Opinion – Rufus Radcliffe
Popular British media company ITV unveiled a rebrand last January. The project took home the Grand Prix at the Transform Awards Europe and is continuously lauded for its success. Rufus Radcliffe writes about ITV’s rebrand
On 14 January 2013, ITV unveiled the most ambitious and large-scale rebrand ever undertaken by a media organisation. Five TV channels, our entire news operation across 11 regional sites, our digital estate, our production and distribution businesses both domestically and internationally as well as all of our buildings were all rebranded, at the same time, on the same day.
This was the culmination of 12 months of planning and development that led to a dramatic new visual identity for one of Britain’s most well-known brands.
There were multiple twists and turns along the way, and there are, we believe, universal lessons (learned the hard way!) for any business looking to rebrand.
Why rebrand? Be really clear about why a rebrand is needed. At ITV, we know we produce and broadcast some of the world’s best-loved programmes but we didn’t have a clearly defined brand identity connecting all of our content together. This was essential in an increasingly fragmented marketplace.
Do not set a comfortable timeline! If we had set a realistic timeline to develop the rebrand, we would be finishing it in 2018. We needed to start 2013 with a new identity so we worked back from there. This set a fire and sense of urgency under the project, it meant we had to make quick decisions and it created an energy, purpose and momentum in everyone.
Challenge convention: We chose not to work with a traditional branding agency. No one knows a business better than the people who work there so we created a temporary pop-up studio housed with ITV creative staff who understood the brand and the direction it should go in. They were joined by a selection of cherry-picked, external creative talent that could add completely fresh thinking.
“ITV is a brand at the heart of popular culture. We are warm, and human, and we wanted our identity to reflect that. We wanted an identity with colour, that adapted to its environment, and that was dynamic and vibrant, just like our schedule.”
Be clear what you want and true to the DNA of your brand: ITV is a brand at the heart of popular culture. We are warm, and human, and we wanted our identity to reflect that. We wanted an identity with colour, that adapted to its environment, and that was dynamic and vibrant, just like our schedule.
Rebrand, don’t debrand: We were also clear that we did not have to have a nod and wink to past logos and identities. This meant that we could be bold and start with a blank sheet of paper.
Get all the business onside…early. We created a multi-disciplined rebrand team with representatives from all parts of ITV to ensure that the whole company felt like (and was) a significant contributor to the project.
Do not let old branding live on: Strong brands police themselves and we were no different. Brand ambassadors across ITV helped with the rollout of the new brand guidelines.
Hold your nerve: We knew that rebranding a company as famous as ITV would not pass unnoticed – and we didn’t want it to. But in a world of social media and people forming immediate opinions, we were well aware the first few days might be rocky. But we believed in the project and our viewers embraced it.
Be clear about what constitutes success: The rebrand was not about a logo change, it was about a whole new approach to marketing ITV to all audiences. We had detailed KPIs, covering what different audiences thought of our new identity but also tracking brand health and brand love as we kick-started a whole range of initiatives including a new approach to social media, increased off-network marketing spend and increasing focus on our network of channels and genre and brand advertising. We were really clear that 14 January was just the start because in the world of media, if you stand still for just a second, you start going backwards.
Rufus Radcliffe is group marketing and research director at ITV.