The New BT Logo

29.05.2019

Emperor’s New Clothes, or Creative Genius?

Nothing excites a marketer more than a new corporate logo, well OK, perhaps the John Lewis Christmas advert, but we have six months to go on that one, so thanks to BT for livening up our world last week.

Recent media reports suggest that BT plan to go ahead with their rebrand over the summer, but utilising a four year old design that can be quickly reproduced in PowerPoint and has already been lampooned by Poundland, as being available for, well, £1.

Despite a worrying resemblance to a monochrome, cold war era, eastern European traffic sign, BT remain bullish about their new emblem. My rudimentary Highway Code knowledge prompts me that signs in circles are about things that are unwelcome here, or you may not do, or exceed – hardly a welcoming message device from a customer facing utility.

Speaking on behalf of BT, an anonymous source declared that motive for the shift was to accommodate the escalating switch from offline to online communication and an ability to be effective across all media.  Really? An odour of warm hogwash and steam pervades the air, which even a die-hard marketer like me would find hard to swill away.  OK, so this is a logo which may excite an awards jury, with minimalist fixation disorder, but Marketing Week were quick to highlight that the average Joe, or Joan, was likely to see a “generic, bland and emotionally beige piece of nothingness.”

Some timely leaked images suggest that in real use, BT’s new logo will have rather more vim and brio, with a pleasingly purple aspect – the choice of champions for a primary brand pallet after all.  The warming halo effect circumventing the stark letters may be intended to convey a surety of connectivity potentially unfamiliar to many BT Broadband customers? The refreshed design certainly passes the simplicity test, while it does offer BT the chance to provide some consistency across its product family, as you can see in the image below. Whether this logo will be a success will have to be proven over the next twelve months, because, despite what creatives sometimes like to think, marketing is only successful if it helps to “sell more stuff.”

BT’s brand agency, London based Red&White, appear to have been struck dumb by all the excitement, or perhaps the creatives and account directors are currently holidaying by a twinkling azure coast, courtesy of the proceeds of a no doubt six figure fee.  It will be intriguing to see how the reaction develops as the logo is seen more widely over the summer.

Many people have had their say already however, as reported by Campaign magazine:

Matt Michaluk, creative director at retail and brand consultancy Fitch, was not holding back when noting,  “The new identity signifies change, but it positions and displays BT as another generic, unemotive brand.  The design neither builds on the heritage of BT, nor signifies a direction or purpose that consumers can relate to or engage with.”

Greg Quinton, chief creative officer at Superunion said the apparent lack of progress since 2016 left him with “more questions than answers,” before adding, “the old BT typography was poor, but why is the type so neutral, where is the energy, the promise and future enabling brand we need? The big question though is, where is the brand actually going? No answers yet, so for now we remain on call waiting.”

Polling opinion from my own marketing colleagues proved instructive.  Starting with Charlie Butterfield, Design Director at 9’s incumbent agency, fst,  who felt,

“The days are long gone where a logo was the sum total of a brand identity. Visual, audible, social, experiential… brands today interact with their audiences on every level imaginable, on multiple platforms at multiple times. Ultimately the result of this is that it’s much more difficult for brands to be disingenuous, either intentionally or accidentally.

With this increased need for authenticity I’m not surprised to see the constant ‘undesign’ of identities, BT being the latest, because brands must establish themselves with substance.

The less you say on the surface, the more you encourage your audience to build their own perception through experience and that’s where brand loyalty lives – in self-discovery. Reality builds the brand, it can’t work the other way around. Don’t tell me you’re funny, make me laugh.

Success comes in making your brand story coherent, purposeful and more importantly authentic, so that reality builds perception.”

Another comment from agency land courtesy of Pure’s director, Gary Dooley.  “Wow – the new BT logo – unfortunately looks a little too close to the BBC Rogue Traders logo to me, so maybe it’s perfect!!”

Closer to home, the award-winning marketing team at 9 have had their say,

“While BT’s new brand feels cold and sterile, it signifies a clean break from the heritage value of red kiosks and technology from “the olden days”. Perhaps they have got this just right.”

Louise Abbey – Head of Customer Marketing

“Poor BT, mocked byPoundland who made its own version for ‘just £1’. But with companies such as Weight Watchers (ironically) and Uber stripping their logos right back, while making more of an emphasis of their brand colour, those who mock may soon be jumping on the bandwagon. You’ll see.”

Olivia Rawson – Senior Marketing Executive

“This strong stamp from BT almost marks their confidence in the marketplace. They are no longer relying on eye-catching colours, smart use of iconography or snazzy typography, they’re relying on the strong brand loyalty and heritage BT is known for. It’s simple, effective and offers the opportunity to be used in a number of ways, against many colours.”

Stephanie Miles – Marketing Executive

While the final word goes to long time marketing friend of 9, Rob Devenport, who was left underwhelmed by the new logo, stating, “BT exists to give its customers exactly what they want; to make the lives of its customers more convenient and less stressful.  From a visual branding perspective, this means; designing from the customer’s point of view, ensuring that the BT brand is instantly recognisable amongst the clutter and noise of everyday life and gradually evolving the brand’s identity to keep pace with gradual shifts in culture.”

Rob did not feel that the BT logo rated highly against these key criteria, adding, “the new brand mark is more like a ubiquitous copyright symbol than the distinctive, own label brand mark.  The previously distinctive globe like symbol has been reduced to an anonymous 

circle and the previously rounded typeface has been abandoned for a harder edge BT and the colour blue associated with BT has disappeared too.  The only saving grace is that the company has not changed its name.”

Rob was right to question, “does all this matter?”  Well from a customer’s perspective yes it does. BT’s brand mark is now harder to recognise and instantly forgettable.”

If nothing else, this exercise highlighted how subjective design can be on first view, but rest assured that a lot of objective insight and expertise really does goes in to logo design too.  Yes, it can sometimes be difficult to discern how the new design is actually going to support the business objectives and the BT rebrand is a case in point.  However, we won’t really know the truth for a while yet, so in the meantime, we can all be safely sceptical about the impact of this latest creative masterplan.