• Transform magazine
  • June 16, 2019

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Staying afloat

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Every quarter we’ll ask brand experts from around the world to rebrand or reposition a historical organisation or event. This quarter, we look at the impact of the Titanic disaster on White Star Line’s brand credibility

James Ramsden, executive creative director, Rufus Leonard

A rebrand would sensitively address the past with a simple refresh of the existing logo following these principles: Keeping the recognisable components of the brand; the flag and the star – these are made to look more modern to show evolution and moving forward. A simple roundel is introduced to create a stamp of trust and expertise and is reminiscent of a life buoy. The star becomes a stronger symbol of hope and is built on with the scattered placement of smaller stars to evoke a sense of soulfulness. The circle of dots are a subtle reminder of the lives lost on the Titanic and surround and support the main body of the logo. A new line, ‘GO FORTH’ has been added, built out from the new brand positioning for a confident and assertive brand promise.

Zoe Harris, head of brand engagement, Standard Chartered

White Star will need to come up with a big idea to persuade consumers to consider White Star again, and to do so more often than their competitors. A repositioning will need to associate the White Star liners not just with safety, but also with security and as a smart investment for both investors AND ticket purchasers. Before doing this however, the company should invest in pursuing quality and reliability improvements, and building up confidence in the management team. This effort will improve favourability and perception in order to regain the trust of consumers/investors and to restore their corporate brand too.

James Packer, creative director, Industry

Post disaster, there is only one course of action: reform, reengage, then rebrand. Rebranding can be a powerful way to signal corporate renewal. But without reform, it’s brandwashing. So, what should the White Star Line have done? Historically the White Star Line’s proposition was comfort, versus its transatlantic rival Cunard, whose proposition was speed. The White Star Line extended this offer to third class passengers, whereas its rivals offered appalling conditions of passage. So White Star would be advised to have shown it had reformed by learning new safety lessons from the Titanic. And then, building on its heritage of offering superior comfort, it could have rebranded as the Five Star Line.

Ian Allison, strategy & creative director, Bell Integrated

It’s hard to image how different things were back then. Mass media was limited, in the hands of the few, and broadcast-only; the ship was launched only 15 years or so after the birth of cinema but was chronicled by newsreel footage (actually featuring the Titanic’s sister ship, the HMHS Britannic). So myths – both favourable and less so – quickly replaced historical accuracy: for example, the White Star Line never claimed that the ship was ‘unsinkable.’ Brands can’t control events this big. Mass communication is increasingly in the hands of the many, and is initiated immediately. What matters is that brands are honest and have integrity. As it is, few people remember the White Star Line, but I suspect we’ll never forget the Titanic.

Gareth Richardson, owner, Sedgwick Richardson

A hundred years from now the channels will be different, but the principles of communication will remain the same. For the longer term, your brand strategy should be determined by your business strategy, and this will be influenced by multiple factors. Rapid technological developments already evident in the shipyards of Liverpool and Hamburg are going to force you to choose between offering speed or comfort as a priority. At heart, you are about comfort and luxury. Speed hasn’t worked out so well for you. If you remain true to your purpose, we envisage a day when new crew members are proud to attend the White Star Academy – the modern branding of Cunard’s training academy for new crewmembers – and the White Star Service brand is renowned global for standards fit for royalty.