Rebranding - Learning from Volkswagen
The brand new logo design unveiled by Volkswagen during the Frankfurt Motor Show 2019, marked the beginning of one of the biggest rebranding campaigns ever to take place on a global scale. It has surprised customers and the motor industry fans worldwide, as the company declared its new mission; to become the most significant electric mobility world leader by 2025
To stay relevant to modern consumers, brands need to reconsider their branding strategy and take inspiration from digitalisation trends and innovation. However, patterns cannot ever be a good enough reasoning for rebranding, especially for such a global company like Volkswagen.
As a business owner, there is a lot to consider, but you can most certainly start with the Two Ts approach: working on your threat and trend (more about this here)
On Monday, June 22nd, at 10 pm BST, we will be looking at REBRANDING and changing business model post COVID with the Event Planners Talk: IG live on their channel.
However, it is important to learn from other industries and case studies if we want to truly have the best chance at understanding this process, as well as introducing new ideas or a more innovative approach in our industry.
The scandal (Threat)
Do you remember the Diseselgate scandal? Yeah, Volkswagen also would like you to forget about it. But it did happen and it has shaken the brand's image and of course trigged various lawsuits.
Volkswagen had to pay large sums of money but was also required to commit to working towards environmental sustainability. Their customers were enraged, and the logo was no longer associated with sustainability and excellence. For many, it has become a symbol of greed, deception and double standards. In light of the situation, Volkwagen had to design a new reactionary strategy.
The logo is a symbol of an organisation, its products, services and values. It becomes a brand's unique signature. Logos are compelling as they unlock memories and emotions.
With Volkswagen values compromised, it seemed unmissable that a logo change was needed. But when exactly is the right time to make such a rebranding decision? A decision like this cannot solely be based on a scandal, loss of trust by individual customers or the market situation. It involves a much more complex decision-making process, especially for a global brand. Such branding change cannot happen overnight. It does not depend only on the real cost of the rebranding. At any time, it needs to be strictly aligned with sales and product strategy and long term objectives for the growth of the company. It involves enormous implementation costs and consequences usually last for decades.
Volkswagen needed a brand new business and sales strategy if a logo and brand change was even to be considered by the management team. It needed a new vision, objective and business principles that would define the new brand identity. The rebranding would require new slogans, colours, assets but most importantly, new and innovative car products.
At the same time, the worldwide industries were undergoing a digital revolution and the car industry, in particular, was facing challenges in terms of pollution and sustainability, as well as a trend of electric mobility and automotive vehicles.
In the rebranding process, various aspects need to be considered, such as the cultural, societal and technological market changes. An accurate prognosis is also essential to anticipate consumer behaviours.
Volkswagen was not the only one that had to adjust to the digital revolution rapidly. The rise of social media platforms provided new marketing channels but required brands to produce original content.
A sound logo can become a recognisable sign for the video content. Audi, Apple or Netflix - all have their logo sounds.
Also, the new generations of consumers care about brands that get involved with global problems but also remain friendly and accessible on the local level.
Last but by all means not least, the interest in the IoT applications (internet of things) and the use of technology in vehicles, was growing. Volkswagen needed to adjust to this trend and implement IoT applications in its car design and production.
We might agree that an absolute change of the strategy was inevitable, and not purely caused by the scandal. If taken into consideration overall, the decision by VW to rebrand might seem like an excellent idea. And although it is now evident that VW logo change was deeply rooted in the changes the brand has to implement following the scandal, it was not the sole reasoning.
Volkswagen had a lot of homework to do in a relatively short period. The logo change and new branding strategy took the company over three years to prepare. It was developed entirely by an in-house team.
In 2019 the CEO of Volkswagen, Ralf Brandstather, said that the logo was a logical consequence in the wake of the diesel gate situation. However, according to him, a decision included a substantial focus of the trends and new vision of the brand for electrification and reducing the CO2 emissions globally.
The new objective of the VW brand has been established: to become the biggest manufacturer of electric, clean and sustainable cars globally by 2025.
THE NEW IDENTITY
The new logo
Branding experts agree that a logo design needs to be timeless and become part of an overall company's strategy and objective, not only for now but also in the future. The logo has to fit in the whole history of the brand and align with its previous logos. It can be a considerable challenge in the case of established, global brands. Nowadays, the logo also has to be simplistic and practical for digital and social media use.
In the case of Volkswagen, the logo had to fit many different uses. It had to look good on the cars, had to look good on pictures, videos, on social media content, in showrooms in various locations around the world as well as displays and signage. Volkswagen decided to step away from the 2000s rationale for a 3-dimensional logo.
The design team has proposed a 2-dimensional logo instead. It was simplified in its appearance and stripped to the minimum. Volkswagen executives decided to keep the overall shape of the VW letters, but the FONT is entirely different, as well as the new circular surrounds. The new logo design is dynamic and full of contrasts. The flat 2-dimensional design provided higher flexibility. It was mostly intended for digital applications.
The colours are also fundamentally different, and for the first time, a few new colour variations were introduced to communicate the brand's newfound flexibility.
The Chief of Design of VW brand Klaus Bischoff said this about the branding process:
"My concern was to make the VW float. We wanted to give a new lightness . Give the brand a new light too. This modern flat logo allows us to show it on all devices. It has to work on a small watch as well as a car, and finally huge factory signage. "
Bischoff explained that the new logo stands for Volkswagen's move into the digital era. The new electric cars produced by Volkswagen will bring this new dawn into an electronic- digital age. It will bring VW onto the road to sustainability with lightness and unique design.
In the case of electric vehicles, the light will also play a key role in communications. The logo will be illuminated on the vehicle, at the brand locations and the dealerships.
Volkswagen entered a new era with an original visual and aural identity. The introduction of a new sound logo is a trend adopted by many brands, allowing customers to recognise the brand aurally.
You can listen to it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E5_9lYGn0ZY
The new aural logo is essential when launching digital IoT applications and in digital marketing campaigns (videos, stories, tv campaigns). It is known to create even more customer familiarity with the brand. Instead of a brand claim, Volkswagen produced a sound logo to make the brand distinctive in acoustic terms.
For several decades, Volkswagen had used a male voice to present its vehicles and for advertising purposes. However, this was changed to a female voice-over. On almost all markets, a woman with a warm, pleasant and confident voice will speak for Volkswagen.
The famous motto used in Volkswagen advertising recorded in a male voice "DAS AUTO" was discontinued.
For ID. electric cars, a new written slogan "NOW YOU CAN " had been implemented.
THE MOVING FRAME
The introduction of a moving frame brought an end to the rigid positioning of the logo in the bottom right-hand corner. The logo can be freely placed around the frame. It allowed the flexible positioning of the logo at the most effective point. As a result, interfaces can be kept simple and user-friendly, and the logo can also be prominent on small devices.
The moving frame is a great visual device that might become as important, if not more, than the logo itself to signal that you are looking at a VW ad (or brand impression of any other sort).
Overall, 171 markets in 154 countries were affected by the Volkswagen identity change. At the 10,000 facilities of dealers and service partners throughout the world, about 70,000 logos will be replaced. But the real impact of Volkswagen's logo and rebranding efforts will be determined by the evolution of the company and the adoption of their new electric cars by consumers.
Ultimately, if clients do not embrace the new electric cars, the logo and the company's image is going to suffer. More emphasis should be put on the product design and innovation, rather than on over-promising and sleek advertising campaigns and fake promises.
Volkswagen has certainly learnt this the hard way.