus have announced their latest edition of ‘Yes’. A new blue typeface and logo has been developed, as well a strange, ‘speech bubble’ brand character that resembles a tennis ball  – I guess Wimbledon is on… Gone are the animals that sung about the simple life, danced with Pink, and sang love songs with an orchestra in the middle of the ocean.

Earlier this year, an Optus spokesperson said that they were reluctantly keeping animals featured in their communications for the sake of brand recognition. Brand recognition might not be what creative agencies want to talk about, but it is important.

Advertisers often struggle to communicate which brand is advertising; correct branding identification scores for advertisements seen are often below 50%. Brand elements, when used in conjunction with the brand name, can help increase the chances that an advertisement will be correctly identified. Some of these elements include logos, characters, slogans, colour, celebrities and advertising style. Furthermore, they can act simultaneously as creative elements, which attract attention, as Optus have shown with the prominent use of animals in their ad storylines for many years.

These brand elements take time (and money) to develop. Whilst those at Optus’ head office and M&C Saatchi might be having restless nights of anticipation for the rebrand, consumers are not as fussed. They do not make the cognitive effort to memorise advertising and brand information, so advertisers constantly have to reach consumers and remind them.

Simply putting these new elements in advertisements does not mean that all who see them now will recognise the link. Instead, Optus are throwing away elements that they have previously invested large amounts of money in, to start all over again in trying to create and reinforce new memory structures.

The reason? Apparently animals are not ‘relevant’ to consumers anymore. Who knew! It would not be surprising if, in a year or so, the yellow brand character is also labelled ‘not relevant’.  No reason was given for the new logo change, but perhaps blue is more fashionable than yellow this season.

Consumers don’t buy Coca-Cola because they like the colour red and the cursive typeface. Yet you won’t see Coke changing their brand elements anytime soon. Whilst advertising agencies obviously have interests in sprouting the benefits of ‘refreshing’, ‘reinvigorating’ and ‘reviving’ brands, Optus should consider responding with a simple ‘no’. 

Julian Major is a research associate at the Ehrenberg-Bass Institute

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