Thursday, December 8, 2011

A brand new Vision - a triumph for branding

As some may know, I have been involved in a brand project that brings together two long-established superannuation funds in Australia - Equipsuper and Vision Super. Naturally, the question on everyone's lips was what will the new fund be called? What will the logo look like?

As people involved in brands already know, the name and logo is merely the end of the brand journey, with a whole bunch of other stuff preceding it - qualitative and quantitative research, identification of shared values and culture, SWOT analysis and the list goes on. I prefaced the first Brand & Communications Group meeting by saying I did not want to see any crayons or sketch pads in the room until the real work was done.

It's now common knowledge that the merged fund will be called Vision, dropping the 'Super' name from the original fund name. This was the best decision on a number of metrics, but how we got there is what convinced me that it was so.

When the funds announced the merger about 18 months ago, the guidelines provided to the B&C Group was that the new fund should have a new name, in other words should not adopt either of the previous names. There were a number of factors driving this, which are largely irrelevant, except to say the instruction preceded any evaluation of brand metrics or objectives. 

So the B&C Group's brief was to come up with a new brand name and the process was established accordingly. However, as a precaution, we did drop questions about current names into the stakeholder research conducted for us by CoreData.

Elmwood Australia was commissioned to undertake the brand development work based on the research findings and other investigations. And that's where the rubber hit the road with the naming challenge. We invited staff to submit names, Elmwood came up with some and I found myself sitting in front of several screens on weekends creating and evaluating names and their availability. Elmwood mobile devices regularly sprang to life at 5 a.m. with 'what about this?' questions.

As directed, we spent a few sessions with the usual butcher's paper sheets of names stuck around the wall looking for new names. Vision was up there as an option, but was struck out early, for all the wrong reasons.

But over several weeks, it became clear that nothing we had come up with was superior to Vision, which captured a number of the core brand and cultural values established by the research. Most of all, none of the new names retained any sort of connection with the 80-year heritage of the two existing funds. In particular, the research had established there was greater attachment to the Vision name than the Equipsuper name across existing stakeholder groups, including staff.

Of course, a new name would have clearly signalled a change both internally and externally and the recommendation and approval of the Vision name has created its own unique challenges - in particular that of ensuring that the current Vision staff recognise that the name, the visual treatment of it and the brand narrative surrounding represents a fresh beginning. Our internal communications campaign is therefore headlined 'A brand new Vision'

Despite this challenge, Vision is absolutely the right name and I am delighted to say that, a key derivative from the brand project has been the articulation of a clear vision for the brand and a guiding 'Big Idea' to which the new organisation will subscribe.

I also am pleased that the executive and boards of the existing entities had the courage to put aside the initial directive and to hear and approve the brand recommendation on the basis of a thorough investigation of key metrics, a recognition of the value of heritage and the adoption of a challenging guiding  idea for the future.

To hear more about this and see the new visual identity, I'm sorry you'll have to wait until mid-next year when the merger is completed and the 'brand new Vision' comes to life.

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