On September 4th 2018 the John Lewis Partnership announced its first rebrand in 18 years.
This high profile rebrand has sparked a significant amount of interest, with not just one but three new unified brand identities for John Lewis Partnership and its two retailers John Lewis & Partners and Waitrose & Partners. Here at WISE Worksafe we love assisting companies in their rebrand process, and always find it interesting to take a look at how and why large companies undergo these changes.They kicked it off with a 150 second film in which a group of schoolchildren stage a theatrical reimagining of Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody. The managing director of John Lewis & Partners, Paula Nickolds, made the following statement on the rebrand launch:
"This move not only reflects the business we have become but more importantly, the business we want to be."
– Paula Nickolds, Managing Director of John Lewis
Why did John Lewis/Waitrose rebrand?
The rebrand’s main purpose has been attributed to elevating the John Lewis Partnership’s defining characteristic, which is its employee ownership model. When speaking to Campaign, the Waitrose customer director Martin George said "we’re conscious that we have to go through an exercise of translating the thought of what a partnership is into something that really matters to customers."
This comes at a time when consumers increasingly expect brands to be ethical and principled, and placing their staff at the forefront is one way of improving rapport with their customers.
The aim was also to create three identities that are capable of expressing themselves flexibly across all media, products and services. The rebrand is supported by a manifesto, appearing in print ads and in a film that will be played within stores and online:
"When you’re part of it, you put your heart into it. At Waitrose and John Lewis, we’re more than employees. We’re partners. Which means we all have a share in the business and we all have a shared commitment: to go above and beyond for every customer, providing quality products and outstanding service. That’s why we’re adding partners to our name. Because for us, it’s personal."
The John Lewis Partnership by Pentagram from Pentagram on Vimeo.
Working with design consultancy Pentagram, John Lewis and Waitrose have both added ‘& Partners’ to their logo. This is the most visible reflection of their goal to highlight the role of all employees as partners in the company. Pattern lines have also been added to both logos, which was inspired by a Peter Hatch pattern created for the John Lewis Partnership in the 1960s. The partnership has a legacy with pattern-making from the founder’s start as a haberdasher, so this suggests they’re keen to highlight the company’s humble beginnings.
The two retailers have been given distinctive colour palettes, monochrome for John Lewis and a rich green palette for Waitrose. The colour scheme for Waitrose in particular is flexible and adaptable, which will allow them to stand out in the louder world of supermarket retail.
The group’s social media channels have been switched to the new branding and the TV advert has been aired. Certain flagship stores have also been fitted with new signage and provided with the restyled and rebranded uniforms for their staff. The rebrand will continue to roll out nationwide over the coming months, but will take up to five years to complete.
New John Lewis and Waitrose staff badge design - Photo by Pentagram.
The pros and cons of rebranding
Pros of rebranding:
There are many benefits of a rebrand if carefully planned and implemented, and we believe the John Lewis Partnership has done this exceptionally well.
Image: A rebrand gives a company an opportunity to improve their appearance.
Customers: This can result in attracting new customers and rekindling the interest of existing customers.
Relevance: It’s a chance to ensure that the brand image and message are still relevant. As time goes on the message may have become less applicable to the target audience so a rebrand can help adapt to the changing times, including ensuring the brand works well across ALL platforms. This includes digital platforms, mobile in particular.
Consistency: It provides an opportunity to streamline the company message, as the message and brand as a whole may have become diluted or inconsistent.
Publicity: It gets people talking about the brand, whether that be through media publicity, social media or word of mouth.
Growth: If a company were looking to expand into a new demographic once brand loyalty has been established in one demographic, a rebrand could help reach out to these new audiences.
Cons of rebranding:
The disadvantages of a rebrand are probably better described as ‘risks’ rather than ‘cons’. Some of these may never become an actual disadvantage, and a well-executed rebrand can minimise many of these risks.
Change: A full rebrand involves a lot of change all at once. This can be hard on a company, its employees, and its customers.
Investment: Plenty of time and money goes into the planning and executing of a rebrand. These include branding agency fees, new design work, advertising and PR, and updating all digital and physical branding elements. The aim, however, is of course to achieve a significant return on this investment making it well worthwhile.
Cost: Any items featuring the old branding would need to be updated or replaced, such as signage, vehicles, uniforms, retail displays, merchandise and literature. (When replacing branded workwear, remember to dispose of your old uniforms responsibly).
Time: A rebrand can take a while to roll out, especially if there are several branches and locations. Around 15 Waitrose stores are expected to be fully converted by the end of this year, but it will take about five years to update all stores, vehicles and product ranges with the new branding.
Customer Resistance: Some consumers can be frustrated by change. To lessen the blow, companies can publish press releases, post announcements to social media and send email newsletters to communicate that the rebrand is coming and WHY it is happening. Being transparent throughout the transition can help customers to feel less alienated.
Loss of Customers: If a proper rebranding strategy is not built and implemented in the right way there is a risk of losing some existing customers. You can limit this by remaining true to your values and being conscious of your customers’ needs.
- Loss of recognition: There is also a potential risk of losing out on recognition, especially if the new branding is substantially different to the old look. It’s best to achieve a balance between the old identity and the new; for example, John Lewis has retained the Gill font that they have become synonymous with.
How has the Waitrose uniform changed?
Waitrose are known for providing a smarter than average staff uniform to tie in seamlessly with their brand, and this new rebranded uniform takes it one step further. It is undoubtedly a more contemporary look than the old uniform, which connects nicely with their partnership with John Lewis who want to be seen as a modern fashion retailer. The simplified, clean look elevates the brand and will allow them to stand out from other supermarket retailers, many of which tend to opt for a brighter, bolder, and more casual appearance for shop floor employees.
They have retained the use of green that we have come to associate with Waitrose, but are using it in a new way. The new brand elements that we can see in the logo are being used in various ways in the uniform, with the green line pattern being used horizontally on the apron and the name badges matching the format of the updated logo.
Old Waitrose staff apron.
New 2018 Waitrose apron design - Photo by Pentagram.
Why uniform is important in a rebrand
Brand consistency is crucial, so whenever a rebrand is taking place the uniform should also be updated. If your company has an existing uniform policy it’s important to ensure that this is aligned with the new look so the uniform enhances rather than detracts from the brand.
A brand’s colour impacts customer recognition by as much as 80%, and as many as 93% of consumers sight visual appearance as why they choose to buy from a brand. Uniform can increase brand awareness and perception through the use of colours, the logo and other brand assets consistently.
Uniform can strongly influence how customers perceive your brand, so it’s important to ensure it sends the right message about the company and is appropriate for the role and setting. The quality of the materials, colours and the style of the uniform will all leave an impression and impact the customer experience.
Employees are living brand representatives and uniform is a fantastic opportunity to promote the company and its values. This applies to employees on site and those who travel to other locations to attend off-site meetings or trade shows, for example. Every employee uniform is a chance to promote and enhance the rebrand further.
Uniform also has the power to increase employee engagement, demonstrating how employees themselves are an important aspect of the rebrand process and making them feel like part of a unified team.