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ASIC’s new look: how much should a rebrand cost?

On rare occasions, my profession gets dragged into the media spotlight. This week, my colleagues and I were inundated with requests (OK, perhaps three) for our thoughts on revelations about the cost of the ASIC logo refresh. Friends asked our opinion on whether we thought the cost was justified and they joined the chorus of “it cost how much?” commentary, with much tut-tutting over government ‘waste’.

It’s easy to confuse questions of worth and cost. Value does not fit squarely within the boundaries of price and sometimes value and cost are not related in the slightest. So, when we ask, “what is a brand actually worth?” and “what does a brand cost?” – they are not the same question.

A brand’s value is in the sum of its exposure, its consistent use, how recognisable it is, whether it generates positive or negative sentiment and – particularly for a first brand encounter – how it looks, feels and sounds. Brand value depends on a multitude of factors and it’s easy to confuse that with cost.

So, that aside, what does a brand cost? ASIC recently paid $100,000 for its brand refresh.

 

ASIC’s new logo (left), compared to the previous version.

Can you spot the difference? Well, of course – we all can, but the internet is in a bit of a tizzy over the cost of this logo.

Actually, it’s not the cost of the logo, it’s the cost of the rebrand. It’s a crucial difference. It’s not simply the creation of an image as above, which your average home business might try to do. A logo is not a brand in itself. It’s perhaps the face to which the brand is the whole body. And to carry the analogy further, an attractive face needs a professionally-dressed and well-groomed body in order to create the right impact.

A brand extends past a logo into colours that accompany the logo, the fonts used in the document, the colours and the shapes and styles used in its creation. The ASIC brand is encountered any time someone interacts with them – websites, email signatures, letterheads, with compliments slips, USB drives, signage, email newsletters, promotional items, certificates and more. There is a long list of collateral that need to be considered when a communications team roll out a new brand.

If the ASIC brand is implemented incorrectly, the authority it conveys becomes lost, and might make the organisation seem unprofessional or lacking in resources. At worst, in today’s cyber-crime-infested world, people might fear they are being scammed. None of these are good impressions to make. A strict, comprehensive style guide, where all possible uses of the brand are thought out and planned for – with rules around use and misuse – is very important.

The old ASIC logo was more than 20 years old and translates very poorly digitally. There was a definite need for a rebrand, even though it is a rather belated digital transition.

How on earth do you spend 100K?

ASIC is Australia’s integrated corporate, markets, financial services and consumer credit regulator. It is an independent Commonwealth agency and its brand needs to convey strong, uncompromising, unyielding and unflinching institutional authority.

The agency employs close to 2000 people and has offices in every capital city across the nation. As a rebranding exercise that means signage updates at eight offices, producing an entire suite of proformas and templates, up to a thousand business cards and a website – all while dealing with the complexities of a government agency. A fee of $100,000 for this rebrand seems quite a reasonable figure. Especially when we consider what some other rebrands have cost companies.

BP reportedly spent a staggering US$210,000,000 in 2000 for the rebrand resulting in this new logo.

Accenture paid as much as US$100,000,000 for its rebrand in 1989 (after rejecting 50 previous concepts).

Australia New Zealand Bank (ANZ) paid $15,000,000 for its rebrand.

Getting it wrong can erode or even destroy your brand’s value. Getting it right, takes time – but will add value. Getting it right requires a lot of ground work and consultation to make sure your creative work matches the goals and requirements of the project.

Here’s how we would have approached rebranding a large organisation like ASIC.

  1. Stakeholder consultation and engagementRebranding is an internal stakeholder activity as much as is it an external one. Being a government department can mean more complicated stakeholder maps, which mean more strategy, more meetings, communication plans and schedules. Employees are invested in the old brand, you want to keep them informed of changes and news. This all takes thought and time to do well.
  2. Brand ResearchBrand research finds out what other brands in the space have done and are doing. You need to make sure you don’t accidentally brand yourself to have identical colours and a similar look to another competing organisation or company.
  3. Perception audit / Market researchWhat do the people who interact with your brand think? Spending the time to talk to users, through surveys and even in small groups to get their feedback and perceptions will inform your decision-making process around the brand.
  4. Collateral AuditA list of branded collateral isn’t something that businesses keep. Large organisations use a variety of different systems and proformas on which a brand might appear, in addition to the obvious ones like stationery and signage. This list is created so we can cover all the brand scenarios.
  5. Logo concepts and brand concepts and then rolloutHere’s where all that groundwork pays off. Ideas that don’t fit are easily discarded and whittled down until there is an obvious choice. Then, up to 100 different logo versions are saved, in a variety of file types. Colours, tones, common elements, white space, icons, fonts, text sizes and even paper type and thickness can be thought of and inserted into a style guide. And then the collateral audit is slowly worked through until the brand is rolled out.

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It’s a lot of work. Obviously, this isn’t a one-person job. There is a team of people working on these items, all specialists, all working together. This is why the larger your business, the more branding costs.

But although it’s good to be well prepared in order to keep the cost of a rebrand down, brands gain value only if they are ‘done right’ and used consistently.

Finding the cheapest design quote in town will probably only weaken your brand and cost you in the long-term.

Adam Elovalis is Cannings Purple’s Senior Graphic Designer and an expert in both branding and re-branding. Email Adam.

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